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Classic car inspection?

Hey everyone,

I've been looking around for a '62 Ford Thunderbird, however the only one that I've found so far that matched my criteria and price point is in a different state. The vehicle looks clean from the photos and description, but I'm a little weary of buying a classic car w/o seeing it personally.

I've heard of some companies that do special classic car inspections (AiM Mobile Inspections, etc.) and I was wondering if anyone had ever used them or a similar service before. The price is reasonable, especially considering the amount I'll have to invest in the car itself.

Just wondering if anyone had used these guys (or similar) before and had any feedback. Thanks!
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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    Very good idea to have the car inspected.

    Personally I am biased somewhat against "nationwide" appraisal services, because a) all they do is broker out the appraisal to someone they have never met and b) they pay the agent far less than they charge you, thereby not encouraging the agent to do a very good job.

    I do this service locally for northern California, and I wouldn't work for the peanuts they pay inspection agents. I don't feel I could be thorough enough.

    HOWEVER, it's probably better than nothing at all, if that's the best you can get.

    A good source for inspectors would be Hemmings Motor News (www.hemmings.com). Look under Services Offered. The location of the appraisers is shown at the end of their ads, with a state code, like FLA or CA.

    Be sure to ask the inspector what he's going to do for you and whether he uses "narrative reports" or "checklist reports". I would not personally pay for a checklist report--I think they are nearly useless.

    Fees will vary, but I'd guess that between $175 and $400 should cover all travel, gas, inspection time, and time to send you photos (at least 40 of them) and a written report by e-mail. Also this fee should include some phone time.

    Under no circumstances would I let a dealer or other "biased" party inspect the car. The inspector should have no ties to the seller.

    MODERATOR

  • parmparm Posts: 723
    You might also consider contacting the local chapter of the VTCI (Vintage Thunderbird Club International). You might be able to track down a regional judge that specializes in '62 T-Birds. Natually, you'd have to pay them, but who better to do the inspection? Of course, you run the risk that the seller and the VTCI rep are fellow club members and are friends. Whoever you hire, make sure you make arrangements to get the car to a lift so the undercarriage can be inspected.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    I'd certainly consult club members about authenticity but never about value---they tend to overvalue the cars because they are not impartial.

    MODERATOR

  • parmparm Posts: 723
    I would agree with that. I thought he was looking for inspection ideas only.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    Well invariably if someone is inspecting the car he is going to be asked about the value, and this is where a club member can get you into trouble. He has a vested interest, a bin full of spare parts, buddies in the business, and you have none of that. So his idea of value could be radically different than the "real world". The real value of a club member's car is when HE tries to sell his.

    To be fair, now and then a club member can be realistic, but usually only after his higher prices have been ignored :P

    MODERATOR

  • Thanks Shiftright,

    I agree with you for the 'nationwide' services. I was actually considering AiM Mobile Inspections because I believe they are the only (or one of the few) who actually don't broker out the inspections-- they have inspectors all around the nation, so I think that prevents you from overpaying/paying a middle man. They do a combination of checklist + narratives regarding test drives, etc.

    I definitely don't want the dealer to inspect the car that would be absurd (especially if I was paying for it). I feel like no matter what going with the 3rd (mutual) party inspection is going to be the way to go.
  • Very timely thread creation rvalverde....I was just trolling around looking for the same advice, and was about to start my own thread!

    Specifically, does anyone have any opinion of or experience with the following national firms that I've found:
    • Alliance Inspection Management (AIM)
    • Auto Appraisal Group (AAG)
    • Automobile Inspections LLC

    In the research that I've done so far, I've found AIM Mobile Inspections to be the least expensive for classic car inspections ($179), however I thought that the sample report on their website was not that good. Came across as a total checklist report, with very little narrative.

    AAG is a bit more expensive, at $350 plus potentially $0.60 per mile if applicable. Unfortunatley, they do not offer a sample report on their site, however personally I liked the description of what they offered per their completed report. Additionally, their final report actually offers an appraisal, which is nice. I think that charging an extra $50 for a 'Value Certificate' if you purchase the car being inspected is a bit of 'nickel and diming', but it's a nice option nonetheless.

    Automobile Inspections LLC also offers inspection services, which are categorized into 4 groups based on the car being inspected (Classic post-war cars would be inspected using the Blue Report, for example). Their service starts at $379, plus $1 per mile outside 25 miles from their nearest office. They, like AAG, offer an appraisal add-on of sorts that they call an 'Opinion of Value' for $25. If you want it on paper, it's $50. Their website only offered a picture of a hardcopy sample report fanned across a table (poor presentation to potential customers if you ask me), but from what I could see of it it looked like a lot of checklists as well, though maybe I'm wrong.

    Anyway, any users of these guys out there that can chime in????
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    I think your best bet is to scan the appraisers list in Hemmings Motor News, and talk to a real person who is also the one who is going to look at the car.

    There's a big advantage to chatting with the inspector WHILE he's looking at the car, for instance, and also have a phone conference after you've received the report, so that you can ask more questions.

    I agree, checklist reports are a waste of time and money.

    MODERATOR

  • Hey thanks for doing some research diorije,

    AAG sounds interesting, I wish they had an example of their reports. I don't really see the point of a "Value Certificate" either (unless it comes with some kind of warranty.

    So far I'm still liking AiM Mobile Inspections just because I actually know what I'm getting (example reports) and it has a low cost. I think you're right though there could be more narrative but I think I heard somewhere that you can speak on the phone with the inspector which would definitely be worthwhile...
  • One point of caution: I posed this same question to the gentleman who runs the lovefords site a day or two ago, and he told me that going into an outside inspection, make sure that you know as much about that particular model as possible. That's because while an inspection company may be able to tell you about the car's condition, his experience has been that, in general, they are very bad about knowing what makes a particular model stock, what belongs on the car and what doesn't, etc.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    Well of course. You can't have an inspector who is a specialist in every model. Not only would it require an army of specialists who will get very little work, waiting for the next '57 Chevy to look at, but it would mean that every inspector who wanted to survive would have to train to be an "authenticator" of every make he is likely to encounter---he'd need a PhD.

    It's really the obligation of the buyer to guide the inspector on certain items of authenticity, of the seller to have documentation, and the obligation of the inspector to provide extensive photos to help the buyer determine authenticity.

    If you wanted a renowned expert to authenticate and date-code every piece on your 60s Mopar, be prepared to spend at minimum a few thousand dollars to have that done.

    Authentication is a tedious, labor intensive process and really is not part of an inspection procedure.

    Of course, any good inspector will record data plate codes (tags), and if visible, engine #s.

    MODERATOR

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,629
    edited February 2010
    A 1962 T-Bird isn't some exotic, complicated car.

    I think any good shop should be able to give it a good looking over and maybe antother trip to a local body shop would be a good thing too.

    I would try to find a shop that has a couple of "old timers" who may have worked on these cars when they were still on the road,

    The 390 engines were pretty rugged and so were the Crusimatic transmissions. Probably a comnpression test and a good road test should be done.

    These weren't "bad" cars per se but they did have some problem areas to watch out for.

    They wore out front end suspension parts quickly. Look for worn out upper control arm shafts and lower bushings. They also ate ball joints and idler arms.

    Even when they were new, they had constant vacuum line problems. Make sure the wipers work and the heater and air conditioning work. Make sure the emergency brake auto release works.

    Check the operation of the slide away steering wheel and make sure the power window switches are operational.

    These were very heavy cars and until 1965 they used drum brakes that never lasted long.

    I'm not trying to scare you away. I actually like these cars but they need to be driven carefully. Do NOT try to push one around a corner in a hurry and be gentle on the brakes.

    The body shop can check for rust and signs of previous collisions.

    I just wouldn't pay some "expert" a fortune to inspect a car like this. I don't think that would be necessary.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,629
    And I don't think too many people would really care if a 1962 T Bird was 100% authentic. Do you?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    The degree to which authenticity matters varies a lot from car to car, that is very true.

    Ironically, the buyer of a 1978 Corvette cares much more than the buyer of a 1978 Ferrari.

    For a T-Bird, I think the only buyer who would care is one looking for a special or rare set of options.

    MODERATOR

  • nick625nick625 Posts: 1
    Jeff,

    I'm not familiar with the inspection firm you mentioned but I am familiar with WeGoLook.com. They don't do expert inspections, but for a lot less money they will send an independent representative to contact the seller and arrange to meet to make sure the car (or whatever it is) actually exists. They take current digital pics, check the VIN, etc. and provide them to you along with a report via email. If you want them too look at something specific they will. If you order the Custom report they can even arrange transport or deliver the item to the shipper for you. I have a friend who owns several classic cars who thinks this is great.
  • Nick,

    I too have heard of companies that do this and it is a useful service but, when it comes to buying a $35,000 Chevelle I need someone who KNOWS what they are looking at, like if it's been in an accident, is full orf rust and bondo or if the numbers match etc. not just someone who can tell me whether the car is there or not. That service you mentioned has its uses but its not something I would condider using for classic cars. I'd rather spend more money and get expert knowledge.

    Jeff
  • Has anyone ever used www.cars-on-line.com?

    They are about middle cost $275, the sample report looks good (checklist and comments) and there are up to 100 photos taken.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    edited August 2010
    Not bad, really and 'better than nothing" -- but again, these are brokered inspectors, so you have no idea of the competency of the person doing the inspection, and cars-on-line doesn't either. Also, the values they state are not supported by any evidence---they seem pulled out of a hat. On what basis would you follow the value advice of these reports?

    "JJ’s Auto Pre-Purchase Inspections does not do the inspection for you. JJ’s Auto Pre-Purchase Inspections is a company that facilitates the completion of your inspection through its affiliates, inspectors, or their contractors. The inspections are placed with an independent inspection service or contractor in the area where the vehicle is located."

    I also found many of the comments rather useless:

    'THE VEHICLE WAS TEST-DRIVEN APPROXIMATELY TWO MILES WITH SPEEDS UP TO 65 MPH. THE VEHICLE PERFORMED FAIRLY WELL DURING THE ROAD TEST. '

    THE VEHICLE STOPS STRAIGHT WITH NO PULSATION. (???)

    Which tells you what exactly?

    Another problem I see here is this:

    "Some orders will take between four days and up to a week. "

    This simply is too long if the car is, in fact, a good buy. You'll end up out of luck.

    Also the $275 is for a local inspection without travel. When you add a 100 mile trip, the cost goes way up.

    MODERATOR

  • Automobile Inspections LLC in Hartford Connecticut... Ha!!!!

    Absolutely hopeless. Had a Rolls-Royce inspected by them and they had no idea. Said they were experts but they had NEVER ever done a Rolls-Royce before. Automobile Inspections LLC claim to be experts in inspecting cars for pre-purchase but have totally unqualified inspectors who "guess" their way thru an inspection on classic cars. I had one done recently on a late 60s Rolls-Royce and I ended up spending 3 hours with an inspector explaining to him how different things on the car worked and were "supposed to be". I am a Rolls-Royce restorer of 30 years and the inspector not only did not understand the workings of the car and its various features but wanted to argue and dispute my understanding of them.

    Needless to say the report was incorrect in its finding, was mis-leading and provided a very inaccurate over-view of the car. In this case, the car was a 100% original quasi show-car falling within the upper 10 percentile of examples and yet Automobile Inspections LLC, concluded it to be just a "good" car for driver purposes. This may not seem bad but the report seriously questioned the value of the car for an avid collector who engaged their services.

    The guy who rocked up was driving a rusty 1990 Chevy pick-up with under-sized rims. What more can I say! He didnt even drive the car because he was "scared to".

    Basically, they go thru a car and list anything they DON'T know as a fault, get paid their $350 and walk away with a "no responsibility" escape clause for any errors. Both the buyer and the seller agree that the reports are "arm-long" simply to protect Automobile Inspections LLC from any recourse from buyers (sellers are emphatically denied a copy and in fact any and all copying of a report is regarded as "theft of intellectual copyright" by Automobile Inspections LLC!) One has to ask what is the point, then, if no car gets sold because of such an over-cautious report that is not only incorrect but then cannot be shared, discussed or reviewed by any other party?!

    When it comes to Classic cars, buyers want them as much as a willing seller wants to sell one. Classic cars are bought and sold out of "want", not "need". It is not like buying the next family car. What is the point of having an unqualified inspector carrying out an inspection on a car and erring on the side of negativity when he does not have knowledge on the car by providing a bad report. Who does this help? Only the inspection companies, perhaps, who get to do more reports because buyers and sellers do not conclude a deal. What a shame that such beautiful and stunning classic cars are not passed from one caretaker to another because of some ill-informed, uneducated and incompetent inspectors. I can only assume the ill-mannered personnel at Automobile Inspections LLC are most likely failures in their quest as mechanics in the real world and this is their "new job" - to scam a short-gain fee for their well below standard service. A not so lousy $350 at that! You would think for that price, they could do some internet research on the product or get a truly qualified person at that!

    Automobile Inspections LLC - BUYERS and SELLERS beware.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    edited August 2010
    This would be a completely inappropriate company for cars like Rolls, Ferraris, or other specialized classics, IMO. Probably okay for pickup trucks and more or less modern cars or the more common older American cars that don't require careful authentication.

    You simply cannot address the needs of a situation with rare, complex or historically significant classic cars by using a national inspection service that hires brokers unseen and uncertified.

    MODERATOR

  • I'm sorry Mr. Siftright but you are quite wrong. At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, you really shoud try them before passing judgement. As I said before I can only attest to my experience, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them whole heartedly.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    edited August 2010
    I wouldn't professionally recommend this *type* of inspection service to potential buyers of exotic or vintage foreign cars. It's not about so-and-so company, it's about the "type" of inspection service, of which the one you mentioned is just one--so I'm not singling them out, believe me. No brokered inspection service in this price range is probably qualified, IMPO. I do know what it takes to do this type of work on exotics and specialty foreign or rare muscle cars, and $350 can't do it adequately. No way, especially when the brokered agent and the national service are splitting the fee.

    So I'm not attacking your favorite service. I'm offering skepticism that this type of low-end service can do Ferraris and the like. I think this is a reasonable objection.

    MODERATOR

  • Hi Jeff the Chef......

    I read your response with interest. No, its not "sour grapes" at all. I am not a dealer but a Rolls-Royce enthusiast and so whether this particular buyer bought the car or not, does not particularly phase me. What concerns me is that companies like Autombile Inspections claim themselves to be experts and they are far from it. And, so what happens, no-one gets the benefit of their inspection other than teh inpection company. Its like putting 2 useless lawyers on a case. Who are teh only winners?

    Personally, I do not need to inspect any Rolls-Royce. I can tell entirely on my own but then, I AM AN EXPERT. That is my very point.

    I only allowed the buyer to have an inspection becuase he said he wanted to check "the basics" and thats what I thought there would be. Not a detailed review by an inexperienced bafoon who had no idea (amongst several other things) that Rolls-Royces had brake pumps and thought the cold start pumping sound from these were worn lifters/cam-shaft. Then when I had to explain, he wanted to argue with me. Fortunately, in my case I have a show display engine mounted on a stand in my workshop and all the Rolls-Royce manuals at my disposal so I could explain to him what was "normal" and what was not. Only then, did he swallow his words but I am sure by that stage, I had "put his nose out of joint".

    The bottom line is what someone mentioned in a post in this thread after yours. NO inspection company like this has the qualifications for classic and exotic cars and they simply should not promote themselves as such. They should stick to the domestic regular stuff because thats what they can do best. But dont tackle a task that you are entirely incapable of and then try to pretend you are!
  • I guess "Shiftright" has captured it correctly. It's probably not about one company or the other but about them all generally. They are simply not qualified to cover such cars. I guess my complaint then really boils down to; "why do they pretend to?" It gives no one a benefit and surely does not help the inpsection company in the long run either.

    For all those out there that need a Rolls-Royce inspected. Please give me a call!
  • omarmanomarman Posts: 696
    edited August 2010
    "It doesn't matter if the car is a Mustang or a Maserati. The only difference that comes into play is the cost of labor and materials to put it right."

    Hahaha! You've missed the point in every way it's been served to ya Chef! It's a waste of time and money to have an exotic car inspected by any other party than an experienced shop or qualified expert.

    This is not an attack on your most-favored, online-car-appraising-guruDOTcom. ;)

    Edited to add: [insert winking Emotorcon here] Lately they don't show up when I post. hmmm.
  • Hi Jeff..... You are correct. But, remember, I am speaking from the persepctive of the seller. The seller has "no say" in the inspection. If I am more qualified than the inspector and I have to try to teach him whilst doing the inspection which will most likely "offend" the actual inspector, what is the point??!!

    The very reason of me posting my comments is so that buyers recognise that these inspections are only a little more than a guide and perhaps they should consider alternative methods for "inspections".

    I certainly would not use one. I tend to think; if you are the type of person that needs to look at a car, go look at it yourself. I am not such a person - many photos from the seller will do, and a good conversation on the car will usually uncover all. You can usually tell by talking when a seller is "hiding something" as he will be nebulous with his answers.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,552
    edited August 2010
    I think you are missing the point here. A Ferrari engine that needs work is a $30,000 to $60,000 dollar repair. Some Ferraris require engine-out periodic services that must be verified by log books. A Mercedes 560SL engine is $18,000, a Porsche Boxster $15,000 on up. A cracked front bumper on a Ferrari is $4000, a windshield on a Maserati perhaps $3000 on up. An automatic transmission on a newer Mini Cooper is $6800, and the symptoms for defects are quite subtle. The wrong engine # on a big block Mopar is a $10,000--$30,000 hit or more, and all Mercedes 230--280SLs have number coded body panels that must be correct, and must not have passenger car 280 cylinder heads retro-fitted.

    I don't see how Hank the Chevy man is going to know anything about all this.

    If you want a Ford F-150 inspected, then fine, any intelligent person with a pair of eyes can do it.

    MODERATOR

  • Well you all have a point but there are a couple of issues. One, Ferrari Dealers will NOT do pre-purchase inspections on cars that didn't come from their facility and are likely to be biased about those that did. Two, even if you did find one that would, what exactly do you expect the mechanic to do? Start the engine, check oil pressure, listen for mis-fire or odd noises, check for smoke from the exhaust, possibly dump the codes, maybe a compression check on an older car and then test-drive to check the clutch, brakes cooling system etc. and to see how it performs on the street. The bottom line is he can only tell you how the car is on that day, he cannot tell you if it will throw a piston in 3 months without opening the motor up. Expert or not. He may have an edge by being aware of known issues with that particular model, but that information is typically available to a diligent buyer who researches on the internet. The key is to review the service/maintenance records as these will give you the best indication of the engines condition and potential short terms costs.
    All of this can be done by a savvy buyer and a field inspector. Furthermore, what do you expect a mechanic to tell you about if the car was hit and fixed? Do you expect him to know how to check paint for blend or tape lines, factory chassis welds for repairs or other signs the car was taken to the track? I suppose in an ideal world you'd have the body and frame checked out by one person and the engine and mechanicals by another. From my perspective I believe that if you do your homework and have an unbiased knowledgeable individual inspect the car and document how it performs and looks, you are doing as much as you can to manage the risks involved in a long-distance purchase.
  • You keep making 'THE POINT" in your own answers! Yes, IF the inspector evaluates the car on the day, then that is fine. But Automobile Iinspections (at least) DO NOT! They make assessments and draw incorrect conclusions on what they see/hear on issues they dont understand and so should refrain from doing so.

    You can't "look" at a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and say that because you hear a tapping sound on start-up, that it is noisy valve gear/lifters. This is drawing an INCORRECT conclusion and is NOT an observation - it is drawing an "inference" based on knowledge of OTHER cars and not knowing a Rolls-Royce (Silver Shadows do not have a brake master cylinder but 2 brake pumps that are driven from the camshaft which make a "tap-tap-tap" noise when cold and on low pressure start-up). You cant "sound-test" the body panels for bondo as this too is "drawing an inference" and NOT an OBSERVATION (Rolls-Royce hoods, trunk and doors are aluminum so "sound" different"). Automobile Inspections LLC did this. Must I keep going on? I am an expert only because I have spent 25 years with Rolls-Royce and even then, I only claim to be an expert on 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s Rolls-Royce. Becuase I have considerable knowledge of these I dont claim to be an expert on a 1950s Wraith, for example. In fact I only know them in a cursory sense. However, Automobile Inspections say; "we know cars so we must know all of them".... How crazy is that?

    When you make the comment; "do you expect a mechanic to tell you about if the car was hit and fixed? Do you expect him to know how to check paint for blend or tape lines, factory chassis welds for repairs or other signs the car was taken to the track?".... I absolutely agree! So they should try to! Automobile Inspections LLC, claim they can on Rolls-Royce! They cannot and do NOT know Rolls-Royce.

    All in all said, if they did just a "general" inspection without drawing inexperienced conclusions they would be ok. But no, they want to prove "how clever" they are which only ends up proving how incompetent they are - no one wins.

    I hope they read this thread.
  • You are re-inforcing my point once again. A lot of Rolls-Royce buyers, for instance, do not know what to look for and whereas I understand that should be the basis for an inspection, they should not be MISLEAD by inspectors who are not in the know. Referring to my comments in my most recent previous post, if an inspector was to report to a potential buyer that a Rolls-Royce has noisy valve gear (which surely suggests it is worn), the buyer will most likely not buy the car or wish to pay significantly less. And yet, the reality is, there is nothing wrong with the valve gear.

    So, the conundrum is; does the inspector NOT mention something he is not experienced in - probably not. But if he makes comment on something he has no idea about, that very clearly says he should not be inspecting that make of car to start with. In the legal system, I think that is referred to as a "non credible witness". And, as verdicts should be drawn "beyond reasonable doubt" THAT witness's testimony should be EXCLUDED.

    The prosecution rests.
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