What It Costs, What It Covers
Nearly all auto service facilities, from chain repair stores to dealerships to independent garages, offer some type of pre-purchase inspection. We found that the going price is about $100, roughly the cost of an hour's labor for a mechanic. Most repair facilities will give a quick description of the number of points in the inspection and how it is conducted. In most cases, however, the findings of inspections are not guaranteed.
"One of the biggest problems in private-party transactions is setting expectations," Yates said. "With a good inspection, you know what you are getting." Automotive experts agree that a good inspection serves several functions:
- Verifies the equipment, or options, on the car.
- Confirms the condition level of the car.
- Reveals hidden problems with the body, frame or engine.
- Finds engine codes that can reveal engine problems.
- Builds confidence in the value of the vehicle.
Many major problems that can be spotted by a good inspector include:
Frame damage: If the frame shows damage, it indicates the car has been in a serious accident. Unless it has been repaired correctly, the car's wheels might not track properly, causing the vehicle to pull to one side and eventually leading to tire damage.
Poor previous repair work: This could range from sloppy bodywork to improper installation of modifications.
Smoker's car: If a car is being purchased remotely, via eBay for example, the seller could disguise the fact that someone has smoked in the car. Smoke gets into the vehicle's headliner and upholstery, and it is impossible to remove the smell.
Flood-damaged car: A vehicle history report can red-flag a flood-damaged car unless its title has been falsified. If that's the case, then it's important for an inspector to check for signs of water damage.