Car Buying

Buying a Used Car: Get a Mechanical Inspection to Lower the Price

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2014

If you're thinking of buying a used car, we highly recommend getting a mechanic you trust to check it out before you sign the papers. After all, it's hard to know exactly what problems the car might have unless a trained professional takes a good, long look around.

If you do opt for a mechanical inspection, don't let it go to waste. We've listed a few tips on how to use a mechanical inspection to negotiate a lower price on your next car.

Get Estimates

Our first and most important tip is a simple one: Get cost estimates. If your mechanic says that the car you want needs a few things, find out what they cost before talking to the seller. That's the best way to learn how much you'll need to negotiate. For instance, if the mechanic says the car needs tires and brakes, ask how much it would cost to put those items on the car, then search the web to find what the items will cost to purchase. Combine the two and you have a good estimate on the repair cost.

Be Honest With the Seller

We strongly suggest that you don't lie to the seller about the car's flaws just for a discount. We also wouldn't suggest beating around the bush about what's really wrong. Instead, just be honest and clear about your concerns once you get the inspection report back. Tell the seller everything that your mechanic found, and ask if there's a little room on the car's price to account for the issues.

If there aren't any issues, the process should stop here. If your trusted mechanic inspects the car and gives it a clean bill of health, your negotiating shouldn't be based on mechanical flaws but rather on resources like Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader listings for similar vehicles. In this case, consider the money you paid the mechanic to be a good investment in peace of mind.

Asking for a Discount

Once you know what the repairs will cost and you've asked the seller if he or she can drop the car's price to account for the problems, you'll want to figure out what kind of discount to request. One thing to keep in mind is that a used car won't be perfect, so we wouldn't suggest trying to get $50 off for every scratch or $100 off for every dent.

Instead, we suggest using Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader listings of similar vehicles to figure out a fair market value for the car. From there, tell the seller how much it will cost to bring it up to good condition, and ask for a discount of that amount. After all, if the car you're looking at is worth $10,000 in good shape but needs $2,000 in repairs, you don't want to pay $10,000 for it. You'd want to pay $8,000 and spend the rest on getting the car into good condition.

Be Prepared to Walk

While some sellers will agree to the discount, and others will offer to negotiate some money off the price, others won't budge, even if faced with evidence of a car's problems. In this case, we suggest that you don't waste your time with the car or the seller. Walk away, find a different car and have your mechanic ready to inspect again. It may seem stressful and complicated, but it's the best way to go about buying a used car.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Used Car: Get a Mechanical Inspection to Lower the Price - Autotrader