Is Taking a Used Car to a Mechanic Before Purchasing a Good Idea?
Why is “It depends” the answer to so many questions in life, including the one that is the title of this article? It is because there are many situational variables to consider. Cookie cutter answers don’t do justice to the complexity of real life, so you won’t get cookie cutter answers to your questions on this blog. We want you to truly understand all the different issues involved.
Let’s put it this way: When you’re looking for advice about purchasing something, would you rely on only one person’s advice? And would you want that one person to be the one who is selling the item you’re considering purchasing? Getting a second opinion suddenly starts sounding like a good idea, right? After all, when you need advice, you probably seek it from multiple sources, not just one. It’s pretty common. Given that a vehicle is typically a person’s biggest purchase (except for buying a house), you want to get it right.
The only problem with this is that it does cost money to have a mechanic give a car a thorough examination and let you know the details of what they find. It might cost around $150, give or take some depending on what mechanics in your area charge for an hourly rate. Some people consider it a very reasonable price to pay for the peace of mind they receive knowing that their trusted mechanic has put the car through its paces so there won’t be any surprises. If you want that kind of peace of mind, then by all means spend the money to get it.
An independent inspection by a mechanic can reveal things about a car that the seller doesn’t even know about, or shady seller might be trying to hide. What you learn might lead you to make a different offer on the car, or make you give up on it entirely. Once you have the information, it’s up to you what you do with it.
You might get a whole laundry list of things that are “wrong” with the car. First, please keep in mind that no used car is perfect! Expecting perfection in a used car is unrealistic and only sets you up for disappointment. A lot of what your mechanic finds is going to be normal wear and tear that comes from the car having been driven the number of miles it has been driven, so no worries there because it’s normal, and the higher the miles, the longer the list. What you should be more concerned about is anything major that’s wrong that definitely needs to be fixed. Have your mechanic prioritize his list in order of importance or urgency so you can easily see what should be taken care of.
But what’s really at stake here is the issue of trust. If you feel you can trust the seller of the car, you could avoid spending that $150, or put it towards a larger down payment. There are some people who think the words trust and used car dealership just don’t go together. Maybe they had a bad experience somewhere along the way – wouldn’t be the first time it’s ever happened. But they have obviously never experienced what it’s like to work with a dealer they can trust. You can get a feel for any dealer’s reputation by looking at customer reviews on sites like DealerRater, Yelp, and Google. Work with a dealership you can trust and you might not need a mechanic to inspect a car at all, but if it makes you feel better, then go for it!