Pre-Inspection of Classic Cars: What You Should Expect

Pre-Inspection of Classic Cars: What You Should Expect
March 30, 2021 Chrissy Goodwin
An orange classic car with a raised hood and trunk

Are you dying to get your hands on a 1960s muscle car you saw online? Or perhaps you’re thinking of buying your neighbor’s vintage Ford pickup truck because it brings back fond childhood memories. Whether you plan to buy a classic car for investment or keep it as a collectible, purchasing used vehicles can be risky. A test-drive around the block or a quick scan under the hood is not enough to help you identify potential problems with the car.

Classic cars can have many cosmetic, mechanical and safety issues, which can’t be detected by analyzing online pictures or performing a simple visual inspection. Before you plunk down thousands of dollars for buying and shipping your classic car, you should get an accurate picture of the vehicle’s condition. A professional pre-purchase inspection will help you identify any issues with the vehicle so you can decide if the classic car is worth your money.

What is a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection?

A pre-purchase car inspection is a professional assessment of a used vehicle to identify any mechanical, structural or aesthetic damage. Classic car inspections are performed by certified mechanics or automotive technicians that have expertise in the make and model of the vehicle being purchased. Pre-inspections allow buyers to find out if the car is worth its asking price, helping them save thousands of dollars by preventing the purchase of damaged goods.

Classic car inspection services give buyers peace of mind as it helps them ensure that the vehicle is not a financial liability. Most experts recommend taking a used car for a comprehensive inspection before completing the purchase. If you intend to purchase a classic car online or from another state, Trans Global Auto Logistics (TGAL) can help you with the pre-inspection, payment, and shipping process. TGAL offers classic car inspection and escrow services for online and out-of-state purchases to protect buyers from fraudulent deals and have the car shipped to their doorstep.

Where Can You Get a Pre-Purchase Classic Car Inspection?

A red classic car in a garage

Although most mechanics and auto technicians can perform a pre-purchase inspection, it is best to take the desired vehicle to classic car specialists. Try to find a professional that has experience and expertise in providing inspection services for the type of classic car you intend to purchase. If you want to buy a 1964 Pontiac GTO, make sure the inspector has sufficient knowledge of muscle cars. Buying a 1956 Ford F100, however, does not require muscle car expertise.

To find a pre-inspection professional with speciality in the type of classic car you want to buy, turn to Google for help. A quick Google search can help you find plenty of classic car inspection service providers in your area. If you’re purchasing a vintage vehicle from out-of-state or an online marketplace, TGAL can help you with the classic car inspection process. No matter where the car is located, we’ll work with a third-party inspection service provider to produce an official report of the vehicle so you can get in-depth information about its condition.

What to Expect During Pre-Purchase Car Inspections

There are no universal standards in the industry that specify how pre-inspections should be performed. The depth and detail of pre-purchase car inspections will depend on how much you’re willing to pay for the service. A basic inspection involves a visual assessment of the body and underbody of the classic car for the presence of blemishes, rust or leaks. A thorough classic car inspection will usually take two to three hours and involve checking the following:

Body Panels

A classic car technician or certified mechanic will start the inspection process by checking the vehicle’s exterior. Classic car inspection service providers will walk around the vehicle to look for any signs of damage, flood or accident repair. Common things to look out for include:

  • The paint’s finish and condition
  • Presence of scratches, dents and rust
  • Gaps between panels which indicate frame damage
  • Quality of frames and subframes in the undercarriage
  • Condition of guards, plates, and panels in the underbody

Interior Parts and Components

After examining the exterior of the vehicle, the pre-inspection procedure moves on to check the interior of the car. Everything from the car’s carpets to seats and dashboard is analyzed to determine their condition. Classic car inspection also checks to see if there are any interior parts or components ⎼ like stereos and gauges ⎼ that are missing from inside the vehicle.

An interior check of classic cars generally evaluates the condition of:

  • Seats: Are they soft and comfortable or hard and dry?
  • The headliner: Is it firm and in-place or sagging and falling?
  • Carpets: Are they in good quality or worn out?
  • The dashboard: Does it close properly or has cosmetic issues like cracks and scratches?
  • Glass: Does it have any stars, chips or cracks?
  • The trunk: Are there any signs of water damage?


Close-up view of a classic car’s engine

After examining the exterior and interior condition of the classic car, the pre-inspection process gets deeper and more technical. At this stage, the technician or mechanic will open the car’s hood to analyze wiring, fluid levels, the battery, engine, and other electrical and mechanical components. A mechanical analysis conducted during a classic car inspection service usually involves checking:

  • The quality of hoses and belts
  • Fluid levels to see if they’re normal
  • Potential problems with the suspension
  • How well the electrical components function
  • The air cleaner to see if it is properly installed
  • The condition of brakes, drivetrain, and engine
  • Leaks in valve covers, the lower rear of the engine, and around the carburetor


Classic car inspection checks the vehicle’s tires to determine if they’re usable or need replacement. Technicians will look for signs of wear such as bubbling or cracking on the tires’ sidewalls. Pre-inspection will also analyze the tire’s tread. Classic car tires should have at least one-third of an inch of tread on them to indicate they’re in good condition. If the classic car inspection service reveals that the tires have uneven tread, it could mean that the vehicle has suspension issues.

Mold Growth

If a classic car was not properly looked after, it will have molds and mildew on its interior components. Fungal infestation takes place inside classic cars that were exposed to moist environments. Pre-inspection will check the car’s interior for signs of fungal contamination to determine whether the vehicle has experienced water damage.

Car’s Performance

A man driving a classic car with red interiors

After checking the car’s exterior, interior, and mechanicals, classic car inspection will analyze the vehicle’s performance. Technicians will start and test-drive the car to look for any signs of engine, transmission, brake and other problems that they could not identify during previous assessments. Classic car inspection service providers test-drive the vehicle to find out if:

  • It starts easily or requires multiple attempts
  • The engine runs smoothly or is rough and rigid
  • Gears shift without making horrible grinding sounds
  • Steering is loose, shakes, or produces any noises under the car

Get a Pre-Inspection Before Buying a Classic Car

Buying any used vehicle, especially classic cars, can pose significant financial and safety risks if you don’t inspect it thoroughly for faults and defects prior to purchase. A professional classic car inspection can cost a few hundred dollars but will save you thousands in the long run on potential breakdowns and expensive repairs.

If you’re planning to buy a classic car online or from another state, Trans Global can help you every step of the way. TGAL offers third-party inspection, escrow services and direct-to-door shipping to help you buy your dream classic car with the least worry. Call us at 972-559-3295 to learn more about our classic car inspection service, or request a quote for inspecting and shipping a vintage vehicle.

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