A pre-purchase inspection can uncover more than meets the eye. 

A car may look like it's in perfect condition on the outside, but under the hood could lie an absolute disaster. Unless you're a certified automotive care professional, it's highly unlikely that you'd be able to spot a safety hazard or a potential mechanical failure. If you're a prospective car buyer, don't let the excitement of this new-to-you ride cloud your judgment—a pre-purchase inspection will save you a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road. 

What Is a Pre-Purchase Inspection and Who Performs It?

A pre-purchase inspection is an in-depth review by a certified mechanic or automotive technician to assess the full condition of a used vehicle prior to completing the purchase. If the vehicle doesn't include a warranty or is being sold in a different area, you absolutely should consider a pre-purchase inspection. The last thing you want is to assume all risk of the vehicle which will only end up costing you hundreds—if not, thousands—of dollars later on. When purchasing a car in a different area, you can insist that the seller drop the vehicle off at an auto shop for an inspection. If they refuse, it's evident that this car is not worth your time.  

What Parts of the Car Need to Be Inspected?

Pre-purchase inspections run the gamut of depth. The more basic inspections will involve checking for leaks and any broken parts. Other inspections will include a road test to check the brakes and steering while the most in-depth (and most expensive) inspection will involve checking the engine and running vehicle diagnostics.

How Much Does a Pre-Purchase Inspection Cost?

The price of a pre-purchase inspection can vary, but a basic inspection can cost anywhere from $100–$200. More detailed inspections that involve extensive vehicle testing are more expensive, but depending on the car's value it could be worth the price. It's also worth the effort to negotiate with the seller that they pay a certain amount of the inspection fee prior to purchase. 

Buying a car is both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. While it may feel like an obstacle between you and the open road, it'll only help prevent you from spending more money in the long run.