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Is that used car a good buy or not?

No piece of car-buying advice is more often ignored than this: Have a mechanic inspect a used car before you buy it. Why do buyers plunk down thousands of dollars on a car with little more than an around-the-block test drive and a glance under the hood? Three reasons often deter car buyers from taking this vital step:

  • Some consumers don't know that good used-car inspections are readily available.

  • Many car buyers don't want to pay the extra money for an inspection.

  • Some people anticipate a hassle getting a dealer or private party to agree to an inspection.

With a little planning, the inspection process can be simple, not to mention as revealing as a hidden-camera exposé. If the inspection report is clean, you can buy with increased confidence. If it unearths ugly problems, you can back away or negotiate a lower price to reflect the cost of repairs.

Most sellers will let you take the car for an inspection. If the seller hesitates, you might wonder what they're hiding and consider walking away from the deal.

Smart sellers, too, know the value of a presale inspection. Having the car thoroughly scrutinized by a reliable third party before listing it provides an additional selling point in the form of a written report. While this is useful information and lends credibility to the seller, you should still insist on getting your own independent inspection before making the purchase.

Automotive experts agree that a good inspection serves several functions. It:

  • Verifies the functioning of equipment, including options, on the car.

  • Confirms the condition level of the car, including such things as tire wear and the condition of the brake pads.

  • Reveals hidden problems with the body, frame or engine.

  • Checks trouble codes that can reveal mechanical or electrical problems.

  • Builds confidence in the value of the vehicle.

Major problems that can be spotted by a good inspector include:

  • Frame damage. If the frame shows damage, it indicates the car has been in a serious accident. Unless it has been repaired correctly, the wheels might not track properly, causing the vehicle to pull to one side and lead to premature tire wear.

  • Poor previous repair work. This could range from improper engine service to sloppy bodywork to improper installation of accessories or modifications.

  • Flood damage or fire damage. A vehicle history report can red-flag a car that has been in a flood or fire unless its title has been falsified. You might not spot the fake title, but an inspector can identify the telltale signs of damage.

Other issues an inspection can reveal include hidden rust, fluid leaks, burned-out bulbs, nonfunctioning accessories, suspicious odors and overdue maintenance procedures.

If you are thinking of buying a pre-owned vehicle, then you should call The Shop to schedule a pre-purchase inspection. It's very cheap insurance against getting stuck with a lemon and can give you give you the confidence that you are making a wise automotive investment.

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