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How Do You Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection Before Buying a Used Car?


Quick Facts for Pre-Purchase Inspections

When purchasing a used vehicle located in another state, have you ever wondered how to get an inspection before you buy?

We’ll tell you about pre-purchase vehicle inspections and key things you need to know.

Buying a Car and Inspecting It When You Live Out-of-State

It’s very challenging for a buyer in one state to obtain a car inspection in another without physically going to the mechanic. But it can be done. It could be considered the single most difficult part of purchasing a used car out of state unless, of course, you buy it from one of those sellers who uses personal names for the vehicle and wants a picture of your garage to make sure it’s “going to a good home.”

Here’s how it usually works, and remember, it will take time and patience.

  • Determine if you want the vehicle. Call the seller and determine you like the car in question. Fine. That part’s easy.
  • Assess the situation. Research the seller’s location and the car’s proximity to a mechanic you trust or one recommended to you by a local owner of a similar vehicle. For example, if you’re buying a Ferrari in Utah and you live in California, go on the Ferrari forums and ask for a mechanic recommendation in Utah. If you want to purchase an original Audi allroad in Connecticut and live in Virginia, go on the Audi allroad forums or Reddit and ask for a mechanic recommendation in all the major cities between Connecticut and Virginia. You get the idea.
  • Call all parties involved. You’ll now need to begin a game of telephone that doesn’t end until your brain becomes so worn out it develops the same consistency as a throw pillow. Here’s what you do: You call the seller and announce you want the car inspected. Then, you call the mechanic and announce that you need a vehicle inspection. Next, you must attempt to coordinate the schedules of these two entities: a seller, who doesn’t want to be bothered to take the car to a mechanic, and a mechanic, who would rather work on cars and make money than talk to some person on the phone, located hundreds of miles away, who will never again provide him with repeat business. If you’re lucky, they’ll talk to each other and find a time to get together. You’re rarely lucky.
  • Convince the seller to get the car to the mechanic. Now, you need to convince the seller to bring the car to the mechanic. Hopefully, by some amazing, incredible, insane stroke of luck, you can persuade the seller and mechanic to agree on a date and convince the seller to bring the car to the mechanic for an inspection. I once tried to buy a Ferrari in Tucson, Arizona, and I got the first part taken care of. The mechanic and the seller set a time, and after 37 back-and-forth phone calls, I thought the whole thing was done. However, the seller refused to transport the car four miles to the mechanic’s facility. I’m serious. This actually happened. He said if I wanted the inspection, I needed to transport the car. Meanwhile, I was sitting in my living room wondering if I would actually have to fly across the country to drive a car four miles.
  • Get the inspection results. Finally, you have the mechanic call you when the inspection is over and give you the results. You can easily pay with a credit card over the phone.

Will a Vehicle Inspection Catch Everything?

No. Sometimes, even if you do all this legwork, you’ll find that the inspection didn’t catch everything. I once had a Porsche 911 Turbo inspected by a well-respected dealership in Florida, which gave it a relatively clean bill of health. I flew down to Florida, bought the car, and discovered it needed a new clutch for $5,000. But I’ve also had the opposite experience. A Hummer dealership in Youngstown, Ohio, once inspected my Hummer before I bought it and easily found all the trouble spots, so I knew exactly what to expect.

However, this is all a lot of work. Read on for another approach.

Consider Your Investigative Skills Instead

If you can trust your instincts, here’s how to handle an out-of-state buying situation. Don’t bother with a pre-purchase inspection. I didn’t get one on my Viper, I didn’t get one on my Nissan S-Cargo or my Nissan Skyline, and I didn’t bother on my Ferrari. Instead, I use a different tactic now. I only buy cars from people I trust.

I usually ask the seller an enormous amount of questions to figure out why the car’s being sold, what issues have come up during ownership, and how it’s been maintained. You can request records. Ask the right questions, and you’ll start to feel better about the whole thing, and my Viper, Ferrari, Skyline, and S-Cargo didn’t have any unseen issues.

Too bad I did not use this strategy with the guy selling that Ferrari in Tucson. Instead of going with my gut (the guy who won’t drive his car four miles isn’t the kind of guy you should buy a car from), I paid for the pre-purchase inspection. The car needed $12,000 in immediate repair work. I passed on the car, and then, the seller had to do the unthinkable — drive it four miles back home.

Read Related Articles on Buying Used Vehicles:

Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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34 COMMENTS
  1. Hi Doug! So just so happens I am in the Atlanta area and looking for a good place to  get this Infiniti G37 I.m buying Monday preinspected, and was hoping you could help in suggesting a reputable place for inspection? If so plz email me ASAP at newcarbuywithconfidence2020@gmail.com for I.m looking to make a purchase in 2 days. Thank you in advance!

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