Understanding the Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) and Why You Might Need One

Some people suggest a pre-purchase inspection when you buy a used car. This is a good idea for any car, truck, or sport utility vehicle you might be buying that isn’t brand new. There are a few more instances where a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) might be a good idea and can save you money in the long run.

Is it worth it to get a pre-purchase inspection?

Why a pre-purchase inspection is a good idea
A car mechanic performs a pre-purchase inspection | Hum Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

J.D. Power went over the pre-purchase inspection process. If you have questions about the mechanical, cosmetic, or safety issues of a car you want to buy, it can be a good idea. A certified mechanic or automotive technician knowledgeable about vehicles can help point out things that a regular person might overlook. A pre-purchase inspection can also uncover something like rust or potential issues that might be hiding.

The value of a pre-purchase inspection depends on a few things. Does it uncover something significant that saves you money upfront? That would make it worth it. What if it doesn’t reveal anything out of sorts? Some people might not think that the PPI was valuable in that case. It could also depend on the value of a vehicle.

It also depends on where you plan on buying from. A dealership or place like CarMax might have an inspection of its own that could potentially point out any hidden flaws. In that case, you might not need a third-party inspection. Or, if you buy an expensive or luxury car, a third-party assessment might still be worth it.

It is a good idea to get a pre-purchase inspection if your vehicle comes without a warranty

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Another major reason to elect for a pre-purchase inspection is if you are buying a car, truck, or SUV without a warranty. If the vehicle doesn’t have a warranty, you are responsible for whatever issues might pop up immediately. Getting a qualified pre-purchase inspection is also a good idea if the car is in another location. Sellers can drop the car off at a local shop and get an inspection, giving the buyer peace of mind.

If you don’t have a high-quality repair shop or mechanic you trust, it might be time to find one. Any competent mechanic or automotive technician can do the PPI, but you want to be sure to find someone worthwhile. These days, Google and Facebook are good places to check for reviews. You can also Google around for a local business.

How much should you pay for a PPI?

As the buyer, you are responsible for paying for the pre-purchase inspection. A basic inspection should be between $100 and $200, generally. The mechanic will probably test drive the vehicle and do an overall inspection. If you have a luxury vehicle or need more extensive testing on the engine, it could be more like $300 to $400. That is relative to the price of the car you might be buying, too.

Most pre-purchase inspections will be done before the sale, depending on how you go about things. In some situations, the deal might be contingent on a clean report from the inspection. Either way, the buyer and seller should agree on the terms ahead of time.

You might not be able to find everything, but a pre-purchase inspection should give you the green light to go ahead with the sale. It might also help you avoid a car needing a head gasket replacement, which can be an expensive repair right off the bat.

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