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Pre-Purchase Inspection: a Few Reminders

Published on December 8, 2022 in Pre-owned vehicles by The Car Guide

Because not all vehicles have the same level of reliability, and to make sure you don’t buy a specimen that was poorly maintained, a complete mechanical inspection is in order before you purchase a pre-owned vehicle. And no, a simple visual examination isn’t enough to reveal all the flaws of a used car!

“The importance of an impartial inspection, by a CAA expert or a trusted mechanic, is crucial when you buy a pre-owned vehicle. You will avoid bad surprises and it will allow you to negotiate a better price,” says Sylvain Légaré, an automotive industry analyst for CAA-Québec.

He especially warns first buyers and those who fall in love with what they think is a “rare gem”. It’s often when you rush to buy something that mistakes are made. You wouldn’t buy an old house without inspecting it first, would you?

Photo: Marc-André Gauthier

What’s in a Good Inspection?

Now, what does a good inspection include? It starts with an experienced mechanic who will first test drive the vehicle, then will examine the engine, transmission, exhaust, suspension, brakes, steering, electric and electronic systems, and much more. He or she will also need to check the onboard computer’s data, and measure the body paint’s thickness to see if it’s original or if the car has been repainted after an accident, for example.

If the seller (or dealer) has not had the vehicle checked, you should ask for an independent inspection. It usually costs about a hundred dollars—sometimes more—and can be done in CAA-Quebec-authorised inspection centres, in a recommended garage or by a trusted mechanic, or even in another dealership.

The seller says an inspection has been performed on the vehicle already? He or she must prove it by providing a recent, detailed report written by an independent expert. Otherwise, you should consider one of the avenues previously mentioned. You have every right to do so.

As a last reminder: it’s no use to get an inspection for a vehicle that already shows too many problems. You’ll just waste your time and money. Wait until you’ve found the perfect candidate, with no red flags, and have the inspection performed as the last step before you close the deal. Lastly, don’t forget to tell the mechanics about the things you might have noticed during your own examination and test drive: it’ll make their work easier and allow them to set priorities. 

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