Never Buy a Used Car Without an Inspection

Used Car Inspections

Those who purchase a pre-owned vehicle from a dealer without an inspection usually have the most complaints.

By Steve Lehto (Lemon Law Attorney) | Published on April 1st, 2021 | Last Updated on
By Steve Lehto (Lemon Law Attorney)
Published on April 1st, 2021. Last Updated on .

Plan on purchasing a used car? One of the most important things you can do is get it inspected before making the purchase. Those who purchased a pre-owned vehicle from a dealer without an inspection usually have the most complaints of car problems. This usually happens to those who buy a vehicle off the internet sight-unseen, but I have seen it happen to those who purchased a car from a dealer they visited. How does this happen? Many people trust the dealership when they say they have inspected the vehicle and said it has passed their inspection. The same applies to those buying from a private party that does not have the car inspected before purchasing.


If you live in a state that allows used cars to be sold “as-is”, there is a good chance that most used cars will be sold as such. Take Michigan for example, if you were to purchase a vehicle as-is, you will receive the car with every fault that it currently has with little to no recourse against the person who sold you the vehicle should there be any issues with the car. Cars sold as-is will not come with a guarantee that future repairs will be covered by the seller. To make sure that the seller is covered and that you cannot hold them liable, they will most likely have you sign a purchase agreement that will exclude oral statements of salespeople from being part of the final contract. As soon as you sign the purchase documents, the vehicle is now legally yours, without even leaving the lot.


When it comes to the legal side of things, an attorney will ask if you had the car inspected by a mechanic before you made the purchase. If not, you will not have much ground to stand on if you try to hold the seller liable for any problems that have come about during ownership. There are two main reasons that I hear why people did not have their used car inspected.


The first reason, and the one that I have a hard time wrapping my head around, is that the purchaser bought the car off of the internet sight-unseen. This usually happens when someone finds a vehicle they like on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, or any other car sales site. They talk with the seller via email or phone, relying solely on photographs and the word of the seller. Many people will overlook the “as-is” statements that are in the vehicle ad. When going this route, the seller had the advantage of telling you what you want to hear such as the car runs fine or that it has been inspected. After all, you have not seen or driven the car in person, so you would have no idea if they were lying or not. Purchasing a vehicle over the internet does not allow you to inspect the vehicle yourself or even with a mechanic to verify the seller’s claims.


While this may seem like an easy thing to avoid, many make the same mistake when purchasing a vehicle in person. When many find a vehicle they like in person, excitement may take over and cloud their judgment. Taking a quick look over the vehicle and even completing a short test drive could give you false pretenses about underlying problems. This is compounded when a dealership tells you that the vehicle has been inspected and that the car ran great. When the transmission goes out or you are left on the side of the road with a locked-up motor, your first thought may be to call an attorney. The first thing they will ask is if you bought the car as-is and if your agreement includes “verbal statements of the salespeople are not binding unless added to this contract and signed by a manager”. This will easily kill any type of lawsuit you may have thought you had.


Sadly, if you did not choose to have the car inspected, there is not much you can do to have your car fixed by the seller. Most states are going to put the blame on the buyer of the vehicle. Getting a vehicle inspected beforehand can keep you from making the mistake of purchasing the vehicle. You could also use this as a negotiating tactic for bringing the price down.


The best advice I can give you is to make sure you are not put in this position in the first place. If you plan on purchasing a used vehicle in the future, don’t just take the word of the seller about the car’s condition. Take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to get an expert opinion. Never trust the dealership as they have no incentive to have the car inspected for you nor do they have any legal obligation to do so. This goes for purchasing a vehicle from an individual as well. Vehicles sold as-is should always be inspected by a professional to keep you protected from purchasing a vehicle that may have problems you cannot physically see.


Still have some questions or want to learn more? Here is a video by the author that goes into even more detail on why this is so important:


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