Due to the current state of the car market, many consumers are turning towards used cars. A used car can offer the great tech of a newer vehicle, however save you a ton of money. A big factor in this is deprecation, as used cars will have depreciated more than a similarly spec’ed new car. If you are in the market for a new to you used car, you should know what a PPI is. So, what is a PPI and how can it save you money? Stay tuned – we will detail everything you need to know.
What is a PPI?
If you have been looking for a used car, you may have seen or heard about the term PPI. A PPI is a Pre Purchase Inspection. This is when you take a car you are looking to purchase to your trusted mechanic. The mechanic will look over the car, and let you know their findings. Many auto shops and mechanics are willing to conduct a PPI for a small fee.
It may be in your best interest to find a mechanic that specializes in the specific make or model you are looking to purchase. That being said, many cars manufactured today are similar and even share some components. So, an Audi dealership should be able to do a PPI for you on a Volkswagen.
Buying a used car can be risky. If you use a reputable dealer, then you should have some peace of mind. However, if you are thinking about buying a car online sold by private sellers, you should definitely look into a PPI.
Some dealerships that specialize in used car sales, such as CarMax and Carvana, say that they conduct 100-150 point inspections on all the vehicles they sell. However, this may be more of a marketing gimmick that creates a false sense of peace of mind. Do not hesitate to ask anyone selling a car, whether it is a dealer or an individual, if you can get a PPI on the car. If they are hesitant, they may be trying to hide something from you and sell you a problematic vehicle.
How much does a pre-purchase inspection cost?
A pre-purchase inspection is definitely worth the money. That being said, they can range anywhere from $75-$150. If a mechanic is trying to charge you anything more then this, check their reviews online to see what their reputation is like. While some pre-purchase inspections can be intensive and detailed, it doesn’t take too much effort from the mechanic to check it over and take it for a drive. I am sure they would much rather be doing this then the hard jobs like changing out brakes or replacing a transmission.
How can a PPI save you money?
While a prepurchase inspection can cost you around $100, they can be a life savor. They can also save your wallet! During a PPI, a mechanic can uncover a range of things. These may include neglected maintenance items that may cost you thousands of dollars. After a PPI, you may not even want the car you were planning on purchasing. A PPI can also be a great bargaining tool to get the asking price down.
Let us look at an example. Say that you find a car online for $20,000. After taking it to your local mechanic for a PPI, he uncovers that it needs a couple things. The car’s tires could be replaced and the brakes need to be changed. Replacing 4 tires and getting new brake components can easily cost you $1,500-$2,000.
With this in mind, and with documentation from the mechanic, you can negotiate the price down. You may be able to get a car that was once listed for $20,000 down a couple thousand dollars based on the results of the PPI.
Even if the PPI doesn’t conclude that any work on the car needs to be done, you should be much more receptive to shelling out a hundred dollars versus paying a couple thousand on repairs that could have been avoided if you didn’t purchase the vehicle.
What do mechanics look for in a PPI?
Cars these days are getting more and more complex. This means that pre-purchase inspections are getting more intensive and could cost more than they used to. Different mechanics may check for different things, however here is a list of the basics.
- Drivability test
- Wheel/steering alignment
- Body damage/repairs
- Air conditioning/heating system
- Belts such as the timing belt (or chain) or the serpentine belt
In addition to these items, mechanics can hook up a laptop to your car. By doing this, they will be able to see if there are any warning codes such as a check engine light. They will also be able to tell if anyone has messed around with the car’s software, or have recently cleared any of these codes. If someone has recently cleared off codes and don’t have any receipts for any legitimate repairs, this could be a red flag.
Mechanics don’t always look at everything during a PPI. This is why you need to do your research as well. Look into common issues with the car you are looking to get. Like are there any common issues with the sunroof leaking or possibly any electrical issues? While a PPI can help you make your decision, you cannot blame a mechanic for failing to find an issue with a car.
Ultimately, all liability and risk of purchasing a car is on you (unless the seller purposefully misrepresented the car or lied about its mechanical shape). You may also want to ask the previous owner if they have any service records/receipts on previous work done to the car. Purchasing a car history report like the CarFax can also help you in this process.
What is a PPI – Summary
A PPI, or pre-purchase inspection, is where a trusted mechanic looks over a car before you buy it. A PPI is relatively inexpensive, and can save you a ton of money if there are problems uncovered with the car that need to be addressed. Before getting a pre-purchase inspection, look for reputable dealers who are familiar with the type of car you are going to be purchasing. Also, only buy cars from reputable dealers if you can. Mechanics will look at a range of different components on a car when conducting a pre-purchase inspections, and they can take anywhere from one to two hours to be completed.
If you want even more peace of mind, you may want to look into a used car warranty. These can save you money in the long run although they may cost several thousand dollars.