Imagine forking out thousands of dollars of your hard earned savings for a second-hand car, only to have your new set of wheels spend more time in a workshop than on the road. To avoid this potential pitfall, pre-purchase mechanical inspections can help put both your mind and your wallet at ease.

What is a mechanical vehicle inspection?

A mechanical vehicle inspection evaluates the physical and mechanical condition of a vehicle. Generally, a basic level inspection will check over the body and paint work to identify any structural or cosmetic damage, while a mechanical inspection adds in an inspection of the chassis and mechanics to check everything is in full working order.

Qualified mechanics are used to conduct mechanical vehicle inspections which includes checking:

  • Engine, transmission and drivetrain
  • Suspension, steering and brakes
  • Wheels and tyres
  • Interior and exterior (e.g. for rust and previous collision fixes)
  • Electrics
  • Instruments and gauges
  • Windscreen, wipers and mirrors

A detailed report, including additional comments from the mechanic will be provided to you upon completion of the inspection.

Why is a mechanical vehicle inspection necessary?

Whether you are buying online or in person, from a private seller or a dealership or even from a friend, purchasing a second-hand car can be full of unknowns. Mechanical vehicle inspections provide peace of mind as you never know what may have happened to a vehicle with a previous owner.

Generally used cars sold through licensed dealers are typically less likely to break down immediately after purchase, but if they do, the repairs are in most cases covered by a statutory warranty. This means repairs are guaranteed on parts for a period of time.

Where can I go for a mechanical vehicle inspection?

Most mechanics, car dealerships and all major state and territory motoring organisations offer a pre-purchase mechanical vehicle inspection service. Many providers will offer you the choice of a mobile service, where they come out to the car, or an in-house service where you take the car to them. Having the mobile service is quick and convenient however, taking it to the mechanic can mean the car is inspected thoroughly using more specialised on-site equipment such as a hoist.

How much does a mechanical vehicle inspection cost?

As a general guide, prices range from $100 – $500, depending on the type of car to be inspected and the nature of the inspection. Mechanical vehicle inspection prices will also depend on whether it is a mobile service or conducted at the mechanic’s workshop. If the service is mobile, you may need to pay extra for the mechanic’s time in travelling to and from the location of the vehicle. It is a good idea to discuss the price and a suggested approach with your mechanic before the services are conducted, to ensure they are able to thoroughly check the car and provide you with relevant professional advice.

Final word

Unless you or a family member is a mechanic, it's a no-brainer to utilise the services of a professional to thoroughly examine the vehicle before handing over anything but a holding deposit. Mechanical vehicle inspections can aid in preventing you from spending thousands of dollars of your hard earned savings on what could turn out to be a lemon.