Pre-Purchase Inspections — Not Just For Houses
If a car is being sold with a safety certificate (certified), should you still have it inspected by a mechanic before buying?
Yes, at least according to Alan Gelman, co-host of Dave’s Corner Garage on AM740. “Too many consumers think a Safety Certificate is a guarantee that there’s nothing wrong with the car. It isn’t!” In fact, a safety certification only means the vehicle met certain basic standards of safety on the date of inspection.
According to Gelman, many of these standards haven’t been updated in decades and don’t include the inspection of important safety systems.
“Airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes — these are features that people rely upon and take for granted — but they’re not included in a safety inspection.”
A pre-purchase inspection may help spot other problems too: oil or transmission leaks, structural corrosion, undisclosed accident repairs. “We had one lady bring us a Nissan Pathfinder she was considering purchasing. It looked great from a distance but the fresh paint was a give-away — it was a zipper car.”
Zipper cars are created by welding together the front and back ends of two different salvage vehicles. “She was very fortunate she got a prepurchase inspection and could walk away from the deal.”
“Bulbectomy’s” are another concern most consumers wouldn’t even know to look for. “We’ve had vehicles come in for inspection that were missing airbags or had engine problems — but the warning lights weren’t illuminated in the dash. Why? The bulbs had been removed — a bulbectomy.”
Gelman believes the bulbs were removed to hide serious problems from the purchaser. A pre-purchase inspection should include ensuring all warning lights are in working order.
But not all pre-purchase inspections end with dramatic findings; in many cases they simply uncover needed repairs due to normal wear and tear. “Often the seller doesn’t even know about the problem.” This gives the potential buyer and seller an opportunity to address any issues — sometimes resulting in a price change or the seller conducting the repairs as part of the purchase agreement.
Depending on the vehicle, pre-purchase inspections usually take about an hour, are available from many general repair facilities or specialized inspection companies and cost approximately $100. According to Gelman, a proper pre-purchase inspection must include a road test to check the function of the transmission, suspension and steering.
Clearly, a pre-purchase inspection is vitally important for anyone purchasing a vehicle privately as private purchasers are not protected by Ontario’s consumer protection laws or OMVIC (Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator) and have little recourse (other than the courts) should something go wrong.
However Gelman also suggests consumers buying from a registered dealer consider a pre-purchase inspection, particularly if the vehicle is out of warranty.
“This is a way to spot accident repairs that don’t show up on a history report.”
According to Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications and Education for OMVIC, a thorough pre-purchase inspection is a critical step on the road to buying a car. “Just because a vehicle passes a safety inspection doesn’t mean it won’t require hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs within weeks or months of the purchase.”
A smart consumer will want to guard against those potential costs, or at least be aware of them, before turning over their hard earned cash.
To learn more about OMVIC’s Complaints and Inquiries Team Visit www.omvic.on.ca. or call 1-800-943-6002 x 5105.