Is it worth having a mechanic inspect a car before buying it?

Is it worth getting a mechanic look at a used car before you buy it?
That you should do this is the theme song of the judge on The People's Court and maybe others.
It seems to me that the only tests really worth running are the "exhaust gas in coolant" test. Is there a way to do that oneself?
And maybe the compression test? Which I could do myself but I think the seller would object to it if he was there to watch, as he woudl be. But he woudlnt' ojbect if it were done at my menchanic's. But now I'm too old to bother and would just go by how the engine sounds and runs.
What I do before I buy the car is drive it, pay attention to how the automatic trnasmission shiffs up from first to second, and so on, that's normally quiet and smooth, and how it shifts down when, at reasonable speeds, I move the shift lever down.
I let go of the steering wheel to see that it goes straight ahead, allowing for any crown in the road. (although if didn't go straight ahead, I'd figure the odds are very high an alignment will fix that)
And I look for bad wear on the tires, from bad camber or caster, toe pointing, little feathery edges on the tread, etc. Improper inflation is bad too, but it just requires proper inflation, it's llike the old tires will never get right 100%, and at worst new rims.
I check to see if it has enough pep, and a high enough maximum. Once I test drove a car that just would not go above 65. Even though that's the limit, a car that works right should go a lot faster
I used to put my finger in the exhaust pipe to check for poor combustion, but I"m told catalytic converters usually leave that area clean, even if the car has got poor compustion (and poor combusiton if it actuallyl has it, is likely to be harder to fix than the odds were before.)
I look only at cars that have good bodies and good interiors because body work and upholstery are expensive and I can't come close to doing it myself. I only buy high end models of American convertibles, and the only thing wrong with that is that many have automatic AC.
And I test all the lights and accessories, including the cruise, the heat, the AC, every feature of the radio, not because I wont' buy the car, but for price negotiation. in 6 cars, nothing has ever been bad, however!
And then I allow 1000 (in the past) and now 2000 for repairs after I buy the car**
I don't ask questions of the seller, in part because I don't want to cause him to turn into a liar, but more because I don't want to be angry at someone if I find out later he was lying. It's better if he just doesn't tell me anything.***
I don't see any point in looking at the brakes, beyond what you can see through the rims. If you find out later you need pads, get them.
OTOH, getting a mechanic requires some sort of plates for a car that no longer has them, and that seems like an enormous problem.
And you need an appointment, and you have to hope he's not interrrupted and you spend all day there.
And how much they charge depends. When I blew an engine in N. Carolina, the only covertiible I could find for sale the first day within 50 miles was a wreck, a red ford mustang, but lots of things wrong with it. Someone had recommended a mechanic, only 1/4 mile from my motel it turned out, and I asked him, How much to inspect that car? And he said, "It depends on what you want me to check". And of course it does. He didn't seem eager for the job. We never got to prices. He didnn't seem to think it was worth it, imo. (I had arrived in my nice looking LeBaron, and asked him how much to fix that. The first thing he did was check if there was exhaust in the coolant, and there was, and he said it probably wasn't worth fixing. He didn't even charge me for the test, even knowing I was from out of town and he had but one chance to make money off of me. IOW, an honest guy.)
My impression has been that just as a doctor can give you clean bill of health at your annual physica, and then you drop dead tomorrow.
In fact I've read that too many people get an annual physical and treat it like a year's guarantee. So when they start having symptoms int he middle of the year, they figure it couldn't be anything because they're still under warranty. My own mother started having a symptom only two months after her checkup, and it took her an extra two weeks to decide to see the doctor. Only two weeks and they cut it out and she was fine, but if she'd waited 10 months, maybe very different story.
So, is it worth getting a mechanic to look at it, or
**Only one car out of 7 has needed more than 100 in the first two years, and that one, if I'd paid more attention, I should have noticed did not shift to high gear (3rd or 4th) but my current car had a broken exhaust pipe and made a tremendous racket, and this one was so quiet by comparison. But even if I had noticed, it was the nadir of convertible availablity, about 1979, and I'd called Car-Match, an early version of computer shopping, in at least 15 counties holding at least 12 million people, and this was the ONLY car I was interested in. So I woudl have bought it anyhow. And I was glad I did. The transmsision repair was almost 1000 but it lasted 6 years and about 100,000 miles.
***The car in the footnote above, in 1979, I don't think I asked anything, but he volunteered that he was selling the car for his son, who moved to Kansas and didn't need a car there. Huh! Years later it occurred to me that maybe his new job provided a company car, but he didnt' say that. He also said, and I wish I remembered if this was before or after I bought it, that t he cow magnet taped to the gas line in the engine compartment was there to increase gas mileage. Let me tell you, it didn't work, and mileage was terrible, but like I say, I'd looked in 15 counties with 12 million people. I could have gone home to my mother's and looked there, but a) I had no car to get there except the one with no exhaust. b) that would only be another 400,000 people. How much could that help. Hmmm. I could have had her look, then taken the bus there (2 hours) if she found stuff, then borrowed her car to go shopping. I wish I could have shared more stuff with her but if I told her in advance I needed a car, she'd have bought me a non-convertible and registered it in my name. Maybe.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 1:01:47 AM UTC-4, micky wrote:

depends on how much the car costs.......
the mechanic may uncover some issues that you can use to negoiate the price down...
i tend to buy olderend of life vehicles, that dont cost much.
do check consumer reports since some vehicles have serious or safety issues including recalls, that need to be fixed. like ignition switches on chevy cobalts
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 1:01:47 AM UTC-4, micky wrote:

There are obviously many other things that can be wrong with a car that can be seen from a simple inspection, eg brakes are at end-of-life, engine leaking oil, tranny leaks, oil cooler leaks, cooling system leaks, brake system leaks, motor mounts shot, repairs made incorrectly/band aided together, exhaust system shot, engine codes set that show problems, etc.
Mechanics that work on cars regularly know the problem spots of particular models and what to look for. They can also tell you that even things they can't see directly, have typically been a problem at XXX miles with this model and cost $yyy to fix.

So, if the car costs $1500, they pay you $500 to take it?

That's a really poor strategy.

There are plenty of cars for sale that do have plates on them and that can be driven to the mechanic. Without plates and insurance, you can't even take it for a road test. Are you going to buy a car without test driving it on the road?

Sure, that's possible. But following that logic, all routine screening, basic blood work that can find very common and treatable problems, eg diabetes, before they become treatable, is useless.

Yes, because just like with buying a house, even if there are no major problems, you're very likely to find some things that you can then use to negotiate the price down, which will more than pay for the cost of the inspection. And you may also avoid buying a car with a lot of problems.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Per micky:

I would think it depends on the buyer and the mechanic.
I don't know beans about cars and the shop I use has, IMHO, integrity and expertise.
That being the case I would expect them to know about common problems with the make/model and be able to look deeper than I ever could using somebody's checklist.
--
Pete Cresswell

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
(PeteCresswell) wrote:

underneath. Our insurance company(AMA) membership can have it done by their mechanics in their shop. Matter of making an appointment. But then I never bought used car so far.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 8/8/2015 2:45 PM, Tony Hwang wrote:

Some AAAs used to due extensive evaluations of used cars, including checking engine compression. I don't think that this still exists though.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

inspection. Basically do a complete safety check to be sure it really DOES pass - and to be sure the whole car isn't at the bare minimum pass specification.l Also have the emissions test done - if not officially required, have it checked anyway to be sure everything is working as it is supposed to. Make sure the OBD2 has not just been wiped to clear all codes and turn off the CEL (have the mechanic put it through a complete emissions drive cycle to make sure all monitors are set if it appears the car may have just been "reset" Have the alignment tested to make sure the car is not a "pretzel"
If you feel you know enough about cars to determine all this yourself with a simple test drive, go ahead. I trust myself to check out a car before I buy it - but I did it for a living (auto mechanic) for 25 years.
If you are not automotive-savy enough to check the car out thoroughly enough that you are satisfied you know what you are buying, pay a good mechanic to check it out for you. If you buy it, you know what you are getting. If you decide not to buy it due to condition, the cost of the inspection is trivial compared to buying a bad car.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Depends on how much you know about cars. You sound like you do a good job of evaluation them yourself, a lot of people simply don't have that ability. Also it depends on how much you are spending on the car. With only rare exception I only buy two kinds of cars, very very clean old ones for less then $2500 and I "inspect" them myself, and new cars or nearly new cars still under factory warranty. For the cheap car I expect it will need about $1000 for tires or some sort of repair, if it doesn't, all teh better. For the new or nearly new car I let the factory warranty take care of any issues it would take a mechanic at a shop to find. For the occasional "better then cheap but not like new" I've often bought from gvt auction and have only gotten burned once. And that one time I thought the engine didn't start "quite right" but ignored my gut and bought it because it was so clean otherwise. Turned out to have a blown head gasket. It also turned out to just be a lemon.. EVERYTING kept breaking on it, finally gave it away.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.