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The last time I bought a used car (about 10 years ago), it was from a dealer. And they let my mechanic inspect it at his shop.

Now I'm looking again, and I'm hoping to save some money by shopping from private sellers on craigslist.

I've asked a few if they'd be willing to let me bring it to my mechanic — or for them to bring it to him — and they all said no.

Of course they might say that because they don't want me to find out something bad about the car, but is my request unreasonable?

If it makes a difference, I'm looking at used minivans in the $3500 - $4500 range. (Which means mostly 2006 models with 100K - 150K miles).
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No. of Recommendations: 8
I've bought two vehicles from individuals on Craigslist. Both were more than happy to let my mechanic look them over. For me, not a mechanic by any stretch, having a vehicle checked out is a non-negotiable condition. I don't care if it's reasonable to the seller. If they are not willing, I'm not a potential buyer.
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The 2006 F150 Crew cab, 5.4L, 4WD, Tow package I bought via craiglist here, well over the hill in Napa, CA.. Had about 65K on it, interior was like new, one owner, but he needed get out from under as his company was giving him a vehicle... Lots of bells and whistles, but cloth seats, rubber mat..

I read up on, and knew of the spark plug issue, so when I took it to my independent mechanic, he checked, knew we'd have to deal with it later, but everything else of importance checked out.

Then came the matter of a clear title, he owed $13k on it, I wasn't willing to give his loan company the money without getting a registration. It would have paid his loan off, but then what? So I convinced him he had to do a short term loan, clear the title, and I'd cover the payoff with a Cashier's check once that was in hand. It took a couple weeks for him to do his thing, but it worked, we met at the DMV, did the transfer, and off we went!

Clear title is a major event, had a couple young lady relatives get screwed over, bought vehicles the seller didn't really own.. many headaches..

Our latest used car, a 2007 Honda Civic, we went through a local dealer, also had it checked by my mechanic, they fixed what he found as well as a paint mismatch... Went well..
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They won't let you inspect - run - run for your life.

Absolutely not an unreasonable request with the only shred of possibility being you're looking at $1000 hoopties.
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No. of Recommendations: 6
They won't let you inspect - run - run for your life.

Absolutely not an unreasonable request with the only shred of possibility being you're looking at $1000 hoopties.


I don't see much difference between a $1000 beater and a $3500 minivan. While I don't automatically assume the seller is up to no good, he at least doesn't want to deal with the hassle. Allow me to play devil's advocate for a minute.

Say I put my old minivan up for sale. Yeah, it's older, in fair/ok shape, it's got some miles, but I'm only looking to get a few thousand for it. Some random guy shows up and wants to take it to his mechanic. Now, I don't want to hand over the keys for a few hours, hoping this unknown person is honest and not just a car thief or somebody looking for a joyride. Because I know if I let him take the car, it's still my ass if he gets in an accident.

So the potential buyer offers to let me take the car to his mechanic instead. How generous of him. Great, now I can waste a few hours of my day driving across town, and hanging out while the car gets inspected. No thanks. I know full well it's an older car. The mechanic will comb over the car and provide the buyer extra ammunition which he'll only use to beat me up and try to whittle down my price. I think I've got a fair asking price, so I don't want to waste any time and potential aggravation going down that road.

Maybe I've got 3 other people coming to see the car this weekend. There's a ton of minivans for sale, and a ton of buyers looking for one that has some life left in it. It shouldn't be too hard to move. So I'll take a pass on this potential buyer, with the hopes that I can find a less demanding buyer to deal with.

/devil's advocate

Now, don't get me wrong, I'd probably hit the road too if the seller declined an inspection. But I can understand why he might do so.

I also think there's a HUGE difference between asking for an inspection on a 10 year old Caravan or Odyssey vs. a 10 year old Porsche. I doubt the average buyer of a $3-4k car is going to pay for an inspection - potentially on multiple cars - until he finds one he's happy with. A used 911 buyer, on the other hand, would be stupid to plunk down that kind of money without requiring an inspection first. At some level, I think sellers understand that. If I'm selling a beater, I don't want to go through the hassle. If I'm selling a $50k sports car, it's pretty much expected.
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