They can be useful if you don't know how to appraise a car and its documentation. They usually include an HPI CHECK for outstanding finance or insurance repair history in the price. The AA and RAC use different assessors so it really depends on the quality of the guy who inspects it. Normally they will telephone an immediate verbal report after their inspection followed by a written one. NOTE:- They offer no guarantee if subsequent faults turn up after the sale which they didn't notice but if they pick up anything before the sale the report can be a useful bargaining tool when finalising any deal.
Officially they won't tell you "buy it" or "don't buy it" or whether its the correct price- you have to make up your mind yourself. Some folks think they are a waste of money others they are a good idea. What they can do is offer a methodical check list of things you yourself might miss during the excitement of an imminent purchase where you might not be thinking straight.
A better bet might be a detailed engineer's report from a specialist in the marque you are interested in . These don't normally come cheap but again might be worth it if you are buying something rare/expensive. As the saying goes ---" You pays your money and you takes your choice! "
Just a quick 'by the way' - I know this isn't a complete inspection referring to your question, but for a quick check on number of owners, colour changes, stolen, write-offs, etc. you can text the Reg. of the vehicle to: 83600 And they will answer with a quick report. I've used it, seems to work ok.
Smart, S320 and C180 with 3-pointed stars amongst others
I think the reports are a valid tool... but it depends on the vehicles value.
I wouldn't get a check carried out on a sub £2,000 car - but I probably would for anything over £5,000. In between would be a grey area for me.
As mentioned before, they are nothing more than a long checklist, and can be a great barganing tool; but more importantly (for me at least) they allow you to sit down once you're home and go over all the positives and negatives with a straight head and think about it without forgetting pieces...
I have had a number of cars inspected over the years. I certainly found it a useful way of learning what to look for myself in a car. As a result, I have not used one for some years because I tend to think that something like an AA inspection would not tell me a great deal more than I could work out for myself. Although, I still might not spot well-repaired accident damage, which they might.
I have used three types of inspection. AA, independent company, and MB indie. The advantage of AA/RAC over the other two is that the location of the car does not matter. Your local MB indie will probably check out a car locally for you if you are a regular customer, but they understandably won't want to travel. An independent vehicle inspection company will probably give you more scope by working in a particular radius, but will again have some limitation.
A general problem with inspections is that you may have to wait a little while. Most dealers will not be bothered about this. Private sellers may well be more variable. I found this mainly an issue with the AA, whose services I have used three times. On each occasion, the wait was 10-14 days. Some private sellers will be fine about this, particularly if they are not getting a lot of interest in their car, but others may take the attitude that if they get another offer in the meantime, they will take it. But, better to let a good one go than buy a dud.
I think the pros and cons of each are roughly:
AA/RAC. I have used the AA vehicle inspeciton service three times. They will inspect a car anywhere in the country. Do a fairly comprehensive job, and will identify any major faults.
But there are a number of downsides. First, the service is only available to members. In my experience, there is an unacceptably long wait for the inspection. Most expensive option, by quite a long way. Last time I used the service, the AA had two different inspections, both of which gave you a report after 3-4 days. However, it was only the more expensive option which included the immediate telephone summary, which is what you really want. I don't know the current price (it was over £200 when I last used them some years ago), so I doubt it will represent good value for money. Of the cars I had inspected, I bought two (a Ford Orion and a Honda Civic) and decided against buying one (a 190E). I would probably trust an AA inspection for something fairly standard, but not for something more specialised.
Independent company. I don't know how many of these there are around now, but I used a company called Cade Vehicle Inspections who covered the London area. They were a lot cheaper and quicker than the AA, and covered roughly the same points, and probably just copied their format for both the inspection and the report. They were also quite happy to say things off the record, such whether they knew the dealer, and warn me off them. I used their services twice, and decided against purchasing either car.
MB indie. If you are looking at buying a used Merc, particularly one of the less common ones, I think this is your best bet. They will probably be quite happy to do this if you are a regular customer, but worth asking even if you are not. They will probably be happier if the car is brought to them, partly because its less trouble for them, but also because they can get it up on the ramp and have a really good look at it. I suspect this would be a cheaper option than the other two, and may even do it for nothing if the car is bought to them, and they will continue to get your business should you buy the car. Even if you are not buying locally, you may be able to find a decent indie (possibly via this forum) near to where you are buying the car, and arrange an inspection. You will probably get instant feedback, but no written report. Depends on what you want.
i got one done for a previous car (mondeo when it was 2 years old). He came back with a few issues that the dealer rectified without problem.
The AA guy advised not to buy and try something else. I liked it myself, so aware all niggles were getting sorted, i purchased anyway.
turned out to be one of the best, most reliable cars i ever had.
good if you have no idea what you are looking at, but i reckon if you understand the basics then you'll be fine checking over yourself.
depending on vehicle, and age, it may be worth getting them to check it over on a laptop, but i am not sure what they can tell from that. What could the AA guy tell from a W220 S class using standard diagnostics - nothing.
E320 CDI (Retired) - Now driving R Class 2009 Sport
Does anyone know of an inspection company in Nottingham area (or national) who will check a Merc for me AND DO DIAGNOSTICS fault check? AA/RAC don't do diags, but i want the faults read as thats by far the most costly side of things in my experience. I can look at the car physically, but can't check for faults. Any ideas?
2008 CLK 350 Sport Cab, 2019 Audi A6 Avant 40 TDi S-Line
Agree with the above post - get an iCarSoft and run the diagnostics yourself. I've got one and it will tell you everything you need to know about any fault codes etc which may be lurking. I used to pay for an AA inspection but gave up as they are largely useless and anyone can check the basics.
Here is my mental checklist:
(1) Use the DVLA / gov website to download the MOT history (if over three years old) and check that looks fine. Check for gaps or odd mileage history.
(2) Run an HPI check to ensure no crashes or stolen/recovered (costs about £5 and can be done before you view the car)
(3) Read the Service History thoroughly and check that everything has been done correctly
(4) check all four tyres for wear and matching / brand etc
(5) check that interior "wear" tallies with mileage
(6) cross check the VIN to the V5 and if possible - plug the VIN into one of the many free web applications and check it matches your car
(7) check under boot carpet for signs of damage repair
(8) check under bonnet, around front wings for sign of repair
(9) check inside door returns for existence factory-fit stickers (will indicate if car has had paint work done)
(10) check alloys carefully for damage
(11) Get on your hands and knees and look down the side of the car both sides - is it arrow straight or is it full of ripples and dents (which would indicate damage repair). Then check panel gaps all around the car. Are they even (they should be).
(12) Finally methodically check all the gadgets and gizmos - do they all work as they should, is the air con cold, does the nav system work?
(13) Check all handbooks, spare keys and the like are present and correct, including locking wheel nut key
Finally, take it for a drive and try the autobox in all modes. Check for smooth changes and make sure it works in tiptronic mode if fitted. At the end of the drive, test parking sensors front and rear if fitted. Listen to engine with bonnet up - any belts slipping? Check under oil filler cap for any residue.
If all of that checks out, and it drives as it should (doesn't pull one way or the other - including under braking), I'd consider it OK.
That's always been my approach to buying used cars and thus far I've never had an issue with a purchase (but have rejected MANY cars which I have viewed for failing some of the above).
There's only one thing I'd be careful of in that list, and that's the interior condition. High-end cars tend to have good-quality interiors, and the seats may well show little sign of wear. My 135k miles E320 CDI shows no more sign of wear than did my E350 petrol at 90K miles, and neither did the 175K miles E320 I had a while ago.
2008 CLK 350 Sport Cab, 2019 Audi A6 Avant 40 TDi S-Line
When buying my CLK (which was 6 years old at the time) I looked at loads, some of them in well-regarded specialists and dealers. So many of them were truly awful or had some glaring issue which made me run a mile.
The most common issues I found were poorly repaired bodywork, missing paperwork or history, interior damage (lots of torn seats) and electrical gubbins not working.
You begin to question whether any of the cars out there are any good, and then you stumble on a gem. My 2008 CLK was just like it left the factory. I had to drive 120 miles to view it, but it was worth the search.
What you are looking for is that one car which checks out properly and just "feels" genuine. I've developed a sixth sense over the years and can usually tell almost immediately if it is "the one" even before checking everything thoroughly.
Gut feel is another key thing - if the seller can't answer your questions or something doesn't feel quite right, just walk away.
PS - if anyone wants to borrow my iCarSoft, PM me (I'm in Hampshire and happy to lend it to a forum member if they want to check a car out).
E320 CDI (Retired) - Now driving R Class 2009 Sport
Eddy, what a very generous offer thank you very much. I doubt it will be of use to me as I am looking at entire UK for a car, but very kind of you and will let you know if I find something near you, thanks again, perfect example of why there is still a big place for forums for like-minded people!
I know exactly what you mean regarding gut feel. I am more focussed on gut feel about the seller than the car at this point, as that comes before i even look at a car. I am in the dregs of cornwall, so I have to drive 15-200 miles just to get anywhere near half decent cars, just not enough people where I live (which is nice in its own way too!). I could write a book about my experiences with dealers over the last 10-15 years. I almost walked into a trap with a network of sikh car criminals in Birmingham, long story but i dodged a scary situation there. they ran garages where they over charged for repairs, if you objected you were threatened, if you didn't pay they kept the car. watchdog did something on them and they were all potted in the end. i dealt with a nice dealer in Bristol, kind and decent people, but hadn't checked the incoming car properly and i nearly paid the price. got a refund there so can't fault them. Various similar experiences have given me that gut feeling you mention. I am currently looking at a car but my guts are twitching about the trader (not even a dealer). however the car could be genuine. Amazingly, I rang a Merc indie near to the car's location and after a nice chat they said they would happily go and see the car for me, run diags, and look it over from a buying perspective. I held my breath as i asked for a price, they said "one to two hours labour"! Fantastic! Still not sure about the dealer but there is a slight language barrier so I am trying to put some of it down to that, even though my guts say otherwise still. One thing I have learned is, sometimes even if a dealer is a sheister, the CAR itself may be perfect. Sheister dealers still deal with people, and if a decent person trades in a decent merc, it's feasible that the dealer could have a lovely car on their hands and i could be the next owner. I just write off any aftersales from a dealer who gives me the twitch!