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Inspect That Used Car Before Buying!
Edmunds.com Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,315
edited January 2016 in General
Inspect That Used Car Before Buying!
Getting an inspection report from a mechanic or mobile service is essential before you buy a used car.
1. AIM does not guarantee a comprehensive test and that I should not rely solely on their test to make a purchasing decision
2. Driving a car in reverse while turning the steering (that is, not straight) is not part of their 150-point inspection so they do not think that it is the inspectors mistake (!?)
3. The extra $280 that I paid for the 6months/6000miles guarantee is useless since that warranty only covers engine (??)
4. I asked to speak with a supervisor and I was told this was already discussed with AIM's VP's and this was their recommendation - no refund, no warranty service and absolutely no assistance for me to get this issue resolved!
I have filed a complaint with BBB but I thought consumers need to be wary when using an inspection company. Please read the fine print and don't rely 100% on the report. Also don't bother paying extra for more assurance, just get the basic report if at all. And ALWAYS test drive the car (even if it's a 1000 miles away) before purchasing it - do NOT rely on the inspection report alone.
- AIM's inspectors are not qualified mechanics or technicians
- Most of their work is in identifying cosmetic issues, taking pictures and identifying any issues during test drive that you yourself might notice with your own untrained eyes.
- They are 'only YOUR eyes and ears'. So the report should not be used as a third party validation of the car and should not be your sole purchase decision
- The 'certified' test and resulting guarantee certificate only covers engine and transmission.
Here's my advice:
- Get the basic inspection + Autocheck (similar to CarFax) report
- Don't bother with the 'Titan Certified' tests if the car you're purchasing is still under power train warranty
- Always test drive the car yourself if you still like it after seeing the inspection report and before paying the seller
- Consider getting a certified technician/mechanic to look at the car if it's no longer under any type of warranty and is one of those cars that can have expensive repairs
- This is especially important if you're buying a car out of state based on an inspection report alone, followed by a delivery to your home without every seeing or driving the car. I guess it's ok if the car is still under bumper-to-bumper warranty. In that case, only the cosmetic issues and wear-and-tear matter (which btw is covered extensively in the AIM report)
I hope this helps others make the right choice when looking for a professional inspection service. Based on my experience, I think I would still recommend the AIM base service and will probably use it again myself if the other major inspection service (SGS) is no better in terms of coverage.
Used vehicles are so complex that most Automotive Technicians are ASE Certified in just a few of the 8 general automotive areas. A complete PPI needs all 8 areas inspected. Only an ASE Master Technician is certified on all 8 mechanical and electrical automotive areas. In addition, a PPI needs a Body & Frame Specialist to detect any previous accident and/or frame damage and the quality of any repairs.
A professional pre-purchase inspection by an ASE Master Technician and Frame Specialist is the most important part of the used car buying process. You cannot negotiate your best price until you determine the TRUE condition of the vehicle.
Make sure the technician performing the PPI is ASE Master Certified and a Frame Specialists.
Since dealers generally don't have to report repairs made to fix damaged brand new cars, I'm beginning to wonder if an independent inspection isn't a bad idea there either.
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They find oil leaks that aren't there. They recommend brake replacement when there is 50% pad remaining.
I guess they have to justify the prices they charge or something?
Inspections should include a test drive, too. There's plenty of problems that don't show up on a lift but manifest themselves clearly on the test drive, like bad noises, bad behavior, etc.
The tech drove the car and did not find any vibration according to his report. He also noted that there were some scratches consistent with age specifically that there were some scratches under the front bumper that you needed to bend down to see.
Based on the report I drove down to see the car (7 hours). When I got there the car looked good, but, there were a number of visible scratches on the front bumper and you didn't need to bend down to see them. I was ok with that but it would have been nice to have the pictures of this so that I could have made the decision before driving down.
Driving the car I found that there was vibration during acceleration. It was a bit worse than what I had seen but given the clean bill of health I got from Lemon Squad I decided to take the car.
When I brought it home I had a nagging feeling that something was not quite right. So, I brought the car into a local mechanic. He found the following:
1. The top engine mount was leaking hydraulic fluid and needed to be replaced.
2. A control arm bushing was torn and a ball joint needed to be replaced (you replace them in pairs - right and left typically).
3. The CV joints had been replaced with aftermarket units and they were out of balance causing the vibration - this is a manufacturing issue.
4. The timing belt needed to be replaced along with the serpentine belt. The timing belt on the purchased needs to be replaced at 105K or after 10 years (car is 13 years old).
The response from Lemon Squad was less than helpful. You have 2 weeks to refute the report and it did take some time to get the car over to the local mechanic (about 3 weeks for me - didn't do it right away because I had just paid 200 dollars to Lemon Squad so I was hesitant to spend more money.
The summary of their response was:
1. They can only report what they find at the time of the report (all of these things were issues at that time).
2. I waited too long to contact them - again, I spent 200 dollars so I was hesitant to spend more money on an additional inspection.
3. They can't lift the car so they can't find some things - but, they are supposed to get around the fact that they can't lift the car by using mirrors to inspect the underside of the car. Control arm bushing was torn and visible, engine mount was on top of the engine and visible - should have found these things.
4. Said no vibration when driven - not possible. The issue is a manufacturing defect (CVs were out of balance - too long or short). It is not something that comes and goes. A skilled mechanic would be able to identify/diagnose the issue. The local mechanic called this out immediately.
5. It would have been nice to know that the timing belt replacement was due. This is a common replacement item on many cars but the schedule differs (so at 90k, some at 100K+ some have a time component as well).
In any event, they give themselves plenty of wiggle room to take absolutely no responsibility. If you need assistance with a car I couldn't recommend them any less...
Responses from Lemon Squad - this is what you can expect
We do our best to catch all the scratches, but we can't get them all.
I checked with the inspector about your concerns and if you refer to the sample report, we didn't have access to a lift with this seller. Some items aren't able to be assessed unless you have a compete look underneath the vehicle. The inspector did report on the condition of the vehicle when he was there, and gave you his report, on items that we are able to check on the pre-purchase inspection.
The inspector reported that during the road test the driver (wife), drove slow, and up to 80 mph, and the vehicle didn't have any issues with vibrations, noises, clunking, shaking to indicate that there were any issues with this vehicle. Tire wear was even, ride was smooth, nothing to show an issue.
We have also talked with the inspector, he states the issues you are having did not present themselves for him on the day of the inspection. We can only report on things that are acting up while we are there with the vehicle. Remember, we are not a warranty company. We do not fix, work or disassemble cars. Things can fail after we leave the vehicle. Some issues can even be intermittent.
All in all I had a 2800 dollar repair bill on a car that had been given a clean bill of health.