Here's how to go about having an independent mechanic check out a used car you might buy.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am negotiating the purchase of a used Subaru Outback from a large
used-car dealership. I know you recommend that I take it to my own
mechanic for an inspection before buying it, but this dealership
claims it can't let the car off site for an inspection due to
insurance issues. It seems to have no problem with me bringing
someone here to inspect the car, but that would cost me a lot more,
and my own mechanic doesn't offer that service. Should I insist on
bringing the car to my own mechanic, or is the dealership legit in
claiming that it needs one of its own employees in the car when it
goes off site? Is this a deal breaker? Are they hiding something? --

RAY: Well, the dealership might not know it's hiding anything, but
it might end up hiding something.

TOM: The reason we insist on an independent inspection of a used car
is because the person selling the car -- by definition -- is not
looking out for your interests. So you, the buyer, have to hire your
own mechanic to look out for your interests.

RAY: And I think it IS a deal breaker. Personally, I've never run
into that insurance story. But even if it's true, that doesn't
preclude an independent inspection. We do lots of used-car
inspections for our customers at the garage. And many times, an
employee from the dealership or the owner of the used car will bring
the car to us. We'll tell him to go have lunch while we inspect the
car. We tell him to come back in three hours ... and bring us back
something to eat! Lots of dealerships are willing to make this kind
of arrangement in order to make a sale.

TOM: If we find minor problems with the car -- belts, hoses,
water-pump leak, etc. -- the customer can insist that the dealership
fix them before he buys the car, saving himself hundreds of dollars.
And if we find major problems with the car -- an accident, oil
burning or world-beating b.o. -- we can tell the customer to forget
about this one, potentially saving him thousands of dollars.

RAY: So if these guys really want to sell you a car, tell them that
they're going to have to figure out a way to get the Outback to your
mechanic for a few hours. And if they're unwilling to do that, leave
this Outback out in back of the used-car lot. There are many, many
used cars out there to choose from. You want one your mechanic can
inspect for you before you buy it.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One