There exists no used car buying advice more often ignored than this: Have a certified mechanic inspect that used car before you buy it. Why do buyers throw down thousands of dollars on a car with little more than an around-the-block test-drive and a glance under the hood? Three reasons deter car buyers from taking this vital step:

 * Most consumers don't know that good used car inspections are readily available.
 * Many car buyers don't want to pay the extra money for an inspection.
 * Some people anticipate a hassle prying the car away from a dealer or private party.

With a little planning, the inspection process can be as fast and revealing as a 24-hour news network talking head. If the inspection report is clean, you can buy with confidence. If it uncovers a chequered past, you can back away or negotiate a lower price in line with the cost of repairs.

Most sellers will let you take the car for an inspection or have a mobile inspection performed at their home. If the seller hesitates, you might want to consider the words of America's Car Show host Tom Torbjornsen: "You have to wonder what they're hiding."

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The All-Important Pre-Purchase Inspection
Experts agree that used cars must be inspected before the final negotiation for purchase. The ordinary car buyer, even if mechanically savvy, really can't do it justice. A stem-to-stern inspection, if it's been done right, can tell you if you're about to buy a great used car or step into a nasty set of problems.

Have the inspection performed by a mechanic who brings credentials to the table. The car should also be test-driven over a predetermined route that includes hills, bumps and potholes to pick up suspension problems and reveal engine performance issues.

Andy Dabbs, president and CEO of The Lemon Squad, said his company of nationwide mobile inspectors, currently inspecting pre-purchase used cars and off-lease vehicles, offers mobile inspections for private-party car buyers all across the United States and Canada, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. He said using a third-party inspector will build what he calls the "trust factor."

"There is so much information on the Web about every type of car," Dabbs said. "But what about that specific Chevy, Ford or classic car? Someone has to verify not just what's wrong with the car, but also what's right with it." He added that a seller can also proactively have a car inspected and volunteer to provide the results of a condition report. "If you are a used car buyer, it enhances your purchase to acquire a condition report and thorough inspection."