150-point inspection protects used car buyer from hidden problems

Posted September 8, 2017 9:20 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:05 p.m. EDT

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Comprehensive 150-point inspections are now commonplace on pre-owned vehicles at dealerships. This thorough inspection is meant to protect the consumer from unforeseen problems before they make the purchase.

Having a total inventory of the major components provides peace of mind and builds trust between the buyer and seller.

"Complete inspections are especially important when buying a used car," explained Tom Moore with Angie's List Magazine. "A visual inspection and even a test drive can hide serious flaws, such as engine and transmission problems. A quality auto inspection should catch those issues."

With the value of new cars typically dropping to between 50 and 60 percent of its original price after three years, consumers often turn to used cars as a better financial decision.

Private-party used vehicle sales are steadily increasing, according to CNW Marketing Research. It is projected these sales will increase to around 31 percent of all used vehicle sales by 2020.

But even if one checks AutoCheck or Carfax when a vehicle is being sold between private parties, it is hard to determine much about its condition. This also can extend to vehicles being sold by small, independent car dealerships. They are not accountable to the manufacturer’s standards during an inspection and cannot officially certify a used car through a manufacturer.

Benefits of Buying Certified Pre-Owned

Vehicles sold by franchise dealerships that are Certified Pre-Owned have the benefit of these thorough inspections already being included in the certification process.

"Most franchise dealerships perform an extensive inspection, like the 150-point check, with all used vehicles being sold, certified or not. Private parties and small used lots rarely will," said Kirby Morrow, consultant for parts and service at Leith Automotive.

Leith : Spotlight : 150-Point Inspection

What Does a 150-Point Inspection Check?

A 150-point inspection is a comprehensive check of every essential component of the interior, exterior and engine compartment. This is done to assess the condition, and identify potential or current problems, whether they are cosmetic, maintenance or major repairs.

Aside from the required state inspection and emissions testing, 150-point inspections differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. In comparing them, though, eight categories of areas to inspect emerge.

  1. Engine Compartment: engine, transmission, drivetrain, fluid levels, leak checks, suspension
  2. Brakes: rotors, tires, ABS
  3. Electrical: battery, lights, door locks, window motors
  4. Exterior: body condition, scratches, dents, rust
  5. Interior: upholstery, carpet
  6. Safety: airbags, seatbelts
  7. History (AutoCheck or Carfax): maintenance, accidents or water/flood damage, recalls
  8. Road Test: alignment, abnormal sounds or smells, engine and transmission performance

Without the comprehensive diagnostic tool of a 150-point inspection, many consumers would have trouble dealing with unforeseen mechanical problems.

According to a study by AAA, with an average repair bill of $500 to $600, 64 million out of 210 million American licensed drivers cannot pay that bill out-of-pocket.

Many of these costs, which can be difficult for the average American household to handle, would be avoided with a pre-purchase inspection. That inspection could identify any potential problems, or confirm the positive condition of the vehicle, improving the consumer's chances of making an optimal purchase.

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