You’ve made the decision to buy a car and for one reason or another you’ve decided to purchase used rather than new (Maybe the horrific first year’s depreciation and sales tax adding up to $25k+ bothers you a little?). In Arizona and a few other states, all private party vehicle purchases are sales tax exempt so buying a used car from an individual is very tempting. Whether you buy from a dealer or private party, it is imperative that you protect yourself, even if the car is still under warranty. The PPI page on our website goes into more detail as to what we check but here are a few other thoughts.
One of the most significant concerns when looking at a car that’s still under factory warranty or not, is whether it’s been involved in an accident. Although using Carfax and other reporting agencies is a prudent step, they are not foolproof. There is always a lag between the time an insurance company pays out for a claim and when it finally reaches the report- sometimes up to 12 months. Also, in this culture of giant deductibles, it’s possible that a repair was paid out of pocket and not through insurance. In these cases there may be no record of paint or body work.
Our PPI includes inspection of paint finish and whether there is evidence of collision damage. Rule of thumb is that if someone can tell that it’s been to a body shop, then it’s probably going to affect value (but not necessarily performance). It is amazing to see how many one, two, and three year old cars still under warranty, have had body damage or paint work. (Just visit any high end body shop- recently I saw a new Ferrari 458 Italia with the left door and rear quarter wiped out. It had 100 miles on the odometer!) This is obviously a double-edged sword as unfortunate things happen and when it’s time for us to sell our cars we certainly don’t want to take a bath just because we had our front bumper re-sprayed because of stone chips.
Besides body and interior esthetics we also look at evidence as to how the car has been driven. It is not unusual to find newer Porsches that show over revs in the computer (Probably from a missed shift or early downshift). Going beyond the redline 200-400 RPM (or more!) takes a toll on the engine and could adversely affect long term service. Again, even on a car that’s under factory warranty, you want to be careful that it hasn’t been abused. Our Autologic and Porsche software diagnostic test equipment enables us to track hours, misfires, mileage, and other significant events that happen in the life of Porsches, BMW’s, and Mini’s.
While it is extremely difficult to manipulate odometer readings on most late model vehicles, this is not the case for older cars. One model that we are especially sensitive to is the Porsche 993. These cars have enjoyed some very good appreciation over the last few years and we’re finding more and more anomalies with the mileage readings. We had a situation recently where a buyer had a 993 sent over from a North Scottsdale dealer for a PPI. Upon removing the speedo and verifying that the date stamp matched up with vehicle production date, we noticed that the bezel had been removed and reinstalled (poorly). That in itself is not a huge concern as these vehicles are notorious for breaking the plastic odometer drive gear. But if a speedometer has been worked on there should be proper documentation to go along with it. A proper paper trail is important to verify that there are no holes in the history and the mileage stated is accurate.
Note: The buyer in the above mentioned situation didn’t purchase the car because the dealer couldn’t/wouldn’t provide proper history. The sales manager stated that they knew nothing about the speedometer. (Later on we found out that they not only knew, they were the ones that sent it out for repair!) Again, it’s not unusual for odometer repair; just make sure it’s properly recorded in the history.
Speaking of 993’s… I’ve got to get this one off my chest: Over the last 3-4 years, this model has appreciated significantly (much like the pre-’74 911 models). One of the reasons for this is the fact that many enthusiasts and collectors understand the value of the last bullet proof air-cooled engine (once a top end rebuild has been done!), A/C that works, great drivability, and other criteria that pigeon-holes them squarely into the collector car category. Because enthusiasts and collectors generally take better care of their cars than the average owner, overall these cars are better cars than they used to be. What steams my beans is when a seller tries to take advantage of this increased model appreciation but hasn’t kept the car maintained, and significant repairs are needed. A top notch 993 should command top dollar but a sub standard car that has been abused and neglected should be priced accordingly. One can’t have their cake and eat it too. A seller can’t expect to get $30k for a car that needs $20k worthe of work when a pristine example sells for $40k.
For almost four decades Beck’s European has been delivering objective and accurate pre purchase inspections- to the point where some local dealers would rather steer you somewhere else. If a dealer won’t allow you to have a professional inspection done by the company of your choice, prior to purchasing… Run! As the buyer, you have every right to contract with a legitimate professional to properly evaluate and determine value. You might hear comments like “We’ve had bad experiences with them and won’t send our cars over there”. The reality is that they didn’t sell a car because of a bad report and they weren’t willing to remedy the situation. They would rather attack the messenger instead of taking responsibility for their problems and see to their customer’s best interest.
The other prevailing attitude that we encounter is the “it’s not a new car; it’s going to have problems” syndrome. The moment we start to “grade on a curve” because of a car’s age, is the moment where customers start questioning our integrity. We have one standard: “New or better than new (restored collector cars)”. Whether or not it’s new or used, 200 miles or 200,000 miles, our standard is consistent. Using this method there is no confusion; we simply leave room for discernment and objectivity by the buyer. A customer pays us to use our experience and expertise to report the facts. We don’t use a sliding scale and we don’t show favoritism toward sellers. Every vehicle should stand on its own merits and a comprehensive inspection should reflect that. Imagine if we used a “sliding scale” on a ’73 911RS? If we gave allowances for deficiencies just because the car is 40 years old, how would one know the difference between a $150,000 car and a $300,000 car?