So, after all your hard work you find that perfect car... but
how do you know that it really is perfect?
For those of us who are NOT fully trained mechanics, having a professional look over your
potential purchase could save you £1,000s in future repairs, as well as spotting
whether a car has had any hidden accident damage.
OPTION 1 - LOCAL GARAGES
If the car is local to a good mechanic that you know and trust (both of these factors
are critical), then asking the seller to take his wheels down for an inspection is a very
reasonable request. My only advice is to be very clear that you want the garage to check everything,
and be prepared to pay for their time to make sure that they really do.
OPTION 2 - MAIN DEALERS
Most main dealers are happy to inspect a car for you at their service centre for a set fee.
Typically these tests will be the same ones as the dealers are required to do to their own used cars, so
they SHOULD be pretty comprehensive... however, make sure to get a written document confirming
what they have done - what they check can vary greatly.
OPTION 3 - INDEPENDENT INSPECTION
With the obvious benefits of a detailed written report, and the fact that the inspector
go to the car (unlike options 1 and 2), this can seem the perfect solution!
However, the quality of the test entirely depends on the quality of the inspector and with
larger organisations you take pot luck. Don't get me wrong, I've had some great RAC inspections,
but I have also had some that overstress minor issues and then miss major ones. (N.B. The AA's
inspections are now ALL outsourced.)
The best solution is to find a good independent inspector, and the cost of this can sometimes
be as little as £100. If you live in the South East I can highly recommend Mike
Hill Vehicle Inspections - 07766 822282. Mike looks at over 100 cars a year for Palmdale
and is rated as one of the UK's top inspectors.
Finally, no matter what form of inspection you get, try to take it in context - a
10-year-old car will probably have a whole list of recommended repairs, but that doesn't always make
it a bad buy.