Before you purchase a vehicle, be on the safe side: have it inspected! It’ll help you avoid unpleasant surprises—perhaps even an accident.

Spring: ‘tis the season for automobile shopping, and perhaps impulse buying. Be patient and attentive!

Many buyers of previously owned vehicles are so eager to get behind the wheel that they omit a key step: an independent, complete pre-purchase inspection. This is the best way, however, to prevent your love-at-first-sight car from turning into a horror story.

“Having an impartial inspection done by a CAA expert or a trusted garage, is a crucial part of the process of buying a used car,” explains Sylvain Légaré, an automotive industry analyst with CAA-Quebec. “It helps avoid nasty surprises, and the buyer can often use it to negotiate a better price.”

If you’re in the market for your first car, or you think you’ve found a great deal on a rare model, being patient can be difficult. But these are exactly the kinds of situations where mistakes happen most often, Légaré advises.

Buying a car is like buying a house: you need to take the time to have an impartial inspection conducted by the professional of your choice before conducting any transaction. This is true whether you’re dealing with a private seller or a dealer, even if the latter provides their own inspection report. In fact, it’s your right as a consumer, recognized by the Quebec association of used-vehicle dealers, the (AMVOQ)Opens external link in new window.

A full inspection: what’s involved

You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t judge a car by a few kicks to one tire. Our automotive consumer experts recommend a detailed inspection by a mechanic you trust. CAA-Quebec offers all consumers its Maxi Route inspection service. Simply make an appointment and visit one of our 10 Vehicle Inspection Centres.

An experienced mechanic will conduct a road test, followed by an inspection of the engine, suspension, brakes, steering and exhaust system. They’ll also check the thickness of the paint to verify whether it’s original, or whether the car has been repainted after an accident.

The expert will also check the onboard computer to assess the true condition of the mechanical systems.

You never know: an unscrupulous seller could have shut off the “Check Engine” light without fixing the problem. A proper inspection will uncover this ploy, and prevent a potential unpleasant surprise. You wouldn’t want that perfect new car for spring to become a nightmare on four wheels!