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Buyer Beware When Purchasing Used Vehicle

Buying a used vehicle can be a frustrating experience. How do you truly know what you are purchasing? How do you determine the true condition of a vehicle from a private party, a car lot or a dealership?

Tips for asking for a pre-purchase inspection? Go to bottom of this blog.

The first thing to know is that a seller may not be totally honest and forthcoming about the condition of the vehicle. Even honest sellers may not really know the "true" condition of the vehicle or be aware of a needed repair lurking under the hood. If you are purchasing from a lot, many vehicles come from out of state and could have been in a flood or accident. Even a dealership or independent sales lot that “certifies” the condition of the vehicle may have overlooked (or looked the other way) on vital maintenance and repair issues.

Here are 5 things to watch out for when buying a used car.

1. Has the car been stored for a long period of time? A low mileage vehicle that is rarely driven could look like a better deal than it is. Most every vehicle component has a lifespan. Even the fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid and radiator coolant will turn acidic over time. A timing belt will need to be replaced based on age instead of mileage, and hoses and rubber components will become cracked and brittle. Even a vehicle that has been rarely driven requires regular maintenance.

2. Does the vehicle have regular maintenance records? A properly maintained vehicle will have these maintenance records. It best to purchase from an owner that has been paying attention and maintaining the vehicle.

3. Have the oil changes been performed at a quick lube? If yes, there may be issues under the hood that have gone undetected. Have the vehicle inspected by a trained technician who can give you an idea of the true condition of the vehicle.

4. Has the owner been using the proper octane of fuel and using Top Tier Fuel? It’s important to use the correct fuel for the vehicle. A performance vehicle that has been running a lower octane of fuel or cheap gas will develop issues over time.

5. Has the vehicle has been modified in any way or is it coming from out of state? If yes, be sure it will pass the CA Smog test. Each state has different requirements and California’s can be the most strict.

You are making a sizable investment and you want to know all that you can about the vehicle you will purchase. We always recommend an inspection by a trained technician who will rack the vehicle and take a look at all the systems. This inspection should also provide a report of any recalls or service bulletins on the vehicle. A simple inspection can save you thousands of dollars in repair bills and give you bargaining power with the seller. An honest seller should agree to this inspection and maybe even split the cost. If the inspection turns up a “lemon” you just saved yourself many headaches and bundles of money.

Quality Automotive Servicing is Your Trusted Local Auto Care in Truckee. "Buyers inspections" are available by appointment. Call 530-587-1933.


Here's some examples of how you might ask for a pre-purchase inspection. By approaching the seller politely and offering to cover the expenses, you demonstrate your seriousness about the purchase while also showing respect for their time and efforts.

I'm very interested in the [make and model of the vehicle] you're selling and I'm seriously considering purchasing it. However, before finalizing the deal, I would like to have a professional inspection done to ensure everything is in good condition and there are no hidden issues. This protects both me and you in the transaction.

I am interested in your car to purchase. I think it would be best for both of us to get a pre-purchase inspection. Would you be willing to coordinate with me to have the car inspected by my mechanic at Quality Automotive Servicing?

I am interested in purchasing your car. Would it be possible for me to take the car to my shop Quality Automotive Servicing for a thorough inspection? I'm more than willing to cover the costs associated with the inspection. This will not only give me peace of mind but also benefit you by providing assurance to both parties regarding the vehicle's condition.