Value of an Inspection

June 28th, 2007 by Will Thompson

I spend a lot of time surfing various sites on the ‘net like Ebaymotors.com, Autotrader.com, Craigslist.org, local site AreaCars.com, and a bunch of others. Generally I’m checking out cars for sale. One thing that has always kept me from buying a car completely unseen is the idea that I’ve never actually seen the car. The person selling the car has the upper hand, because they know the condition of the car, and I’m usually a few thousand miles away drooling at a car that I can’t actually examine myself. Add to that the fact that, at least on eBay, you get in trouble if you win the bid on a car and don’t actually buy it.

Since I’m a web programmer to make money and a car guy to spend it, I thought maybe there has to be a way to get around this fear. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who is a bit apprehensive about buying a car site unseen. Businesses like Auto2auto.com only sell cars online - no showrooms at all.

As it turns out, you can get a vehicle inspected by a couple of places. Auto2auto.com used to use Pep Boys for inspections, but apparently Pep Boys doesn’t offer that service any longer. The other option is a vehicle inspection service, like Inspection Solution.

Inspection Solution offers a fairly comprehensive vehicle inspection with a detailed report and pictures for about $100. Not a bad price to pay for peace of mind. I actually see this becoming a very useful thing for people selling cars online. I mean, for $100 you give people looking to buy your car an unbiased opinion of the car’s condition. That might just be the bit that makes your Accord a bit nicer than the next Accord in the search results.

The good:

  • A novel concept
  • The unbiased opinion of a professional
  • Ability to post a link to inspection report online - especially good for online sellers
  • Friendly customer service (I snuck a call - don’t tell anyone)

The could-be-better:

  • Limited geographical coverage means you might not be able to schedule an inspection
  • Only vehicles 10 years old and newer are eligilble
  • Due to liability concerns, the inspector cannot actually test drive the vehicle
  • You’re buying an opinion, not a warranty or guarantee

Overall, not a bad deal for peace of mind on the second-biggest purchase in most people’s lives.

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