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What is a Car Pre Purchase Inspection ?

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We always recommend every car is given a thorough inspection before purchase, a car should be seen as an investment and you should only hand over your hard earned money once you know exactly what it is that you buying.

After all, would you buy a house without going out to see it and getting a survey done on it? The same principle applied for Car Buying, you are potentially going to be giving someone thousands of pounds for something which could break down the moment you drive away, worse still, if you are buying privately you have far fewer rights in getting your money back.

So what is a Car Pre Purchase Inspection

It’s a thorough inspection of the car usually carried out by a qualified mechanic with a view to finding any hidden problems a car may have and presenting these facts to you before you commit to buy the car. Once you have established the facts you can choose to purchase the vehicle, renegotiate the price or simply walk away from the deal.

Let’s cover this a little bit more:

A PPI is a critical phase of the buying process and should only be skipped at your own peril, even cars which look amazing from the outside can be harnessing serious faults within which makes them a ticking time bomb and an impending money pit.

To make it clear a seller does not have to agree with the PPI being carried out on their vehicle, ultimately it’s up to them if they want to allow someone to look over there car. You should certainly be asking yourself WHY? if they refuse permission, ultimately a genuine seller will allow the vehicle to be inspected and anyone who does not, we simply walk away from the deal as a simple as that, we never recommend going ahead with a Car Deal before inspection either by you or a mechanic.. We cannot stress this enough!

There are two ways we can go about inspecting a vehicle before purchase, the first one is to do the inspection yourself if you feel up to the job, in order to help you we have put together this awesome guide to help you along the way, this covers the majority of the checks and considerations you need to have in mind when looking over a car,.

The second method is to pay someone to do this on your behalf which is what we actually mean we talk about a  Pre Purchase Inspection or (PPI) for Short.

Again a PPI can be conducted in two different ways

1. A mechanic visits the location of where the car is kept and examines it on site.

2. The Vehicle is taken to a Local Specialist in order to be examined

Let’s cover these in a little more detail.

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1. A Mechanic visits the location of where the car is kept and examines it on site.

  • You will need to speak to the seller and inform them of your intention to get the vehicle inspected, remember you need their permission and you will need to arrange a suitable day and time with them as they will need to provide the mechanic access to the vehicle


  • The Cost of the Inspection will be down to you as you are the one looking to get the vehicle inspected.


  • The same applies if the Car is at a dealership, you will need their permission before you instruct anyone to attend for a PPI


  • Choose a company to request a PPI through, there are lots of companies online now who will carry out this service for you such as RAC, the AA etc, however, we recommend as this is just a company we have used before and have had a good experience with.


  • Most of these companies will have an online booking portal where you can select the day, date and venue of the inspection to take place.


  • The majority of the companies will offer you different ‘levels; of the check which should include a basic check, a comprehensive check and an advanced check, prices can range from around £100 for the basic check and up to £250 for the more advanced level check


  • We recommend you opt for the comprehensive level check at the minimum as this will cover the majority of the key checks that need to be conducted


  • The mechanic will attend the location where the check has been requested for and conduct the examination on your behalf, you can choose to be present at the time or this can be done in your absence. This a great for getting a vehicle inspected which is based a long way away from you, as you simply don’t have to travel and have a wasted journey


  • The mechanic will carry out a road test for you and drive the car a few miles to see if ant faults occur whilst driving


  • At the conclusion of the inspection, the mechanic will send you over an email report with their findings and also provide you with a verbal summary. Please note – this is NOT an insured opinion, this is just professional advice they are giving you. They will not tell you if you should buy the vehicle or not, instead they will present their findings to you and allow you to make your own find up based on the cold hard facts.


  • Once the inspection is complete and you have the report in hand, we suggest you give it a thorough read through and decide on your next step. Every used car will have some minor faults such as paint chips and worn tyres so if this is something your willing to accept them you can move forward. However, if the report highlights serious issues such as oil leaks and prior signs of accident damage, then you seriously need to consider if this is the car for you.


  • A PPI can also be a good ‘renegotiation tool’ to help you suitably bring the price down to cover any minor defects which have been uncovered. A seller is more likely to be receptive to this based on evidence, rather than you just asking for more money off just because you feel like it.


  • If you are purchasing the car a few days after the inspection has taken place, we always recommend a further check over of the car just to establish nothing has happened to it in the interim period.

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2. The Vehicle is taken to a Local Specialist in order to be examined

  • Usually reserved for but not exclusive to specialist or performance cars


  • A general PPI (as per number 1) will be fine for most makes and models however certain types of cars will need a specialist in that specific brand to look over it. Eg if you looking to purchase a Ferrari we recommend the car is looked over by a Ferrari specialist rather than booking a general mechanic who is more used to inspecting Ford Fiestas!


  • Obtain Permission from the seller and request as that part of the buying process you would like the car to be checked over by a specialist in a garage


  • You can simply Google something like ‘Jaguar Specialists in [Local Area] to bring up a list of numbers, simply call them and ask them if they conduct pre-purchase inspections.


  • Either the seller can drive it to the Garage, or you can collect and drive to the Garage yourself


  • It’s normal to pay the seller a deposit subject to a ‘Clean’ Inspection before you take the vehicle away, with the understanding the deposit is refundable if the inspection is not to the required standard.


  • A garage will usually charge you around an hours worth of labour time which can range from £50 – £200 depending on the car and where you take it.


  • A real benefit to this method is the Garage can put the car up on a ramp and inspect it from underneath and thoroughly check for suspension damage, leaks and signs of underbody corrosion.


  • You are normally present at the inspection and are able to ask questions as you go along, or it can be done in your absence.


  • The Garage usually only provide you with a verbal summary, however, can provide you with a report on request


  • Again they do not offer an insured opinion on whether you buy the Car or not, they will only give you their professional advice on what the car needs and the ultimate decision will be yours.


  • If the car does require work doing to or impending maintenance, you are able to get a quote for the work as you go along which will help to determine if the car makes financial sense to purchase at the agreed price or if more of a discount will need to be worked in.


A Pre Purchase Inspection (PPI) should be looked at as an investment to protect your investment!

A good PPI can save you from spending thousands of pounds on a car which is hiding catastrophic issues. Ask yourself if it’s worth spending around £150 upfront to save you from spending £5,000 on an engine replacement after a few weeks of ownership? I think we all agree the answer is a resounding yes.

Bear in mind that  even a clean pre-purchase inspection is not an absolute guarantee that nothing will go wrong with the Car, however, offers you the comfort blanket that a car has been inspected by a qualified mechanic who has given it a ‘thumbs up’.

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