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Used Car Purchase Inspection

Hi all, I am am in the market for a slightly used vehicle. I was planning to purchase a CPO to avoid any issues… But now I am reading that CPO often is just a cosmetic thing and it only increases car price by a couple of grand. I hear I need to hire a mechanic to do a thorough inspection. I am considering a couple of cars out of state. Is there a nationwide network of mechanics that is reputable and does a quality job inspection? A couple of company names would be much appreciated. Thank you!

Why are you considering buying cars that are so far away?

Is the brand you’re looking for not sold anywhere near you?

Do you feel the used car prices are too high in your area?

Where’s your location? It is much better to buy a used car near your area so that you can easily go to them if you have any inquiries/problems regarding your purchased car.

Well. One particular vehicle I am looking at is about a 3 hour drive away… but it would save me about $2K. The car has less than 10K miles on it and is about a year old… I figure it is worth the drive and as long as I can have a quality third party inspection done for $100 or whatever that cost is… that would be worth it. Hence I am looking for some advice. I have seen lemonsquad advertised. I also hear Sears Auto getting into this business… (athough I don’t know if I would trust them…) Any other ideas?

I’ve never heard of lemonsquad, but I wouldn’t let Sears Auto have ANYTHING to do with a used car inspection

@dmg you might want to check the Car Talk Mechanics Files if you look up top on the web site menu bar. There are listings there and ratings with comments. Maybe it will help; just one source of info.


I will add that even the most thorough of inspections by the finest of mechanics is no guarantee of getting a problem free car. It does swing the odds more into your favor though.

Unless the 10k miles car has been involved in a collision or never had the engine oil changed there really should not be much of a risk anyway on a vehicle like that.

Agreed with db4690; avoid Sears Auto for any inspection or much of anything else.

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Because I live in the rust belt, if I was going to buy a fairly new used car, I would prefer to buy one from a rust free area.

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ok. thank you all.

One more comment, if you please. Ask yourself WHY would someone trade a car at 1 year and 10,000 miles with a warranty still on it? Trading cars only a year old is a very expensive way to own cars. People still trade cars at 1 or 2 years but these are usually leases.

A few things to consider;
Is it a car off-lease (the selling dealer should know this)?
Lets say the car is a Ford, is it for sale at a Chevy dealer, A Ford dealer? A Honda dealer? Did the owner get so fed up with the car’s problems he changed brands?
Did the owner wreck the car and decide to trade it?
Is it a reclaimed flood car? - a good inspection should find this.
Lastly, it IS still covered by warranty so you ave at least a couple of years to drive the car to determine if it a “problem child” with little to no cost.

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I will pass on to you two bad experiences that I know about of people who bought cars from listings on the internet. I had a knock on my door one afternoon a couple of years ago and a Mercedes Benz had broken down in front of my house. The car was leaking transmission fluid all over the street. The woman who owned the Mercedes had purchased the car off an ad on the internet and had it shipped from Georgia to east central Indiana. She bought the car based on its picture on the internet. In the month she had owned the car, she had spent a fortune on repairs and the car still wasn’t right. She thought the selling price made it a bargain compared to prices similar Mercedes were selling in this area, but she ended up spending a lot more money. I had a colleague who made the 170 mile trip to Chicago for a used car he saw advertised at a Chicago dealer. He realized when he aaw the car, it wasn’t in the condition it was advertised to be in and made the trip for nothing.
One more story: a family friend made a trip to Texas back in1953. While down there, he bought a 1949 Packard at a bargain price at an estate sale auction. His intent was to flip the car when he got back to Indiana for a profit. He and his family drove two cars back to Indiana. The Packard was in great shape, but he couldn’t find a buyer in this area. He had to keep the Packard and sell one of his other cars. Fortunately, his wife did like driving that Packard.
What I am trying to say is that unless you are a professional buyer, make your purchase in your own locality.

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I have said it before, if you are concerned about a used vehicle purchase that you are going to an online forum to ask unknown strangers for help then maybe this is a better plan.

Find a local new vehicle with warranty that is within 80% of what you determine your budget is.

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CPO programs are not cosmetic in my opinion having researched them pretty comprehensively. Particularly the luxury brands’ CPO programs. The programs all offer a used car buyer a warranty. If the vehicle is still under the Mfgs original warranty, it is typically extended. Most CPO programs allow a driver to have a bumper to bumper warranty after the expiration of the Mfgs warranty of one to three years, and many miles, as many as 100K total on the vehicle. These warranties are backed by the Mfg and its dealer network. With regard to a pre-inspection, I just did a story on that and asked a dozen folks about the issue. Every expert suggested it was the most important part of buying a used vehicle. I will let others suggest a way to find a good local mechanic that can be trusted.

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The dealer probably has a CarFax on line for this vehicle. Read it and see what information it has. CarFax is not perfect, but for a 1year old car, there might be some useful information. Problems have to be reported to CarFax to show up; this is the usual complaint. If the car was serviced at the dealer, those visits should be on the CarFax.

I used the CarFax to buy a 2 year old car with 14,000 miles on it. I wondered why anyone would sell such a a car, but the CarFax showed a complete service history with no long down time. Long down time might indicate an accident with that time in the shop. In my case, the CarFax worked as they intended it to. BTW, I don’t have any material interest in CarFax. I just found it useful in this one case.

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I’m not saying that a thorough inspection is not a viable and smart thing to do. I’m just saying that a thorough inspection is no guarantee of buying a car that will be problem free. There are simply too many unknowns which can rear their ugly heads at any time.

As for CPO vehicles; that’s also a toss-up. Some dealers may:

  1. Do a thorough bow to stern inspection from a very qualified mechanic.
  2. Some dealers have a sort-of inspection done by a luke warm new to the field tech.
  3. Some dealers have their wash room guys clean them up and place them on the front line for sale with no inspection at all and with the CPO attached to them.

At one large multi-line dealer where I worked they sold CPO cars. The question we mechanics in the shop always asked was…who in the world is inspecting them because it sure wasn’t us.

Number 3 is quite disturbing

All manufacturer’s CPO cars are advertised as having undergone a rigorous inspection. Well over 100 point inspection, I believe. The exact number varies by manufacturer

I’m not saying such things don’t incur . . . I’m merely saying it’s outright fraud, and might even be illegal

A few times I thoroughly inspected cars, and actually found quite a few faults, because I was actually doing the things on teh checksheet, instead of pencil-whipping it. The service manager was quite upset with me, because it was “expected” that every car that had a clean title, low mileage, crash-free, etc. would get certified. And I clearly wasn’t a team player


That’s part of the reason why #2 is very common . . . because those youngsters can be more easily “influenced” and even if they’re not susceptible to “influence” they might not be experienced enough to perform a first-rate inspection

I’ve also seen some other ugly stuff . . . such as the porters performing the PDIs, but the service writers and/or service manager was flagging the time :rage:

The porters knew darn well they were screwing over the mechanics, but they weren’t exactly in a position to refuse to carry out direct orders. But they were decent and told us about it. They didn’t try to hide it. The service manager told them to do it, or they’re fired

I was in the same boat a few times by not being a team player. One of my bosses one time stated; “You know what your problem is? You’re too honest.” He said this after I refused to get involved in an instrument cluster swap which would have lowered the vehicle mileage from about 140k miles all the way down to 60k miles.

It was claimed the instrument cluster had a “bad speedometer” but when I checked it the speedo head was fine. That’s when the ruckus broke out.

At the last large multi-line dealer where I worked (Pontiac/GMC/Subaru/Mazda) the clean up crew did all of the PDIs which more than likely meant that no PDI was even done. Not one car or truck ever entered the shop for a PDI because the detail building was 2 blocks down the street.
The transport trucks would unload the cars at the dealer and the detail guys would ferry the new cars back and forth to the clean up building.

The dealer was selling extended warranty plans but the caveat was that any problems that cropped up had to be repaired by us; the selling dealer. We discovered this by accident when a lady had a serious engine problem on a just purchased used VW. The dealer was pocketing the extended warranty fees and self-insuring that the policy would never be needed.

There is no rock bottom… :wink:

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