A Used Car Inspection

Common Issues to Look for During a Used Car Inspection

Prashant Salla
Prashant Salla6 min read
Common Issues to Look for During a Used Car Inspection

When purchasing a used car, being vigilant and thorough is crucial. Behind the shiny exterior lies a story waiting to be discovered. By conducting a proper inspection, you can uncover hidden problems and potential pitfalls, gaining a clear understanding of the vehicle's true condition and value.

Every used vehicle has a history etched into its very core. Did it receive proper care and maintenance, or was it neglected and mistreated? 

By conducting a comprehensive inspection, you can navigate the maze of potential problems, identifying red flags and positive features that can greatly influence your buying decision.

In this article, we explore the key issues commonly found during a used car inspection. By gaining knowledge about mechanical problems and signs of wear and tear, you'll be equipped to make informed decisions and negotiate confidently.

Inspecting Your Used Car with Goodhood

Looking for problems on your own can be a daunting task. Professional inspection services are available, but they can be expensive and time-consuming.

Goodhood mobile auto repair services offer an alternative option; our certified technicians will come to the vehicle's location for a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection, detailing common issues found in used cars.

Common Issues in Used Cars

While every used car is unique, there are several common issues that tend to arise in pre-owned vehicles. Being aware of these issues can help you focus your inspection and be prepared for potential repairs or negotiations. Here are some commonly encountered problems in used cars:

Engine Problems

Engine issues can range from minor oil leaks to major mechanical failures. Look out for signs of overheating, abnormal noises, smoke from the exhaust, or a rough idle. These symptoms may indicate underlying engine problems that require attention.

Transmission Troubles

Transmission issues can be costly to repair. During the test drive, pay close attention to any hesitation, slipping gears, or difficulty shifting. These can be indicators of transmission problems that may require professional intervention.

Suspension and Steering

Worn-out suspension components can lead to a bumpy ride and poor handling. Test the car's suspension by driving over speed bumps or uneven roads. Excessive bouncing, noise, or a lack of stability could indicate problems with shocks, struts, or other suspension parts. Similarly, ensure that the steering feels responsive and doesn't exhibit excessive play or vibrations.

Electrical System Malfunctions

Electrical problems can manifest in various ways, such as malfunctioning lights, non-functional power windows, or issues with the audio system. Check that all electrical components work as intended during the inspection and test drive.

Brake System Issues

Faulty brakes pose a significant safety risk. Pay attention to any squealing, grinding, or soft pedal feel when applying the brakes. Uneven braking or vibrations could indicate problems with the brake pads, rotors, or calipers.

Cooling System Leaks

Coolant leaks can cause overheating and engine damage. Look for any signs of coolant leaks under the hood or on the ground beneath the car. Additionally, check the coolant reservoir for proper fluid levels and signs of contamination.

Rust and Corrosion

Rust can eat away at a car's body, compromising its structural integrity. Thoroughly inspect the vehicle for rust, particularly in common problem areas like wheel arches, undercarriage, and door frames. Minor surface rust may be manageable, but extensive corrosion can be a cause for concern.

Previous Accident Damage

Look for any signs of previous accidents, such as mismatched paint, uneven panel gaps, or repainted areas. These could indicate that the vehicle has been involved in a collision and might have hidden structural damage.

Maintenance and Service History

A lack of proper maintenance or incomplete service records can indicate neglect and potential future issues. Check if the vehicle has been regularly serviced and if any major components, such as timing belts or filters, have been recently replaced.

How a Professional Inspection Takes Place

A professional mechanic brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the task of inspecting a used car. Their trained eye can detect potential problems and assess the overall condition of the vehicle more accurately.

Here's an overview of how a professional mechanic typically approaches a used car inspection:

Visual Inspection

The mechanic starts by conducting a visual examination of the vehicle's exterior, interior, and undercarriage. They look for signs of damage, rust, or any indications of previous repairs or accidents. The mechanic pays attention to the overall cleanliness and maintenance of the car, as it can be an indicator of how well it has been cared for.

Diagnostic Tools

Professional mechanics utilize a range of diagnostic tools and equipment to assess the vehicle's condition. They may use computerized scanners to check for any stored error codes in the car's onboard computer system. These codes can reveal potential issues with the engine, transmission, or other systems.

Mechanical Inspection

The mechanic proceeds to inspect the major mechanical components of the car. This includes checking the engine for signs of leaks, inspecting the belts and hoses for wear or cracks, and assessing the condition of the cooling system, including the radiator and water pump. They also examine the condition of the transmission, brakes, suspension, and exhaust system.

Test Drive

A test drive is a crucial part of the inspection process. The mechanic will evaluate the car's performance, paying attention to engine responsiveness, transmission shifting, steering feel, and braking effectiveness. They listen for unusual noises, vibrations, or any irregularities in the vehicle's handling. The test drive allows the mechanic to assess the overall drivability of the car and identify any potential issues that may not be apparent during a stationary inspection.

Lift Inspection

If available, the mechanic may lift the car using a hydraulic lift to inspect the undercarriage more thoroughly. This allows them to examine the condition of the suspension components, such as shocks, struts, and control arms. They also check for any leaks in the exhaust system, inspect the fuel tank and lines, and examine the condition of the drivetrain components.

Documentation and Report

Throughout the inspection process, the mechanic takes notes and documents their findings. They may also take photographs to provide visual evidence of any issues discovered. After completing the inspection, the mechanic compiles a detailed report that outlines the condition of the car, including any identified problems, recommended repairs, and an overall assessment of its roadworthiness.

It's important to note that a professional mechanic's inspection may vary based on their expertise, the specific needs of the customer, and the complexity of the vehicle. Some mechanics may offer specialized services, such as a compression test for the engine or a detailed analysis of the vehicle's electrical system.


A used car inspection is an invaluable tool for uncovering hidden issues and gaining knowledge about a vehicle's true condition. By enlisting the services of a professional mechanic, you can be confident that any problems or potential risks will be identified and documented in detail, enabling you to make informed decisions when buying a pre-owned car.

Goodhood offers convenient and affordable pre-purchase inspections, as well as a range of other car maintenance services. To learn more about our inspection process or book an appointment, contact us today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for during a used car inspection?

When inspecting a used car, it's important to look for signs of wear and tear, engine problems, transmission issues, suspension and steering problems, electrical system malfunctions, brake system issues, cooling system leaks, rust and corrosion, previous accident damage, and incomplete maintenance or service history. A professional mechanic can help identify these potential issues with greater accuracy.

How much does a used car inspection cost?

The cost of a used car inspection depends on the type of vehicle being inspected and the services required. Professional inspections can range from around $50 to over $100. Goodhood mobile auto repair services offer competitively priced pre-purchase inspections that come with comprehensive reports outlining any identified issues and recommendations for repairs or further action.

What's included in a used car inspection?

A used car inspection includes a visual examination of the vehicle, using diagnostic tools to check for stored error codes, assessing the condition of major mechanical parts like the engine and transmission, taking the car for a test drive, inspecting the undercarriage with a lift (if available), documenting findings, and providing a detailed report. Depending on the complexity of the vehicle and the services requested, some mechanics may offer additional services such as compression tests or electrical system analysis.

Is it worth getting a used car inspected?

Yes! Having your used car professionally inspected can help you make an informed decision about its true condition and value. A professional mechanic can uncover any underlying issues that may not be apparent to the untrained eye, helping you identify potential problems and avoid costly repairs down the line. Ultimately, a used car inspection can save you time and money in the long run.