Check before you write that check.

Before you spend your hard-earned money on that used car, have it inspected by a certified mechanic. To protect yourself in a private party transaction, or even if you’re buying from a car dealership, experts agree that used cars must be inspected before final purchase negotiation. The ordinary car buyer really can’t do it to the degree that a certified, independent third party mechanic can. If the inspection is done right, a good mechanic can tell you if you’re buying a good, reliable car or an unsafe, bucket of bolts that will cost you even more money once you drive it away.

Where do I start and what do I do?Image of smiling AAMCO mechanic

First things first – do your research and be ready with knowledge.

Before setting an appointment with the seller, research vehicle safety reports for the different makes and models you’re interested in. Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds are established authorities that publish owner surveys and reviews. They are good sources of information on vehicles and their performance records. Before you ever go shopping, on the lot or online, decide what type of vehicle you want and what models you will look at.

Check for Recalls and Defects

You’ll need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for this level of research. Check all four of the federal government’s databases ( for recalls, service bulletins, safety investigations and owner complaints on the make and model of the vehicle you are interested in. Service bulletins are notices that automobile manufacturers send out to dealerships to warn them about problems that have been discovered in vehicles and how to fix them. The only way to know if your vehicle was repaired for the problem already is to check with your local dealer’s service department and get a vehicle repair history from them.

Get an online vehicle history report.

If you’ve found the specific car you want to buy, it’s easy to get some additional important information on it from online services like CarFax and AutoCheck.

Tell the seller you intend to have the car inspected.

With planning and foresight, the inspection process can go smoothly and quickly, setting the stage for a good purchase or save you a lot of time and trouble. You’re the one with the money, so it’s your call. Most sellers will let you take the car to a mechanic for an inspection. If they are hesitant, you can propose to have a mobile inspection done at their location. If the seller balks at the idea of an inspection altogether, then you should wonder what they are hiding and whether this whole purchase process is in your own best interest. Don’t be scared to walk away.

Set up a test drive route.

The car should be taken for a test-drive over a predetermined route that includes level stretches of highway, city and stop-and-go traffic, as well as hills to detect engine performance issues. Uneven bumpy roads, or even speedbumps, are good for detecting suspension problems.

Bring a copilot.

Take someone you trust with you, not just the seller. This person can lend a second set of eyes and ears, and even a nose, to not only help detect problems, but help filter any sales pitches or talk to gloss over potential problems with the car. This person should also be a notetaker during the test drive. Have them write down any and all observations – things that seem wrong, such as strange noises, odd behavior of the car such as pulling to one side, vibrations, shuddering, lag in acceleration. Beyond performance of the vehicle, are there any unusual smells? Is there cosmetic damage inside or outside the car? Basically, anything that seems odd to you should be noted so you can present your findings to the mechanic when you take the car for inspection.

Go to a trusted mechanic for the inspection.image - Mechanic and customer looking at exhaust system under car on lift

Have the inspection performed by a mechanic you’re familiar with – not just a relative or friend, but a professional mechanic who knows cars and works on them. A trained inspector will know what to look for and can perform the inspection in a defined amount of time, providing a comprehensive report for you on the key findings.

How much does a pre-purchase inspection cost?

A pre-purchase inspection is a small price to pay for the peace of mind you will get out of it. Do you really want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a car you know nothing about? Add to that the risk of the car being a lemon and costing you a fortune in repairs after you buy it. When you finally hand over your money, you should be confident that you’re getting a good, reliable car at an honest price. AAMCO Minnesota shops are independently owned and operated, and may vary in their fees for pre-purchase inspection, but you can rest assured that AAMCO Minnesota’s multi-point diagnostics and inspection will get the job done.

Aside from a verified checklist, the benefits you experience from an AAMCO Minnesota used car pre-purchase inspection are nearly priceless.

  • Protecting yourself from buying a used vehicle that may need costly repairs
  • Ensuring the vehicle is safe and reliable for the safety of yourself and loved ones
  • Paying the right price
  • Knowing the vehicle won’t break down in the near future
  • Verification of the equipment and options on the vehicle

Other benefits of an inspection include:

  • Reveals hidden problems with the engine, frame, and body.
  • Alerts mechanic to engine codes that can indicate larger engine problems.
  • Reveals previous repair work done on the car.

What Does a Pre-Purchase Inspection Cover?

Inspection of a used car before you buy it – a pre-purchase inspection – includes important mechanical checks that should be performed by a professional mechanic. When you bring the car to your local AAMCO Minnesota auto mechanic, we’ll run our multi-point inspection diagnostics that include:

Vehicle Performance Multi-Point Inspection

  • Transmission & Clutch
  • Engine Performance
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Shock Absorbers
  • Heater & Air Conditioning
  • Instruments & Controls
  • Headlights & Foglights
  • Brake & Back-up Lights
  • Interior & Warning Lights
  • Turn Signals & Flashers

Under Hood Multi-Point Inspection

  • Fluid Level & Condition
  • Drive Belt
  • Battery
  • Starter
  • Charging System & Alternator
  • Idle Speed
  • Engine
  • Intake System
  • Fuel Delivery System
  • Ignition System
  • Computer Systems
  • Cooling System

Under Car Multi-Point Inspection

  • Steering & Front Suspension
  • Brakes
  • Rear Suspension
  • Engine Mounts
  • Transmission Mounts
  • Engine Seals
  • Transmission Seals
  • Clutch & Transmission Linkage
  • Driveshaft
  • U-Joints
  • Drive Axles
  • CV Joints
  • Exhaust System
  • Rear Axle

AAMCO Minnesota is Here for You

From auto inspection to repairs and maintenance, we’re here to help.

While no inspection is guaranteed to find every flaw in a used car, an experienced, trained mechanic can help you avoid serious and costly problems. An AAMCO pre-purchase inspection is good insurance and peace of mind when buying a used car.

AAMCO Minnesota is Here for You

From auto inspection to repairs and maintenance, we’re here to help.

While no inspection is guaranteed to find every flaw in a used car, an experienced, trained mechanic can help you avoid serious and costly problems. An AAMCO pre-purchase inspection is good insurance and peace of mind when buying a used car. Visit an AAMCO Minnesota transmission repair and total car care center near you. When issues arise and you need affordable, honest auto repair, schedule an appointment with your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota transmission and auto repair center. If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota is a great resource for expert automotive repair and maintenance information. Feel free to call or visit your local AAMCO Minnesota transmission and total car care center.

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Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide the best auto repair and maintenance in Minnesota. With 6 convenient locations and nearly 50 years in business, you can count on your locally-owned Minnesota AAMCO Center to provide expert transmission repair, brake service, tune-ups, oil and filter changes, electrical system repair, fluid service, and much more for your car, truck, or SUV.

Our comprehensive 36-step ProtectCheck® Inspection, expert technicians, and no-nonsense pay-only-for-what-you-need approach makes us the most trusted name in car care. Come see why people who know go to AAMCO.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, please visit here


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