Welcome to UsedCarInspections.ORG. This is a non-profit consumer site on how to get a used vehicle properly inspected before purchase. A few minutes reviewing this information can save you thousands of dollars and headaches down the road.
Today's used vehicles are technological marvels. They contain very sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems, complex frame construction, and have a multitude of computers controlling most systems and components.
Selecting an Automotive Technician to perform a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is one of the most important decisions when buying a vehicle. The information below will help you select a qualified Technician, and explain what information you'll need from the Technician.
Beware of the limitations of a Carfax report.
A Carfax, or any history report, are not physical inspections and cannot be substituted for a physical inspection. Don't let a salesperson or seller talk you out of your right it have a professional inspection performed before your purchase by using a "clean" Carfax report. Most accidents are not reported to Carfax and a history report cannot tell you the current condition of any mechanical or electrical systems or component.
What Type of Automotive Technician Do You Need?
There can be considerable differences from one Automotive Technician to another. Most Automotive Technicians are "certified" by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). To become an ASE Certified Technician, a Technician must have the working experience and pass at least one of the 8 general automotive testing areas. If a Technicians obtains the working experience on all 8 areas and then pass all 8 tests, he will then have the highest certification, "ASE Certified Master Technician". A professional PPI requires that every mechanical and electrical system be tested and evaluated. Only an ASE Certified Master Technician is certified no on every mechanical and electrical system.
NOTE: ASE Certified Master Technicians are only qualified to inspect the mechanical and electrical systems. Master Technicians are not qualified on body and frame systems. A professional PPI requires the Technician to be an ASE Certified Master Technician AND a Body & Frame Specialist (Structural and Non-Structural Analysis).
Only ASE Certified Master Technicians & Frame Specialists are qualified to inspect and evaluate the entire vehicle (mechanical, electrical, body & frame). Lesser qualified Technicians can give just partial inspections.
A comprehensive PPI can be either performed by a mobile service or a fixed location. Mobile van should be outfitted with all the necessary inspection and diagnostic tools, hydraulic lifts and computer testing equipment.
What Type of Information Do You Need from a Pre-Purchase Inspection?
A comprehensive inspection, and consultation, by a ASE Master Technician & Frame Specialist should give you the answers (in plain English) to each of the following questions:
What is the current condition of each mechanical and electrical system?
The ASE Master Technician & Frame Specialist should inspect each and every system to identify any existing mechanical and electrical problems and any potential problems. The Master Technician should also be able to tell you if the previous owner(s) took care of the vehicle or abused or misused the vehicle.
What is the approximate cost to fix each problem including needed repairs and maintenance items? The Master Technician & Frame Specialist should identify each problem and put any needed repairs in terms of miles and money. For example, the front brakes have 15,000 miles remaining, the cracked CV-boot will cost $300 to replace, the timing belt needs to be replaced in 10,000 miles at the cost of $800, etc...
Is the wear on the vehicle consistent with the mileage on the odometer? The Master Technician & Frame Specialist should determine if the mileage on the odometer is consistent with the actual amount of wear and tear on the vehicle. Excessive wear and tear will be signs of odometer fraud or an abused vehicle.
Has the vehicle been in an accident or any signs of water damage? If so, what was the extent of the damages, and what are the quality of the repairs? The Master Technician & Frame Specialist should tell you what type of frame system (full frame or Unibody, and reveal any previous body and/or frame damage and the quality of any repairs. The Technician should also be able to tell you if the vehicle has any water, rust, or flood damage.
Knowledge is Money. The more you know about a used vehicle the better deal you can make. The buyer is responsible to determine its true condition before purchase. Having the vehicle professionally inspected by a qualified ASE Master Technician & Frame Specialists will help you negotiate a better deal, and avoid purchasing someone else's problem vehicle. Here are the 1-2-3 Steps for buying a good used vehicle.
Costs for a PPI. Expect to pay about $150 for a professional inspection as describe above. Be aware that there will always be individuals and companies that will charge much less, but the vehicle would not be inspected by a ASE Certified Master Technician and Frame Specialist. Any problems not discovered BEFORE purchase will be your responsibility AFTER the purchase. Like most things, you get what you pay for.
What a PPI Can and Cannot Tell You. A PPI is a snapshot of the vehicle's current condition. A professional PPI should discover all existing problems, previous accident and frame damage, and any abuse and misuse of the vehicle. Knowing this information before purchase will help you negotiate a better deal and avoid costly existing problems.
NOTE: There are no diagnostic tests or equipment that will let an Automotive Technician know when a mechanical or electrical component will fail. A professional pre-purchase inspection by an ASE Master Technician and Frame Specialists will discover existing problems and accident damage and signs of abuse before you buy. Every vehicle will require maintenance and every component or system will fail at some time regardless of any professional PPI.
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