Time for a pre purchase car inspection!

While it’s doubtful that a an hour long pre purchase car inspection would have picked up the head gasket issues on my 2005 Subaru, undoubtedly the mechanic would have noted the dried coolant spills. And possibly pointed out the age of the pipework on the radiator, maybe even zoomed in on the cracks I didn’t properly look for and note that ‘these will need to be replaced.’ Plus their fault code reader would have had the settings for Subaru, where as mine doesn’t seem to know a Subi if you threw it at them (it’s more Subi software being a little more out of the ballpark than most generic readers it seems.)

Would I still have bought it knowing the faults? Maybe. Possibly. Especially if I used what was found in the pre purchase inspection to lower the price. But then I’d also run the results past someone with more knowledge in these things that me. Regardless knowing what I know now, I’m not buying another car without one..

What is a pre purchase car inspection?

In a nutshell you pay an independent mechanic to go over the car you’re interested in possibly buying to create a detailed report on the condition of said vehicle. And while it doesn’t include the deep down nitty gritty (like head gasket issues unless they’re incredibly obvious) it covers a lot of ground from body condition, engine condition, handling, suspension, exhaust, a road test, brakes and checking faults on the car’s system (which is handy if you forget your code reader.)
Is it idling okay? Does it change gears without any issues? What about strange noises? Is there something strange coming out of the exhaust that needs any attention? What looks worn, what’s on the way out, what’s going to need some attention soon enough?
Please depending on the service you use, something like a Carhistory report might be included which is a pre purchase car inspection check on things such as any finance owning, if the car has been written off, an odometer check and to make sure it hasn’t been stolen.
I mean how annoyed would you be ponying up for a stolen car, especially when you found out later and someone in blue turned up at your place one day to discuss taking it back.

the importance of pre purchase car inspections

A great case in point would be this Mazda 6 currently for sale on Facebook. In the ad it states: We have a written quote from our local RACV Mechanics for $1600 including parts and labour that this needs for a roadworthy. Hooray, an honest seller. But if it didn’t, imagine how you’d feel buying it and going for a RWC only to find a decent bill waiting for you?

Okay pre purchase car inspection report back, what’s next?

Once you get the report back it’s up to you to decide whether you’re still keen on the car or not. If all’s gone well, the report is minimal and you’re happy with the price then it’s buy time and hopefully you’ll have many more years of reliable motoring.

If it’s a bit of a to do list? Work out or get a quote how much it’s going to take to get those items of concern on the pre purchase car inspection sorted and possibly use that as part of your negotiations.

And if it’s actually in terrible condition or the engine is a drive down the block away from exploding? Well that couple of hundred bucks you spent then on the car check has just saved you thousands down the road potentially. Yes you might be out of pocket for the inspection but you’re also not buying a lemon unaware so that’s a good deal in anyone’s book.

Imagine what you’d get in a report for this beast! On second thoughts, possibly not. The cost of a pre purchase car inspection is probably more here that what this 929 is worth.

How much is a pre purchase car inspection?

Well that’s dependant on where you are (according to the stats there’s people from all over the world) and what you have nearby. Mobile pre purchase inspections cost a bit more and don’t include getting the car up on a hoist for a look under (although some do jack the car up for a look under) however they’re more convenient to the seller as they come to their home. In garage inspections are usually slightly cheaper and a bit more thorough but depending on the seller, they might not have the time to take it there.
A good mobile pre purchase inspection van should have all the diagnostic tools on board to look deep into your next car.

For an example: I’m currently looking into a Hyundai Wagon like the one above. It presents beautifully, it looks well maintained and nice and smooth to drive. However the Subi ticked those boxes initially too when I looked at it so overall nice looking conditions aren’t always an indication of running condition. And since the seller was more than happy for me to call in a mechanic, a quick search netted me the page for Carinspect.
The process has been so far:

  1. Enter where the vehicle is located (good news, they can go there!)
  2. Choose your inspection type (I went with a standard comprehensive inspection for $279 which is a predominantly mechanical inspection. There’s also a premium comprehensive pre car purchase inspection which includes a body inspection and checks if it’s been offroad for $339 as well as some other features but I think we’re pretty good with the Hyundai.)
  3. Pop in your details, the car details and the sellers details and the team organise with them direct as to when they’re going to pop round for a look. They’ll also send you a text when it’s going to happen so you’re right across things.
  4. Inspection happens, now you wait for the report and call. Hopefully some good news today! (I’m still waiting for my report, update coming soon!

Here in Australia there’s also pre purchase car inspections carried out by various motoring services such as the the NRMA, RACQ and RACV or possibly book some time with your favourite mechanic.

The pre purchase car inspection report came in..

Report aside, I’m still keen on the wagon version of these things…

And yes, things did not go well. In terms of minor to oh god:

  1. The rear wiper isn’t working. Water comes out, wiper stays in place. This would have failed the blue slip.
  2. The bullseye crack in the windscreen was large enough to be an issue and would also have failed the blue slip. Time for a new windscreen!
  3. It hasn’t been serviced in 15k. Apparently it has, there’s just no record of it (I was told the guy does the occasional service himself, no worries, not that big an issue and that’s not going to get in the way of a blue slip.
  4. Not failing the blue slip (unless it caused a breakdown in the middle of the inspection I guess) was the fact that it was very low on oil. In fact the inspector got the guy who lived there to pop some in so he could test drive it safely after checking it three times. Now either in the last home service they didn’t put in enough or worse, it’s burning things at a rapid rate. Either way, it’s a potential red flag risk I wouldn’t want to try and take on to work out which side things fell on. Before the possible engine issue I’d be looking at a few hundred to sort the other issues but if it was an oil burning issue? Oh joy..

Everything else came up just fine, it was just erring on the side of caution on an issue we couldn’t see. And so it was with mixed emotions that I messaged the owner back and passed on it. Because it’s a great looking car, I could see myself in it (my wife loved it to) it just would have cost a bit more to get on the road in this state and then there was the possible engine problem. I already have one car with engine issues, it doesn’t need a sympathy friend.

‘Look, I don’t need another project..’

-Me, speaking to the mechanic are he ran through the pre purchase car inspection report which gave him a chuckle.

I’m glad I found out it wouldn’t pass the registration inspection now than when I booked it in..

I spent $279 but possibly saved a whole heap more.

Yes at close to $300 depending on the service, a pre purchase car inspection can be a little on the exy side. But if it’s going to save you potential thousands (or steer you to a better condition model) then that’s more than worth it for the outlay isn’t it? (Especially if you’re paying upwards of 30k on a used car – less than 1% more and you’ve got an in depth check!)

So back to the drawing board for me but a little bit wiser and more cautious now. Happy hunting!

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