Your Guide to Pre-Purchase Vehicle Inspections

It’s a good idea to get a pre-purchase inspection when buying a used car from a private seller. That way, you know what you’re getting, and you can potentially avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

Need a Vehicle Inspection?

PrivateAuto has integrated LemonSquad into our dealflow for easy, fast, and affordable used can inspections nationwide. Order your inspection today.

What Is a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection?

A pre-purchase vehicle inspection is a series of tests that are done on your car's main systems and parts to make sure they work well. You order a pre-purchase inspection prior to buying a private-party used car so you can have peace of mind in your purchase.

Otherwise, you risk getting a lemon—or worse.
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What Does a Pre-Purchase Inspection Consist of?

A pre-purchase inspection examines all the important aspects of a vehicle. It really consists of four separate types of inspection, rolled into one.

1. Exterior inspection
2. Interior inspection
3. Mechanical inspection
4. Framework inspection.

Exterior Car Inspection

During an exterior inspection, a mechanic will check the lights and reflectors, as well as the wipers, windshields, mirrors, and general body condition. While minor dents on your car will not fail an inspection, extensive exterior damage may. If your car’s exterior is bad enough, you may be declined insurance coverage and even be issued a salvage vehicle title.

Interior Car Inspection

A mechanical vehicle inspection looks at the engine, transmission, brakes, and other major mechanical components.

Mechanical Car Inspection

A mechanical vehicle inspection looks at the engine, transmission, brakes, and other major mechanical components.

Vehicle Framework Inspection

During a framework inspection, a mechanic will look at your axles, frame, tires, and suspension. After making sure that these parts of your car work, they will take one last look at the vehicle in order to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Electric Vehicle Inspection

In some regards, the inspection of an electric vehicle is similar to that of an internal combustion vehicle. Body, frame, interior, and other components are similar across both types of vehicles.

There are some major differences as well. An EV inspection involves checking the battery health, the vehicle's charging history, and other elements not applicable to a gas-powered car.

Car Inspection Costs

Vehicle inspection fees can range from $100 to $300. Our partner Lemon Squad charges $219 for a regular inspection and $329 for a classic car inspection and $285 to inspect an exotic car.

If you’re going the local route–hiring a mechanic near you–prices vary wildly by region and by mechanic.

How Do I Find Vehicle Inspectors Near Me?

In the US, you can order a vehicle inspection through PrivateAuto and a Lemon Squad inspector will come to you.

Or, you can call up local mechanics and ask them if they perform vehicle inspections. Some will provide mobile inspections, meaning that they will come to your location, while others will require that you bring your car to them.
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PrivateAuto For Private-Party Car Transactions

Now that you know what to expect from a vehicle inspection, how will you go about finding the ideal vehicle for you? Choose from the many cars available on PrivateAuto if you want to buy a dependable used vehicle that meets your needs but won't break the bank.

PrivateAuto makes sure that the whole process of selling a car is quick, easy, and safe, from start to finish. Sellers can set a fair price and talk to potential buyers through our built-in messaging system without giving out any personal information.

Buyers can search for used vehicles for sale from private sellers, contact sellers, schedule test drives, and close the deal with PrivateAuto. Everything is fast, safe, convenient, and secure.

Our payment gateway, PrivateAuto Pay, will transfer any amount instantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Buyers can pay sellers during the test drive and complete the transaction. That's all there is to it! It’s quick, safe, and easy.

Buyers and sellers can order additional services within the PrivateAuto Service Hub, saving time and hassle coordinating between multiple parties.

PrivateAuto enables the private-party car-buying experience from beginning to end with self-serve technology.

Car Inspection FAQ

Who should pay for a PPI?

Anyone–buyer or seller–can order a pre-purchase inspection (PPI). The person who orders the inspection will pay for it. In most cases, the buyer has the larger incentive to order a PPI to ensure they’re making a smart purchase.

Should I get a vehicle history report?

What are the insurance requirements needed to pass a car inspection?

How much is a car inspection in California?

Does a 25-year-old car need an inspection?

What is a commercial vehicle inspection?