About 40% of vehicles have a history of being in some type of accident.

You don't always know which vehicles have an accident history without a full report. The damage could be fixed or simply masked. The only way to know about a vehicle's history is through a thorough car inspection.

Because almost half the number of cars on the roads have been in an accident, you'll probably want to know if the car you're about to buy has been in an accident. That's why it's important to always do pre-purchase car inspections. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about car inspections and why you should get one!

What Is a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection?

Pre-purchase car inspections, or PPIs, occurs when a mechanic gives a vehicle a thorough inspection to ensure everything works properly before someone buys a vehicle. The mechanic will inspect the safety of the vehicle, the mechanics, and the cosmetics. From there, the licensed mechanic will assess the results for any damage that the car may have.

Conducting pre-purchase car inspections before you buy a car online can help save you money in the long run.

If a mechanic points out any issues, you can negotiate a cheaper price for the used vehicle. This will save you time before going to get the out-of-state car. You can also choose to find another vehicle instead.

Not only will the inspection save you money for car parts, but will also make you aware of any dangerous conditions the car may have. If there happen to be any issues, the mechanic will inform you so you can find a car more suitable for your needs.

Getting a car inspection before purchase will also give you peace of mind. Having a licensed mechanic look at your car will inform you of information you wouldn't otherwise know on your own.

Why Are Pre-Purchase Car Inspections Necessary?

If you had to choose between two cars, a brand-new one or a damaged, crushed one, which one would you choose? It's obvious. You would probably choose the new one because it looks better!

However, with cars, you cannot always tell the condition of a vehicle just by looking at the outside. That's where car inspections come in!

It is always necessary to have a car inspection before buying! Just like you would have a boat or a house inspected before purchase, you should do the same with a car. You want to know where your money is going!

Because the average person doesn't know what to look for in all car parts, a licensed mechanic does. They can take an in-depth look at each part for any damage or potential hazards before you get the car. Although a mechanic cannot find every flaw, they will help you avoid serious issues in the long run.

Where Can I Get a Car Inspection?

There are multiple ways to get a car inspection before purchasing a vehicle. Your first option is to call a third-party vendor to set up an inspection. Many companies like LemonSquad will go to the dealership to inspect the car you are looking to buy. Other times, some dealerships will let you bring a trusted mechanic from nearby to the dealership to look over it.

Another option for a car inspection is to have the dealership look at it. Although they do a quick inspection before placing it online, it may not be as thorough as possible. Dealers want to make sales and may hide information. Having another mechanic inspect it is always a good idea to reduce the bias of the report.

If you're buying a car online from an individual, you should take the car to a trusted mechanic as well to ensure everything is up to standards.

Another important thing to note about buying a car online is that inspections are not always possible before the purchase. If that is the case, work with the dealership to ensure a written warranty is in place. This ensures that if something goes wrong during the inspection, you can bring it back and have any parts fixed.

Just as you would if it was pre-purchased, you can hire a third-party company or go to a mechanic to get it inspected. From there, you can then take it back to the dealership with a list of issues to have them fix it for you for free.

Although this is possible, it's always best to have a pre-purchase car inspection just to be safe!

What Should I Expect from a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection?

Before even getting to the pre-purchase inspection, you should ask the dealership for a CARFAX report.

This report will give you a rundown of important vehicle information like accident history, maintenance records, odometer readings, and past owner history. Although rare, it will also give you notice of any safety recalls in the vehicle's history.

After understanding the Carfax report, a pre-purchase inspection is necessary to look more in-depth. You can do your own cosmetic inspection and pay close attention to the parts of the car discussed in the Carfax report. From there, the mechanic will dive deeper into the nitty-gritty car parts.

It is important to note that not all inspections are created equally. Before getting a pre-purchase car inspection, be sure to ask what components are included. Ensure the mechanic does a road test to adequately test the breaks and performance.

Car Inspection Checklist

As a car buyer, you may not know everything about the mechanics of a car. And that's okay! Mechanics do.

Before having a mechanic check your vehicle, go through the list with them to make sure they are looking at the following. Or take it a step further and bring our pre-purchase car inspection checklist with you! The more they look at it, the better.


The first thing an inspector will look at is the general cosmetics of the car. A thorough inspection looks at the outer physical appearance and the interior condition of the vehicle. The inspector will:

  • Look for scratches, rust, or dents on the exterior of the car
  • Look at the glass for cracks or chips, which can be a safety hazard
  • Look at gaps between panels that may indicate vehicle damage
  • Take a glance at the undercarriage of the car for rust, damage, or leaks
  • Observe the condition of the interior of the car, such as seats, consoles, steering wheels, navigation, audio, and the dashboard

Once a mechanic looks at this, they will write it down. There will be thorough pictures to go along with the checklist as well.


Inspections will also look at the condition, age, and treads of the tires to determine if they are safe for use. The inspector will check the brands of tires to ensure they are the same to make sure the axles line up properly. They'll also check that the tire tread should have at least one-third of tread left and is above a 4/32.

Mechanical Features

The most important part of an inspection is knowing the condition and safety of operating the mechanics of the car. The inspector will look at the brakes, transmission, ball joints and tie rods, the engine, coolant, and more. They will:

  • Look at the oil levels, coolant levels, and all other fluid levels to make sure they are normal and that there are no visible leaks
  • Check for any leaks in the engine, transmission, and brake system
  • Inspect the suspension to make sure it is level
  • Look over the accessories and vehicle controls to ensure they work properly, including the navigation system, radio volume knobs, clock, controls, and air conditioning.
  • Conduct a road test drive to test the brakes, steering, engine operation, and exhaust system

Most inspections will come with all of this information, along with pictures of anything the inspector noticed. If there are scratches on the outside, the inspector will take a picture of it. The same goes for the engine, interior, and any other part of the car.

If you want to make sure the inspection has pictures, do not be afraid to ask! This is a newer feature of inspections as technology catches up to the world of cars.

What If the Inspection Finds Damage?

This may happen! That's why you should get a car inspection before buying a car online. If this is the case, you have a few options.

One option is to choose to negotiate the price based on the damage if it is still deemed safe to drive. Pre-purchase car inspections allow you to know if damage has been fixed before you purchase the vehicle. You also have the decision to decide to find another car!

Once you have the car inspection, you have options to work with before making a decision on a vehicle. This will save you time and money down the road.

How Much Does a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Cost?

If you are the buyer of the vehicle, you will be the one purchasing the PPI. On average, a pre-purchase car inspection costs anywhere from $100-$200.

This can sometimes be negotiated, but the price will also depend on the detail of the inspection.

What Happens After I Buy a Car Online?

So you have the car. It's been inspected and you've purchased the vehicle. Now what?

Most likely, you bought an out-of-state car. When purchasing specific used vehicles, it may be difficult to find one near you. Used cars are in high demand and can be hard to come by, so capitalizing on any opportunity is a good idea.

If that's the case, you may be wondering how to get the car to you from a different state.

If you don't want to spend more money after purchasing a vehicle on a plane ticket or a ton of gas to get there, Nexus has you covered! Nexus will get your car to you without breaking your wallet.

Our employees are highly trained in all types of vehicles and vehicle transportation. They will work with you and walk you through the steps to get your car to where you need it.

The first thing our car transporters will do is contact the dealership where you purchased the car. From there, they will set up a time and day to pick up the car to begin the delivery process. During the delivery process, we make sure to take care of your car to deliver it to you the same way you purchased it.

Our car shippers are certified to give you peace of mind that your car is safe in our hands.

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Pros and Cons of a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection

Having your car inspected before purchase comes with both pros and cons. The following list gives you reasons for both, so you can knowledgeably choose whether or not you get a car inspection.

Advantages of a PPI

When buying a used vehicle, you're spending money out of pocket for a down payment. You'll then have to finance the car and take out a loan. You probably want to reduce your other expenses, since you're already spending a lot of money.

Although getting an inspection may seem like a lot out of pocket at the time, you could be saving thousands of dollars down the line.

Car inspections are also easy to come by. You can order an inspection online or have a mechanic visit the dealership to look over your car. It's important to look at different inspection sites as they vary in price and what they offer.

After getting a pre-purchase car inspection as an online car buyer, you then have peace of mind to go through with the purchase. It would be nerve-wracking to travel across the country to pick up a car that you aren't sure of the condition. With an inspection, you won't have these worries!

Disadvantages of a PPI

The disadvantage of a pre-purchase inspection is the extra cost of a few hundred dollars. It can be disappointing if a car inspection comes back poor and you've spent money on a car you will not be buying. However, it's important to think about all the money you saved by having it inspected before purchase.

Car Inspection Terminology

Not everything in a car inspection makes sense to an average human. Because that's the case, we've compiled a list of terms you will see on an inspection. Refer to this if you need to understand the inspection better.


Understandings the parts of the engine that an inspector will check is crucial to your car's safety. They will check the engine oil, leaks, coolant, and the hoses.

Engine Oil

This refers to the oil in the car. Many inspections will let you know if you need to change the oil or if the color is off in any capacity. The engine oil condition says a lot about the maintenance of the car and if it has been taken care of.

Engine Fluid Leaks

Engine fluid leaks are often an indication of something bigger. It's important to find the cause of a leak to fix the problem. If there are differential leaks, the inspector will notify you that there is a problem with the differential gasket, which houses the gear oil.

Engine Coolant

Coolant protects engines from overheating. If the coolant is low or discolored, you will need to replace it.

Hoses and Belts

The inspector will check to make sure that all hoses are solid and firm. This means they are working properly. If they are cracked, frayed, or mushy, they will need to be replaced.


The transmission transfers power from the engine to the gears of the car. If there is any issue with the transmission, like a leak, it will need to be fixed immediately.


Tires are an extremely important aspect of a car inspection. When buying a used car, it is easy to overlook this aspect and go straight to understanding the engine condition or overall appearance of the car. Knowing how your tires are operating and the condition of them is important for your safety.

Tire Treads

Tire treads refer to the shapes, grooves, and patterns on the tires. They are there for a purpose to give tires a way to grip the road to accelerate, brake, and turn. It is recommended to replace any tire below a 4/32.


If you see this term on the report, this is the brand of the tires you have on the car. It is best to have all four tires from the same brand.

Road Test

An inspector may do a road test to see how the vehicle operates. They will check the engine performance and run a computer diagnosis to check the codes and how the data is working. Ideally, the inspector should conduct the road test with a hilly, bumpy road with some potholes to see how the suspension holds up.


This term refers to the leveling of the car. The car should be level on all four sides. In addition, if the inspector pushes down on a corner and it bounces more than once, they may indicate the suspension is off.

Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Frequently Asked Questions

Although many questions were answered above, there are still a few frequently asked questions to address. Refer to these if you want to know more about pre-purchase inspections.

Do Inspectors Use Diagnostic Equipment?

Inspectors do not usually use diagnostic equipment. During an inspection, they will look through the car's parts to determine the condition and maintenance.

Do Inspectors Perform Compression Tests?

Most inspectors do not perform compression tests due to the liability that comes with them. These are not usually necessary to perform for passenger vehicles.

How Long Will the Inspection Process Take?

After contacting a company to perform the car inspection, it takes around two to three days for an inspector to inspect the car. Once you place an order, an inspector will be contacted to add to their list of inspections. Once the inspector gets to you, you can expect an hour to two hours of an inspection.

Once the inspection takes place, you should receive the results in one to two days. If the inspector is free to talk to you after the inspection, they can sometimes give you insight into any major issues of concern.

Do Pre-Purchase Inspections Include the History of the Vehicle?

No. PPIs are to inspect the actual vehicle condition itself. If you want a detailed report of vehicle history, a Carfax report is your best bet.

What If the Dealership Doesn't Allow a Pre-Purchase Inspection?

If the dealer you are working with does not allow pre-purchase car inspections, it may be best to stop working with them. This usually means there is something the dealer is trying to hide about the vehicle.

Can I Order a PPI for an Out-of-State Car?

It is highly recommended that you have a pre-purchase inspection of an out-of-state car. When buying a car online, there are potential issues you could face. There's the obvious issue that you cannot see the car in person, but there are also instances of fraud or paperwork difficulties.

When buying a car from out-of-state, you should always ask for more pictures and a virtual tour. However, having an inspector look at the vehicle in person will ensure that everything is in its proper place.

Buy a Car Online Today

Once you go through the pre-purchase car inspections and buy a car online, you're going to want your car as soon as possible. At Nexus, we want to help ease the stress of buying a car online. Once you make a purchase, we can transport your car to your door without hassle!

With many options to choose from, like door-to-door car shipping or cross-country car shipping, we'll help you get from A to B. Contact us today to set up your out-of-state car delivery!

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