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What Is a “Pre-Purchase” Car Inspection?

BY: Larry Witherspoon Jr.
A mechanic writing down notes while inspecting a car's engine during a vehicle recall.

Whether it’s your fifth or your first, buying a car can be incredibly exciting for anyone. After all, owning a new or used vehicle will enhance your experience on the road and give you an appreciation for the places you can go and the things you can see. But, while a used car purchase can rejuvenate your love for the open road, it can also be slightly stressful if you aren’t sure what kind of shape the vehicle is in. A pre-purchase car inspection can help ensure that you’re getting a good deal and that your new vehicle will serve you well. 

If you are unsure about a car you are considering buying, a pre-purchase inspection is a great way to get the confidence you need. By having a professional look the vehicle over, you can be sure you aren’t getting a lemon vehicle. This kind of insight is the best way to make an informed purchase and get a car that will give you many years of great driving. 

What is a Pre-Purchase Inspection?

A pre-purchase inspection is a procedure for hiring a professional mechanic to inspect a vehicle you are considering purchasing. This is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and ensure that the car is in good working order. Even if the seller is being honest, there could potentially be issues they are unaware of that can become bigger problems down the road. An inspection will help protect everyone involved and keep the transaction legal.

During an inspection, a local mechanic will take the car on a test drive and try it on different terrain. Bumps, potholes, and gravel can reveal things about the vehicle and tell the mechanic whether or not there are problems with the suspension or steering. They will also look at fluid levels, the hoses, belts, brake components, engine, and cooling system to see if any issues might not be apparent during the test drive but may still become problems that require expensive auto repairs. 

If you purchase a used vehicle from a dealership, getting a vehicle inspection shouldn’t be an issue. The dealership will generally be happy to allow you to take the car on a test drive so the mechanic can look at it and get a clear picture of its condition. In many cases, a dealership will even allow you to take the car for an extended 24-hour test drive. This will give your inspection mechanic enough time to give the vehicle a complete once-over. If you are purchasing the car from a private party, an inspection may be more difficult, although this is when it is the most important. If possible, bring the mechanic with you when you go to look at the vehicle so they can have a chance to inspect it thoroughly. 

Why Get a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection?

Getting a pre-purchase car inspection is one of the best ways to protect yourself during the car buying process, especially when getting a used car, as they can have problems that aren’t obvious at first glance. In fact, many of the most serious issues, such as transmission damage and suspension deterioration, may not be noticeable to someone who isn’t trained in vehicle repair and maintenance. Because of this, it is important that you have a professional look the vehicle over before you pay for it and drive it away, though keep in mind that this can potentially cost you anywhere from $100 to $200

Inspections are vital if the car you’re considering purchasing is beyond its warranty period. When vehicles are new, they have a factory warranty that takes care of any car repairs that need to happen through no fault of the owner. When this warranty runs out, the owner is completely financially responsible for any problems that come up and need to be repaired. 

Many people think they can simply purchase an extended warranty to protect them from issues that might arise after buying a used car. The issue with this is that these problems may be classified as pre-existing conditions, which makes them exempt from extended warranty coverage. If you buy a car without a pre-purchase inspection, you could end up saddled with the repair cost, even if you get an extended warranty. For example, if you buy a Honda Civic with a bad intake manifold gasket and don’t know about it, you could pay between $408 and $462 to replace it, even if you have the coverage of an extended warranty. 

Do Extended Warranties Require a Car Inspection?

Extended warranties, more accurately called vehicle service contracts, or VSCs, when coming from a provider other than your automaker, will sometimes require you to get an inspection before they cover the car. This helps them eliminate the possibility of pre-existing conditions that your vehicle service contract will not cover. If a VSC provider requires you to go through an inspection process, it will usually have to be done by an ASE Certified mechanic of their choosing to protect them and prevent you from paying for coverage that won’t give you the help you need. 

Some providers, however, won’t always require an inspection but will have a waiting period you must follow. For example, when you get a vehicle protection plan from Endurance, you do not need to get an inspection. Instead, you’ll have a 30-day or 1,000-mile waiting period from when you sign up for coverage before it kicks in. This will also act as your standard 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing Endurance to protect itself from warranty fraud and giving you a chance to make sure that the coverage plan you have will be the right choice for you and your vehicle. 

Protect Your Vehicle After its Inspection With Endurance

Getting a pre-purchase inspection is highly recommended if you are considering buying a used car. First, it helps you identify any potential issues. It will also let you know if there are any particular maintenance procedures that you should be doing to ensure that your new vehicle stays in good working order. After all, most used cars won’t have factory coverage anymore, so getting an inspection will help protect you in the long run. 

And if you want extra coverage and peace of mind when it comes to your used vehicle, Endurance offers a wide variety of auto protection plans to help protect your (and your wallet) from expensive auto repair bills. You can even get most of the components covered and have access to up to $3,500 in maintenance coverage with the Advantage protection plan. That includes services like up to three oil and filter changes, tire rotations, alignment checks, engine diagnostic exams, and more, including help on your vehicle’s state safety inspection. Or, if you have an eligible, high-end luxury vehicle, the Highline protection plan covers cars made by the world’s most premium automakers, including Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Land Rover and more. 

Each Endurance plan also comes with a free year’s worth of Elite Benefits, including up to two tire repairs or replacements per year, 24/7 roadside assistance, up to $1,000 in total loss protection, key fob replacement, and more. Endurance plans are also transferable, so you can upsell the vehicle to any potential owners whenever you look to sell it.

For more details about Endurance auto protection plans, request a free, no-obligation quote. You can also speak directly with an award-winning customer service representative to help you find the right plan for you and your vehicle by calling (800) 253-8203. You can also visit our Endurance Blog for more articles, from expert auto tips, make/model comparisons, FAQs, and other informative and helpful topics.

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