Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingProcesses, Mechanics, and Repairs Pre Purchase Inspection – Should You Perform This Inspection?

Pre Purchase Inspection – Should You Perform This Inspection?

by Jordan Harris
Pre Purchase Inspection

Are you thinking about purchasing a used vehicle and are you considering doing a pre purchase inspection? Well, if that is the case, then you came to the right place. We are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to this type of work.

Doing the proper research before you go out there and purchase a vehicle is really important. Why I’m saying this? Well, because it is true. Your number one task is to learn everything about the model that you plan on purchasing. You need to learn the common problems of this car in order to get the broader picture.

And then after you determined that this is a solid type of car with low problems, you can start looking for cars. Make a few phone calls and then arrange a pre purchase inspection. PPI is one of the most important things when it comes to buying a car. Especially if you buy an expensive car. But you shouldn’t worry because we are going to cover everything you need to know.

First, we are going to learn what is a pre purchase inspection and then we will learn why it is so important. Later on, we will cover the types of inspection and the pre purchase inspection checklist, we will also learn how this procedure is done and what is the cost of this procedure. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

Pre Purchase Car Inspection

Now before we start discussing the checklist and why it is so essential. Let’s first learn more about the basics of pre purchase inspection. What is this procedure in the first place? I bet that there are a ton of people who are not into cars and are reading this article. So, this will be a good introduction for them to the topic.

Nevertheless, a pre purchase inspection is also known as PPI. This is a special procedure that is performed on a vehicle before purchase just the new owner to make sure that everything is good with the car that they are buying. This procedure is often conducted by a very skilled mechanic with a lot of experience under their belt.

During this procedure, everything on the car is checked accordingly. Everything is inspected and the components are meticulously inspected.

The mechanic will start the engine first and see how the engine is running. They will notice if there are misfires, knocks, or any other type of problem within the engine.

Often these mechanics will take the car for a spin around the neighborhood to see if everything is working well with the engine and transmission.

In addition to this, everything else is inspected properly. Especially if the vehicle has a rebuilt title. These vehicles need some extra attention because in some cases, there is a basket case hiding behind the metal panels.

So, you understand now what is a pre purchase inspection. Now let’s see why it is so important and why you need to conduct this procedure by giving you a few examples in the following chapter.

Why This Procedure Is Essential?

Now let’s learn more about why pre purchase inspection is really essential when it comes to cars and why you should definitely do this procedure on your future car.

Let’s take an example, you purchase a car and you never see how the car runs and how the car drives. A lot of people are doing this when purchasing cars from auctions. With this type of purchase, you never know what you will get.

You might get a good vehicle, or you might get a lemon. And in most cases, if you don’t test a car before buying, you will highly likely get a lemon and you will completely regret it.

Especially when we are talking about expensive cars. Or cars that were expensive when new. With these cars, you will always end up with expensive repairs no matter what.

Pre Purchase Inspection

This is why if you purchase a luxury vehicle, you need to do this procedure unless you want to get yourself a problem.

There could be electrical issues, there could be engine or transmission problems. Or even serious paint and bodywork issues.

People nowadays purchase crashed cars, they fix up the bumpers and call it a day. A lot of people have purchased a vehicle from an auction without inspecting it. And when they opened the rear trunk, everything was mangled. The tub was pushed on the inside and these issues are really expensive to fix.

Another example is with engines and transmissions. If you don’t inspect the engine, you are basically purchasing a car blindfolded. There could be rods knocking, there could be a blown head gasket, low compression, the transmission might shudder, jerk, slip gears. This is why pre purchase inspection is key if you don’t want to end up with a bad car.

Types Of Prep Purchase Inspection

Now let’s cover the types of pre purchase inspection or PPI. What is worth noting is that there are a couple of different types of PPI.

Every PPI inspection focuses on the same important aspects, which are the engine, transmission, electrical components, bodywork, etc. But what are these different types of PPI? Let’s cover them in detail.

Pre Purchase Inspection At Dealership

The first type of pre purchase inspection is the inspection at a dealership. This is a good idea if we are talking about a newer car.

Taking your car to your local dealership might seem like a good idea. Even though some dealerships are really terrible at doing their job and the most they care about is ripping you off.

But still, if there is a newer vehicle that we are talking about. Taking it to a dealership for a PPI might seem like a good idea.

Mainly because these dealerships have the necessary software to perform a thorough inspection on the PCM and see the performance of specific components like the sensors, air-to-fuel mixture, etc. They can read values in real-time and offer you good feedback.

Most of these dealership mechanics often know what breaks down frequently on a specific model. So, they will check these components first. This is why we recommend taking the car to a dealership if we are discussing about a new car. Perform a pre purchase inspection and you will be good to go. Now let’s move to the next type.

Mechanic Pre Purchase Inspection

The second type is the mechanic pre purchase inspection. This is basically the same as the dealership PPI. But in this case, instead of taking your car to a dealership, you take your car to an independent shop. So, what is an independent shop?

Well, an independent shop is a mechanics shop that is not affiliated directly with a specific brand. Dealerships are affiliated directly with the carmaker.

But independent shops can be specialists, like a BMW specialist for example, but they are not affiliated in any kind of way with the brand itself.

When taking your car to an independent shop, make sure that you take your car to a shop dedicated to these specific brands.

Still, you need a skilled mechanic in order to make a good PPI. Modern cars are very complex. And even if a mechanic is very skilled, he doesn’t know to work on a Rolls Royce, or on a Mercedes Benz.

This is why you need to find an independent shop that is dedicated to fixing cars from a certain brand. This way, your pre purchase inspection will be good and you will have good input on what is wrong with a specific car. Now let’s move to the last type of inspection.

Mobile Pre Purchase Car Inspection

The last type of pre purchase inspection that we are going to cover is the mobile PPI. This is frankly the most convenient way to do a PPI on the car you plan to buy.

There are a lot of services online that are offered. You just book a mechanic and they will come to your doorsteps or the place where the guy who wants to sell the car lives. There they will be able to test the car and determine if the car has some sort of problem.

Still, this service is rather expensive. You could end up paying $250 or even more in some cases. So, beware of this and always ask for a price before you book someone to come to your house.

Pre Purchase Inspection Checklist

Now let’s take a look at the pre purchase inspection checklist. Let’s say that you want to do a PPI by yourself. What things do you need to check on the car? Let’s find out in the following chapters, where we will cover all the checklist items.

1. Check The Documents

The first thing when performing a pre purchase inspection is checking all of the documents. You need to inspect everything when it comes to the documents.

First, you need to find the VIN on the car and compare the VIN with the one in the title. This way you will be sure that this is the right car. Then check the registration papers and see when the last time the car was registered and if it has insurance.

Also, very useful is to get a carfax for this vehicle. You can do this by getting the VIN and through carfax, you will get all the information on the sale and service history of this specific car.

2. Checking The Fluids

The next thing you want to check when doing a pre purchase inspection is the fluids. You need to check the coolant, engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid.

All, these fluids need to be clean. If they are not, then this vehicle was probably not maintained particularly well.

Pre Purchase Inspection

The biggest red flag is if the car has sludgy oil or a low oil level. In this case, you are probably dealing with a blown head gasket or a car that suffers from oil consumption.

3. Checking For Blowby

The next thing you want to check when doing a pre purchase inspection is to see if there is a blowby in the engine. So, what is blowby? Blowby is the air that is trapped inside of the crankcase and then the air is pushed through the PCV system into the intake.

For this, you need to start the engine and remove the dipstick. If from the dipstick tube there is a ton of air that comes out. It means that the car has high miles and probably the engine has seen better days.

A little blowby is completely normal for a car above 80,000 miles. But if it blows a lot, it means that the engine is pretty much worn out. Now let’s cover the next pre purchase inspection check item.

4. Compression Test

The next pre purchase inspection checklist item is the compression test. Measuring the compression in the engine might be a good idea if you purchase a car only for the engine. So, if the engine has a lot of sentiment and you don’t want to get fooled to purchase a bad engine this step is mandatory.

The blowby test tells a lot in terms of engine wear. But measuring the compression will give you the right numbers. A good number for an engine is a compression above 100 psi per cylinder. Anything below can be considered a problem with compression.

This compression loss can be due to bad valve seats. Or it could be because of bad piston rings. Either way, expensive problem to fix.

5. OBD2 Diagnostics

Now let’s move to the next item on our pre purchase checklist. And that is the OBD2 diagnostics. Whenever you are purchasing a car it is useful for you to be able to plug in an OBD2 scanner and scan the car for codes.

Pre Purchase Inspection

This way you will be able to find out if the car has some hidden codes and if there are codes, you will be able to make a conclusion about what could be wrong with the car. So, if the owner allows you to do this type of test, you should definitely do it.

6. Checking All The Buttons And Systems

The next item on the pre purchase inspection checklist is the inspection of all the internal systems of the car.

First, check all the windows and see if they are working well. The next thing to test is the lights and see if you have burnt bulbs and if everything is well in order.

The next thing you want to check is the AC and see if it blows cold the radio and infotainment. The center console. Basically check every button possible and make sure it works well.

7. Checking The Bodywork

The next thing you want to check during a pre purchase inspection is the bodywork. The first thing you want to address is the frame rails. Check both front frame rails and see if they are perfectly straight.

The next thing you want to check is the panel gaps. Make sure that all of the door, hood, and trunk gaps match. This will tell you a lot about whether the car was in an accident or not. Bad gaps tell quite a bit.

Also, check the paint, and see if the color matches all over the body. This way you will be sure that the car was not resprayed. Not to forget to check under the hood and the door jams for overspray.

And the last thing you want to check is the trunk. Remove the trunk liner and see if there are kinks or bends in the tub. This way you will be sure that the car was not rear-ended.

8. Test Drive

And the last on our checklist for the pre purchase inspection is the test drive. Buying a car without a test drive makes no sense.

First, start the car and see if there is some kind of abnormal work. See if there are noises coming from the engine when it idles. Ticking noises can lead to misfire issues, squealing noises can lead to bad tensioner pulleys, and knocking noises can indicate problems with rod knock.

Vehicle test drive buying guide ownership

Then put the car into gear and give it a good test drive. What would people say, give it a good run for its money. Check if the engine pulls well and is not sluggish and slow to respond.

Make sure that the transmission is going through the gears smoothly without any problems. Beware of transmission shudder, slipping gears, and jerking if you test an automatic.

If you test a manual, make sure that the clutch is engaging correctly. You can do this test on an inclined road. If the clutch is bad, the car will struggle to move forward. Overall that’s all you need to know when it comes to the used car pre purchase inspection checklist.

How Long It Takes To Perform A PPI?

The length of the pre purchase inspection really depends on what kind of testing is performed. If you are doing a PPI at a dealership, then half an hour probably is the length of the procedure.

If you are doing this professionally at home with all the checklist that we gave you, then it probably will take you an hour or two. When doing a PPI you should take your time. Don’t hurry. Just make sure that you tackle everything carefully and then draw conclusions. Don’t let people rush you. If they do so, just look for another car.

What Will Happen If I Don’t Do This Procedure?

If you don’t do a PPI, you risk getting a lemon or a car that has a lot of issues. And fixing these issues will cost a whole fortune.

This is why pre purchase inspection is fundamental if you want not to experience problems in the long run.

Pre Purchase Inspection Cost

On average, a PPI costs about $100 if you do this type of work at a dealership or an independent shop. It is not a crazy expensive procedure.

On the other hand, if you call a mobile mechanic, you could pay about $250. So, PPI on call is far more expensive in comparison to the standard one that is done at the shop.

Pre Purchase Inspection Near Me

In order to find a PPI near you, just google your town and write the car brand that you want to inspect and the word dealership. For example, “Portland BMW dealership”. Or “Portland BMW independent mechanic”. You will get a few results.

Then arrange a pre purchase inspection on the phone. It’s dead simple.

Used Car Inspection Checklist Facts:

  1. The average mileage for a car is 13,000 miles per year, any more than that should warrant a discount to its less-driven peers.
  2. Investigating a car’s history report is important to see if there has been any previous damage or claims made to the car.
  3. Examining the paint job for rust and color uniformity can reveal the car’s history and whether it has been in an accident.
  4. The coin tread depth test can quickly check a tire’s wear, and examining for leakage on the ground and undercarriage can offer a price break.
  5. Checking the oil levels, inspecting belts for signs of wear, and examining the transmission fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze, and battery under the hood are important in determining the car’s current condition and life expectancy.
  6. Ensuring that all lights are in working order and conducting a driving test to listen for any strange sounds or vibrations is important to check the car’s performance on different road surfaces.
  7. Professional inspection is recommended if you are not comfortable performing the inspection checklist, and the fee is a small price to pay compared to buying a problem-ridden vehicle.


In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the pre purchase inspection. First, we learned what this is and why it is essential to be done. Then we have covered the three main types of PPI.

After that, we covered the PPI checklist. We basically listed all the items that you have to check in order to make sure that you don’t end up with a lemon. Lastly, we discussed prices and where to find a place for this job.


Now let’s cover some frequently asked questions.

What Is A Pre Purchase Inspection

A PPI is a procedure that deems the roadworthiness of a particular vehicle. This is an important procedure that you need to take in order to avoid ending up with a lemon.

How Long Does A Car Inspection Take

On average if you take your car to a dealership, this inspection will take about half an hour. But if you get the car to an independent mechanic, they will check the car more thoroughly and this inspection can take from 40 minutes to an hour depending on which procedures the mechanic will take during this check.

What Do They Check In A Car Inspection

The first thing they check is the fluids of the car and see if everything is in good order with the engine. Then they will check the undercarriage for rust and also the suspension elements for damage and will tell you what needs to be replaced.

How Much Is An Inspection For A Car

On average if you take your car to a shop, you could pay between $100 and $200 depending on how thorough this inspection is. If you call a mechanic to come to your home, then you will have to pay $250 to $300.

How To Get A Pre Purchase Inspection

Just open the browser and type your town, the brand name, and the phrase independent mechanic. For example, Portland BMW independent mechanic. You will get a ton of results.

Where Can I Ger A Car Inspection Near Me

For this, you can go online and look for the local dealerships in our place for your make and model. Or simply look for the town car brand name and the phrase independent mechanic. Something like this phrase, Detroit Mercedes specialist. You will get a ton of results.

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