A pre-purchase car inspection is a check carried out by a mechanic before you buy a used car. It aims to verify that there aren’t any hidden issues with it. Before signing the paperwork and paying the seller, we recommend reaching out to a mechanic to inspect the vehicle.
Getting a pre-purchase assessment before buying will help you check you’re making a good investment. During your used car inspection, the mechanic will check all of the main components of the car to make sure that everything is in good order.
Finding a mechanic to do a car inspection service before buying will not only give you peace of mind and potentially save you from some big headaches later on. But it can also save you money. In the event that they spot an issue, you may be able to negotiate a better overall price if you decide you still want to go through with the sale.
The average price of a pre-purchase car inspection on WhoCanFixMyCar is £101. However, the exact price of a used car inspection depends on several factors such as the location, amount of labour required and number of issues discovered during the inspection. It will also vary depending on what kind of vehicle you have – you can see the average price for a range of popular car makes below.
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When planning to buy a used car, there are a couple of services you should consider. Below are the most common. If you’re not sure what you really need, a mechanic or garage would be more than happy to help you figure it out.
The main goal of a used car inspection is to discover any potential issues with the current condition of the vehicle. Normally, the mechanic will come to the car’s location to inspect the car and they’ll also conduct a short road test (with the permission of the seller).
On top of that, the mechanic will check for potential structural, safety and fraud issues. Some detailed examples of what a mechanic usually checks for include.
Odometer accuracy — is the displayed mileage correct?
Condition of brakes
Hidden body damage
Onboard computer system tampering — did someone delete any diagnostic error codes?
Powertrain condition — this system of components is responsible for transferring the power generated by your engine to the tyres
Just bear in mind that what’s included in each inspection may vary from garage to garage. Be sure to ask for an itemised list from each garage along with the quoted price so you know exactly what is included in each quote.
Pre-purchase inspections are not to be confused with a used car diagnostic.
During a car diagnostic test, a technician will attach a scanner to your car and check if any error codes pop up from your car’s onboard computer. This can flag up issues with lots of different parts of the car, like the engine, exhaust, transmission and battery. However, it’s not a replacement for a pre-purchase car inspection.
Many garages offer different types of pre-purchase car inspections. The different types are usually based on the level of detail the mechanic will go into and how many different components they will examine. The level of thoroughness associated with each service is normally very easy to identify as they tend to have names like basic, standard or premium.
A basic check will usually include a road test and evaluate the following:
More detailed checks that are often part of more comprehensive packages include:
Fuel system check
Interior condition evaluation
Water pump inspection
Full break examination — including discs and pads
Pictures to document the current condition of the vehicle
Consultation with the mechanic after the inspection
Exhaust system check
Being on the lookout for hidden damage
Verifying that the odometer and computer systems have not been tampered with
Checking that maintenance records and reported vehicle history are accurate
These are just the tip of the iceberg! Be sure to ask the mechanic for an itemised list when you book.
If you don’t know which type of pre-purchase vehicle inspection you should choose, you can always have a chat with the mechanic or garage. They will be more than happy to advise you on which option is best for you.
In most cases, a pre-purchase car inspection isn’t required. However, just because it isn't a legal requirement, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.
Getting a used car inspection can make you aware of any potential issues before you commit to buying a car. This gives you a chance to pull out of a dodgy car sale. It may also help you to negotiate a better purchase price if you know there is some maintenance work that will need to be done immediately after you buy it.
We recommend getting a pre-purchase inspection done every time you consider buying a used car from a private seller. Usually, when buying directly from a private seller, you won’t get any warranties and are buying the car ‘as is’.
If you’re buying from a franchised dealer or directly from a branded dealership, on the other hand, getting a pre-purchase car inspection may not be as necessary. While it’s still useful to give you peace of mind, it’s likely the dealer will have already done a comprehensive check at their end. So, you may feel comfortable just asking them what checks they have already carried out.
There are several factors that can influence the cost of a used car inspection. Some of the most common are:
Location. Depending on where the car is located, labour costs may be more expensive.
Car age. If it's an older car, there may be more to consider during the inspection.
Car make. Depending on whether the car is an imported or domestic make, there may be more to check. Plus, if it's an exotic or speciality car, you may need a more specialised mechanic.
Level of detail you want the mechanic to go into. A basic check will cost less than a more comprehensive service.
It’s important to note that pre-purchase car inspections and MOTs are not the same. An MOT is a minimum check where a mechanic seeks to answer just one question: is the car safe enough to drive on the road?
Even if the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ that doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have any major issues with it in the near future. For example, the gearbox may be fully functional at the time of inspection but has not been serviced before the 100,000 mile mark. This means that the car is likely to have major issues with the gearbox (such as seizure) soon, but an MOT won’t give you any inkling of this.
We wouldn’t advise buying a used car with just an MOT as it's not a thorough check in the same way as a pre-purchase inspection is. However, bear in mind that an MOT certificate is mandatory for you to be able to legally drive your car.
The safest option is to make sure that the car has completed both types of inspections.
Almost all garages and mobile mechanics offer pre-purchase car inspections. While you can bring the car to them if you or the seller prefer, usually someone will come out to the location of the car where they’ll check it and do a quick road test.
If a seller refuses to give you permission to hire a professional for a pre-purchase assessment, we recommend avoiding that seller at all costs. It could be a sign that you’re dealing with an untrustworthy seller.
To make sure you get the best service for the best price, it’s best to check out customer reviews and collect quotes from more than one garage or mechanic. It’s also a good idea to ask for recommendations from friends and family.
Yes, a pre-purchase car inspection can save you money and headaches. Pre-purchase assessments will catch any major issues with the car so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises later.
Yes, both garages and mobile mechanics would be happy to perform a used car vehicle inspection. WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find mechanics in your area and compare quotes to ensure you get the best deal.
While buying a car from a private seller can save you a fair amount of money, it may also be a little more stressful as the car usually won’t come with the same warranties or guarantees as buying from a dealership. Before committing, make sure to get a pre-purchase assessment as well as to check the history and any relevant paperwork.
You should always get your car inspected by a certified mechanic or garage. If you’re wondering where to start, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find reputable garages and mechanics in your area.
Pre-purchase inspections are not needed for leased vehicles. However, most lease companies will require you to schedule an inspection shortly before returning your leased vehicle to make sure everything is still in acceptable condition upon return. While this is not a pre-purchase car inspection, they will check for the same things. If they find issues, they may charge you for them on your final lease bill.
A car inspection service costs around £106.95 when booked on WhoCanFixMyCar but it tends to vary from location to location. Be sure to collect multiple quotes before picking a specific shop or mechanic.