When buying a pre-owned car — especially from a private seller — there can be some mystery surrounding its condition and history. But you can uncover some of this information with a used car inspection.

Is a used car inspection worth the cost and what can you expect to learn from it? We cover this and more below.

Should I Get a Used Car Inspection?

In addition to asking the right questions about the vehicle, you should always get a used car inspection. If the owner is open to it, you can get a third-party auto repair shop to perform a used car inspection for a small cost before committing to buy it.

Let’s look at the benefits of getting this inspection before buying your next used vehicle.

Clarity Into What the Vehicle Will Need

No used vehicle is completely flawless. Even if the owner meticulously maintained the vehicle, it’s bound to have some flaws here and there. A used vehicle inspection will uncover these flaws before you shell out cash and learn later — sometimes at a big cost.

Whether it’s something simple, like an aging serpentine belt, or something more serious, like a radiator leak, this is important information to know before completing the car buying process.

A Negotiation Point

After the vehicle inspection, you can ask the repair facility for a full write-up and an official repair quote. You can then take this write-up to the owner and use it as a negotiation tactic.

If the vehicle was already fairly priced, you might not want to negotiate too much based on the repairs it needs. Chances are the price already included assumed repair costs. However, if the owner is selling the car at a premium under the idea it is in “mint” or “great “ condition, this can give them a better look at the reality of their car’s condition.

At this point, you have the upper hand in at least knocking some cash off the deal. You’ll likely not get the entire repair deducted from the car’s price, but you can shoot for 50-75%. So, if the repair bill is $1,000, start with offering $750 less than the asking price but be willing to reduce this to $500.

A Look Into Future Repair and Maintenance Needs

Sometimes a used car inspection will turn up no necessary repairs, but the repair facility may note items that may need repaired or maintained soon. You likely can’t use upcoming needs as a negotiation point, but you can use this to determine if the vehicle meets your future budget needs.

If the vehicle is due for a $1,500 timing belt replacement in just about a year, you’ll want to determine if you’ll have that much cash ready to perform this critical maintenance item. If not, you may want to find a different vehicle.

A Glimpse Into the Vehicle’s Past

While no automotive technician can look at a car and 100% tell you it’s been well-maintained. However, they can look in specific areas and tell you if the owner has kept up to date on certain maintenance items.

For example, if the coolant is discoloured or thick, it’s a tell-tale sign the owner never flushed the cooling system. If the oil filter is chipped, discoloured, and visibly aged, this is a good sign the oil changes weren’t done on time. If the tires have uneven wear, this is a sign of poor tire inflation or a lack of alignments and rotation.

These are all small signs a technician can easily point out to you during a pre-purchase inspection. Then it’s your decision whether or not you’re willing to risk future reliability issues.

On the flip-side, the technician could find that all the maintenance items are in perfect condition, giving you peace of mind that the car is likely a good buy.

They Help the Vehicle Owner

Some owners simply don’t understand the needs of their vehicles. They turn the key and drive it — nothing more. These owners can get a good look into the condition of their car when you hand them the inspection report.

The owner will quickly grasp the condition of the vehicle and everything they may have overlooked during their ownership. This can lead to them taking better care of their next new car.

What Should a Used Car Inspection Service Check?

Used car inspection services are not a comprehensive check-up that’ll expose every flaw in a pre-owned car. The auto technician will, however, check all the critical areas for wear, tear, and lacking maintenance, including:

  • Checking the exhaust system for excessive rust, holes, or leaks.
  • Checking hoses for deterioration and leaks.
  • Checking the spare tires’ condition.
  • Checking for any warning lights
  • Checking the suspension visually and on a road test for roughness or noise.
  • Checking the brakes for excessive wear
  • Checking the engine oil and filter and cooling system for signs of neglect.
  • Checking the air filter.
  • Checking the serpentine belts for cracking or wear.
  • Checking the tires for low tread or uneven wear.
  • Check all headlights, taillights, turn signals, and reverse lights for proper operation.
  • Listening to the engine and transmission to detect any unusual sounds
  • Test driving the vehicle and checking for poor gear shifts or other unusual powertrain conditions.
  • Checking for accident damage

What Other Ways Can You Protect Your Pre-Owned Car Purchase?

A pre-purchase vehicle inspection is a great way to find any potential issues with a used car, but it’s not foolproof. There could still be other underlying issues that an inspection simply won’t uncover, such as severe accidents that were repaired, flooding, and potential odometer fraud. You can protect yourself from these hidden issues by getting a Carfax Canada vehicle history report before buying a car.

It may also be wise to consider an extended warranty. While this is extra money out of your pocket, an extended warranty can help mitigate some of the surprise expenses of owning a vehicle.

At Clutch, the Inspection is Free

Every vehicle sold by Clutch, Canada’s first 100% online pre-owned auto retailer, undergoes a thorough inspection and reconditioning process that covers 210 points. This is more in-depth than any pre-purchase inspection (PPI), so you can rest assured Clutch vehicles are in top operating order.

For good measure, we also include a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty to cover any unexpected failures. Plus, you get a 10-day or 750-km test-own period and are free to have your own PPI completed at this time. If there is anything you don’t love about your Clutch vehicle at this time, you can return it for a refund or exchange it for a different vehicle.

Clutch also offers up to an eight-year extended warranty plan to protect your investment for the long haul for additional peace of mind.

Check out Clutch’s vast inventory of quality pre-owned cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs today. Choose one that suits your needs, and we’ll get you financed and on your way. We’ll even deliver your vehicle to your home and pick up your trade-in vehicle, if applicable. You get all of this right from the comfort of your own home — no setting foot into a dealership.