NEVER buy a used car again, without reading this blog post first...

Today I want to teach you how to never get burned again, when it comes to buying a used car or truck!

Imagine spending months finding the perfect car. It's the model you've always wanted. It's only a few years old and the previous owner says:

"I've always taken SUCH GREAT care of my baby..."

The color is just right and from the outside it looks like a really solid rig AND it even made it around the block on a test drive!

Then you take it into your favorite shop for the first time and they explain to you that your new hot rod has more problems than the old car. You know, the one you decided to haul off to the wrecker. I can't tell you how many times I've seen it happen at our auto repair shop in Spokane, WA: Save More Automotive.

That's why, today, we're talking about your one and only super power when purchasing a used vehicle...

The Power of: "The Pre-Buy Inspection"

My heart drops every time. Every time.

I answer the shop phone:

"Thank you for calling Save More Automotive. This is Cory. How can I help you?"

and, on the other end I hear something like:

"Hi Cory, I need to bring my new car in to get the oil changed! It's so great! I can't wait to show it to you guys!"
Or...
"Yes I'd like to have my car inspected. I just got it last week and I just want to make sure everything looks good underneath..."
Or...
"Hi, I bought a new truck last night and it was running just fine but when I fired it up this morning the check engine light stayed on..."

Of course, we will look at it. And, we will do a damn good job looking it over. But, there's one small problem. The people that I'm speaking with on the phone already bought the car. In many cases, they've already spent every penny they had been saving. Can you imagine having to break the news to a kid right out of high school that just spent his entire life savings on a used Subaru that the head gaskets are blown and it would cost more than he just spent on the car to "save" it? It happened at our shop recently. It happens way too often, to people from all walks of life.


Just last week we inspected a 2000 Chevy S10 pickup for a long time SMA guest. They had already purchased the truck from a local car lot. This vehicle's retail value should have been about $2500 - $3500 depending on the condition and from the outside it did look like a pretty nice ride. I mean it was fully detailed and cosmetically great. The car lot even did a nice job of painting any easily noticeable rust (without crawling underneath the truck) with a nice black coat of rattle can spray paint. We performed a full inspection on the truck, just like we do with every vehicle that gets pulled in to our shop, and it wasn't good. In fact it wasn't even going to be drive-able for much longer with some huge underlying problems. Here are just a few of the things noted during our safety / maintenance inspection:

  • Battery failed load test
  • Major Oil Leaks Present From: intake manifold, valve cover gasket, oil pan gasket, both front axle seals, and possibly more. Recommend repair known leaks, steam clean and re-inspect at later date
  • Rear Differential Noise Present and Too Low on Fluid To Take a Proper Sample. Recommend remove rear differential cover to inspect bearings / gears. Rebuild likely needed.
  • Cooling System Severely Contaminated with Stop Leak Product
  • Transfer Case Overfull due to failed t-case input shaft seal / transmission output shaft seal

The list continued on and we of course made sure to write complete estimates for anything we found during the inspection. In total, the vehicle needed about $5500 worth of repairs to get it back in good working order, not including any maintenance items that needed some catching up as well. We brought our guests in to the shop and went over the inspection in detail with photos and explained everything we had found. At this point we learned that they had already purchased the truck a couple of days earlier for $7,850.00. The tears began to flow when they realized what they had gotten themselves into. If you do the math, we're talking about a $3000 truck that, if they wanted to keep and fix up, would cost them over $13,000.00

LUCKILY: with our digital inspection and photos as bargaining power, they returned to the car lot and the lot reluctantly took the truck back. But not at first.... only after our customer's family member, who works for a local news station, had contacted the car lot about doing a news piece about them. And, not to take the car lot's side, but they absolutely did not have to take the truck back. They did everything by the book and although it may seem unethical they followed the law. It was actually very cool of them to agree to return the truck ( I mean, it was a P.O.S. to begin with and they should have known better ) but still, really cool.

Most people aren't so lucky! You see there's a Washington state law called the "Lemon Law" and people get it twisted up ALL THE TIME. This law is to protect buyers from purchasing vehicles that have needed excessive amounts of repairs. But most people are very confused about this law. The law is for NEW VEHICLES ONLY. That's right, used vehicles are sold "AS-IS". No warranty. As soon as you sign the paperwork it's now your baby and your problem ( ... your roof, your hole - Only Mike will understand that reference. ). The seller does not have to refund, repair, redo, or re-anything. Done deal. And, sure it might not be ethical, but it's the law. And, not to be harsh but, it's the buyer's responsibility to know exactly what they are buying before signing any paperwork and handing over the cash. Aren't cars fun?!?

So please!!! NEVER, EVER, EVER, buy a used vehicle again without having a thorough and complete inspection performed by a reputable shop or mechanic before completing the purchase. If the seller will not agree to let you have the vehicle inspected before you buy it, RUN! (since you can't drive, yet). Red flag man. Get out of there and keep looking. Most cars are for sale for a reason and that reason might be just because the seller wanted something different, newer, nicer, bigger, smaller, etc. But it could because it's not worth owning. Would you rather know that the real reason going into the deal OR after it's too late? I know I never want to break someone's heart again the same way I've seen some of our favorite people's hearts break when it's time to deliver terrible news to an excited new vehicle owner. Never.

At our shop, Save More Automotive, in Spokane, WA we offer a stellar "Pre-Buy Inspection". It's thorough. It's complete. And, it's kind of expensive (about a hundred bucks) but not nearly as expensive as head gaskets, or struts, or a rear differential rebuild. We road test the vehicle both in town and on the highway. We check out all the good stuff on the interior like: lights, seat belts, a/c and heater operation, air filters etc. We then complete an inspection of the exterior in 3 parts: under-hood, mid-rise with all 4 wheels removed, and under the vehicle. We take brake measurements, fluid samples, tread depth measurements and about 150 other check-points which we record digitally on a tablet. Once completed, the report is texted and/or emailed to you complete with photos and estimates for any current problems or due maintenance as well as future items that may need attention. Our goal is to paint you a complete picture so you can make a great buying decision and maybe even leverage your new "super-power" to negotiate the exact deal you want. Now that's what I call a "Save".