Mobile or Garage Inspection?
Many people will be faced with the choice of having a mobile inspector look at a car or taking the vehicle to a local mechanic. While the most important thing is getting a qualified inspection, each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
A mobile inspection is fast and convenient. The inspector comes to your or the seller's home or office, performs the inspection on site, and prints out a report on the spot. Inspectors also photograph any damage, taking shots of the vehicle from different angles.
Inspections done by your local mechanic, or the service department of a dealership that sells that brand of car, are performed with more specialized equipment. For example, the inspector can put the car up on a lift and examine the underside for damage, fluid leaks and other irregularities.
Buying From a Distance
Online car-buying sites have given buyers access to thousands of vehicles they might never have found otherwise, but purchasing a car located far away can bring a number of potential problems. These might include out-and-out fraud, payment issues, paperwork difficulties and, critically, the inability to see the vehicle in person before committing to the sale. Here's where a presale inspection can help.
If you find a car you like in another part of the country, you should, of course, ask to see a lot of close-up photographs and get a vehicle history report from a service such as Carfax or AutoCheck. But a professional inspection will provide an important extra level of insurance that you're not buying a pack of trouble. And arranging an inspection that will take place elsewhere isn't that difficult.
Obviously, it isn't a great idea to rely on the seller to choose the person who will perform the inspection. If you know someone in the area where the car is located, you can ask them to recommend a reliable mechanic. Failing that, a dealership that sells that model of vehicle can generally be trusted to provide an accurate assessment. And if you're the one ordering and paying for the inspection, the report should come directly to you and not through the seller.
There are also several inspection services, such as Alliance Inspection Management and Automobile Inspections, that specialize in assisting buyers with long-distance purchases. As a last resort, a web search and careful examination of online user reviews can turn up an independent shop in the seller's area that can do the job for you.
If the vehicle happens to be an exotic or collector car, online forums and clubs can be a great source of information. Individuals who live near the seller and own the same type of vehicle will likely be able to recommend reliable mechanics in the area. Some may even be familiar with the exact car you're thinking about buying.
It's Car-Buying Insurance
While no inspection is guaranteed to find every flaw in a used car, a trained eye can help you avoid serious problems. A good mechanic, inspector or dealership technician will know what to look for and will have the equipment needed to provide a reliable assessment of a vehicle's condition, including the all-important safety equipment. Given thousands of dollars are at stake, an hour of your time and a reasonable fee are good insurance against the unknown.