1) A CARFAX or any vehicle history report
is not an inspection:
A Vehicle History Report is Not a Pre-purchase Inspection. Read all 12 Limitations and Problems with Carfax or any Vehicle History Report:
2) Having a friend or relative inspect the vehicle:
Having a friend or relative inspect today's complex automobiles can be disastrous. Not only can you end up with a lemon costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs, there's a good chance it will damage your relationship.
Many years ago, a person with the basic knowledge of auto mechanics and a timing light could help you when purchasing a used vehicle. However, those types of inspections are obsolete. Today's technically advanced automotive systems need an ASE Certified Master Technician to properly inspect each mechanical and electrical systems and a Frame Specialist to determine previous and existing structural damage.
These shade tree mechanics can perform minor repairs and maintenance items on most vehicles. However, only a Certified Master Technician is qualified to properly inspect every mechanical and electrical systems on today's technically advanced automotive systems.
Remember, all undetected mechanical problems and frame damage could become your financial and safety nightmare.
4) Used car dealer inspections:
A Dealer inspection is not the same as a pre-purchase inspection. Dealer inspections are usually performed by junior technicians and are more a "cosmetic" type inspection. There are a economic reasons why dealers do not have each vehicle thoroughly inspected by a Senior Master Technician and Frame Specialist before they put the vehicle on their lot.
First, a professional inspection costs more time and money to perform. If a dealer spends more time and money inspecting a vehicle than their competitor, they make less than their competitor.
Second, if the inspections discover any problems, the dealer, by law, must disclose these problems to the buyer.
Third, the more money the dealer spends fixing or reconditioning the vehicle, the less profit they make.
Forth, Salespeople will sometime show a "clean" Carfax report knowing the vehicle has existing accident damage and/or mechanical problems.
Fifth, "Ignorance is Bliss" is the attitude of many used car salespersons. If they don't know the vehicle has problems, they don't have to tell the buyer.
Remember, after the sale, you are responsible for all repairs and maintenance, and diminished value due to previous accidents.
5) Repair shop inspections:
Today's vehicles are so complex that most repair shops (and mechanics) specialize only a couple of automotive repair areas. Imagine taking a car you want to buy first to a transmission shop to get the transmission inspected, then to a heating/AC repair shop, then to a engine diagnostic shop, then to a brake shop, then to a frame specialist shop, and so on... until you had every component and system checked. Sounds silly, yet people take a car into these specialty repair shops expecting to get full inspection on every component and system.
Full-service repair shops and/or dealership repair shops, which have the overall expertise, have no incentive to pull their best mechanic (ASE Master Technician) from a high paying repair job to perform a pre-purchase inspection. You will probably get a junior mechanic to "look" for things he has been trained to repair. Also, most mechanical repair shops do not have technicians certified on structural frame systems to inspect for frame damage or alterations to the frame components.
In addition, there is an inherent conflict of interest for repair shops. Does the component or system need repair or is the shop trying to get you to spend money on unnecessary repairs and services.
A proper pre-purchase inspection should be performed by a Certified Master Technician with and Frame Specialists and has no conflict of interest.
6) Relying on a "Certified Used Car"
CPO vehicles are to have been inspected by a Technician. Was it inspected by a junior Technician or Master Technician? Was it also inspected by a Body & Frame Specialist for previous accident damages? Were any items discoverd fixed? There is no industry standard for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programs. Every CPO program is different, and every inspection is different. Learn more about CPO Programs before you buy.