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Prepurchase vehicle inspections for buying a used car

Use an independent mechanic to ensure you don't bring home a lemon.

If you don’t have any mechanical or automotive knowledge, the car you buy could have hidden defects or problems that could cause expensive trouble down the road. This is where a prepurchase vehicle inspection can help, providing peace of mind that any car you plan on buying is in good condition.

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What is a prepurchase vehicle inspection?

A prepurchase inspection is when an independent mechanic inspects a vehicle for any potential problems that could affect its safety or require maintenance or new parts in the future.

Once an inspection has been completed, you’ll be provided with a detailed report explaining the results, including any defects or problems that may have been detected. You can then use this information to decide whether the vehicle is roadworthy and in good condition or whether the price the seller is asking represents good value for your money.

How much does it cost?

You’ll typically pay between $100 and $200 for a prepurchase vehicle inspection. However, the actual cost will vary depending on where you live, the mechanic you choose, the type of car you’re having inspected and how comprehensive you want your inspection to be.

Who can benefit from prepurchase vehicle inspections?

Used car prepurchase inspections can be hugely beneficial for both car buyers and sellers:

  • Car buyers. If you’re buying a used car, it’s vital that you know the vehicle’s current condition. A prepurchase inspection gives you a complete rundown of a car’s quality and safety. This is especially important if you’re buying a car after a natural disaster. It allows you to work out whether you’re getting a good deal or about to buy a lemon. Car buyers can also use the results of a prepurchase vehicle inspection to negotiate a better price with the seller.
  • Car sellers. If you’re selling a used vehicle, you can use a prepurchase vehicle inspection to increase your negotiating power. With a positive inspection report to back you up, you can prove to potential buyers that your car is in excellent condition and has been well looked after. And because buyers know they’ll be getting a quality vehicle, you’ll be able to negotiate a higher sales price.

What does a prepurchase vehicle inspection include?

The exact list of items checked during a prepurchase vehicle inspection will vary depending on the mechanic or independent inspection service you use. However, it will usually include an inspection of the following items:

      • Engine and transmission
      • Tires, wheels and brakes
      • Drivetrain
      • Steering and suspension
      • Interior — including door locks and hinges, seat belts, seat trim and more
      • Electrical components
      • Undercarriage
      • Exterior — including detection of rust and previous body repairs

Some inspections will also include a road test to check engine performance and noise as well as the exhaust, steering, suspension and brakes.

What are the benefits of a prepurchase vehicle inspection?

Having your vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic can help you make the best decision when buying or selling a car.

  • It will identify any issues. Many potential issues with a used car are not immediately obvious to the untrained eye. By getting an expert to conduct an inspection, you’ll be able to unearth any problems that may affect your decision about whether to buy a particular vehicle.
  • You could save money. Buying a car with hidden defects could end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. This is especially true if you’re buying a car that’s no longer covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • You can buy with confidence. Buying a used car is risky. Unless you know about cars, you run the risk of purchasing a vehicle with hidden defects. A prepurchase vehicle inspection can give you the peace of mind that you’re buying a quality vehicle for a fair price.
  • You can buy from afar. If you’ve found a vehicle you want to buy, but you can’t check it out yourself because it’s a long way from home, arranging an inspection can help you make an informed purchasing decision without seeing the vehicle in person.
  • You can sell for more. If you’re selling a used car, a prepurchase vehicle inspection is a very effective sales tool. If you can demonstrate to buyers that your car’s in excellent condition, you’ll be in a strong position when the time comes to negotiate a price.

Where are prepurchase vehicle inspections performed?

Prepurchase inspections can be performed at a wide range of locations. Most often, you’ll drive the car to a mechanic or service center.

However, there are many companies that also offer a mobile inspection service, allowing you to get your car inspected at the following places:

  • The seller’s home
  • Your own home
  • The buyer or seller’s workplace
  • A used car dealership

How can I book a prepurchase vehicle inspection?

Inspections are offered by most mechanics and automotive service businesses around the country. You might want to compare a few providers in your area to find one that offers the most comprehensive services at a price point that fits your budget. Whichever business you choose, make sure the inspection will be carried out by a licensed mechanic.

You’ll typically need to call ahead to book an appointment before bringing the vehicle in, though some mechanics might let you schedule one online.

Compare used car loans once you’re ready to buy

Name Product Min. Loan Amount Interest Rate Loan Term Min. Credit Score Requirements
CarsFast Car Loans
$500
4.90% to 29.90%
12-96 months
300
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Browse thousands of vehicles from dealers across Canada and get matched with financing that meets your needs. Apply online to purchase a new or used vehicle and get the vehicle delivered to your door.
Loans Canada Car Loans
$500
0% to 29.99%
3-96 months
300
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Get access to financing from multiple lenders across Canada through a single application with Loans Canada. Bad credit, CERB and EI borrowers are considered.
Car Loans Canada
$7,500
3.99% to 29.95%
12-84 months
300
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Search thousands of vehicles online, including $0 down options, from dealers across the country and get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
Coast Capital Car Loan
$10,000
Varies
18-84 months
650
Able to service debt payment of $300/month
Finance or lease both new and used vehicles with competitive rates and flexible terms from one of Canada's largest credit unions. No credit union membership required for this product.
Canadian Auto News
$7,500
3.99% to 29.95%
12-84 months
300
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Answer a few simple questions to get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
LoanConnect Car Loans
$500
9.90% to 46.96%
3-120 months
550
No min. income requirement
Get access to 25+ lenders through LoanConnect's brokerage. Receive pre-approval in as fast as 60 seconds and get your funds in as little as 24 hours.
Canada Auto Finance
$500
4.90%-29.95%
3-96 months
300
Min. income of $1,500 /month, 3+ months employed
Canada Auto Finance is a broker that connects borrowers with partnered local lenders. Financing for a new or used car is available for borrowers with bad credit, no credit, CERB, EI or bankruptcy.
Carloans411 Car Loans
$500
1.90% to 19.99%
Up to 72 months
300
Min. income of $1,600 /month, 3+ months employed
Get connected with suitable lenders through CarLoans411. Finance your next car, van or truck with loans available in amounts from $500 to $50,000. Check eligibility for this loan through LoanConnect.
Fairstone Secured Personal Loan
$5,000
19.99% to 23.99%
36-120 months
560
Established credit history and own your home
Fairstone offers secured personal loans up to $50,000.
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Bottom line

A prepurchase vehicle inspection is a vital step in buying any used car — whether you’re shopping at a dealership or through a private seller. Having a licensed mechanic give your car a once-over can help ensure you’re not throwing your money away on a lemon. And once you’ve found the perfect car, you can compare your car loan options to help you bring it home.

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