If you are looking to buy a used car, you should consider a pre-purchase auto inspection. This service is especially useful if the car you want to buy is too far away for you to inspect yourself. Even if you can evaluate the car personally, a qualified inspection can detect things easily overlooked. Let’s see what goes into a thorough used car inspection.

General Data

The initial data should include:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Year, make, and model
  • Engine cylinders and size
  • Mileage
  • Transmission type
  • Fuel type

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Inspection Summary

Next you should find a summary of the qualified inspector’s findings. Areas such as body, glass, wipers, tires & wheels, interior, gauges, audio, carpet & upholstery, trunk, electrical, engine, and road test should all be summarized. This gives you a quick overview of the good and bad points of the inspection.

Now The Details

Under each section the report should give details. For example, under “Body Inspection” each part of the car should have been examined and commented on. Are there scratches, chips, or dents anywhere? If so, how large were the defects? This kind of detail shows that the inspector took their time to give you buying decision power.

When looking under the hood there should be notes about oil leaks, exhaust leaks, or exhaust smoke. Additional inspection detail could mention sunroof function, keyless entry, strange odors, and gas door and cap function.

Many times there will be comments added to the report. The inspector might note that the car looks like it has not been used for a while or that it was stored safely in a covered area. The report also might make recommendations about further checks, such as on the electrical system.

Road Test

Not all reports come with a road test. Some situations might not allow road testing, but if a road test is completed it should include comments about:

  • Brakes – noise, vibration, effort
  • Suspension – performance, noise, rough road response
  • Idling
  • Engine performance and noise
  • Acceleration
  • Horn
  • Wind noise
  • Starting
  • Steering – any drift?
  • Transmission – shifting smoothness, effort, slippage
  • Engine operating temperature
  • Transmission/transaxle noise
  • CV joint/drive axle noise
  • Parking brake operation

As you can see, the detail is important. In fact, the best inspections cover over 150 points, and the inspector has received special trained in auto inspection. Again, useful comments about the road test give you the most complete evaluation possible.


Finally, a good inspection should include plenty of pictures of the car. Not only overall appearance, but also up close shots of defects.


Even though no car inspection report can detect everything, the details make a difference. A little problem can become a big headache if you don’t know about it beforehand. So before you buy used, make sure you get a complete pre-purchase car inspection.

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