Truth of Vehicle Inspection Services in the UK
AA Car Inspection or ClickMechanic?
Which independent car inspections service would I buy?
But first, do you really need to buy a vehicle inspection? Let’s find out…
Do you answer yes to any of the four questions below?
If you do then a vehicle inspection service is going to help you safeguard your money and make a wise purchase:
Click here to visit ClickMechanic
If a car’s paintwork is in perfect condition and the car looks almost brand new are you far more likely to buy that vehicle? (Based on a car that’s at least 40,000 miles)
Yes or No?
A used car should be showing signs of wear and tear, have the odd stone chip, scuff, and curbed alloy wheel, worn seat lumbar or other age bearing scratches.
These flaws demonstrate the car as being the genuine article because the vehicle is showing signs of wear.
Exterior and interior defects signal the car hasn’t been repainted, suffered accidents and been repaired, and that the car isn’t carrying some kind of mileage discrepancy.
This means that a car that’s covered considerable mileage but has paintwork that looks practically brand new may:
- Have repainted panels to cover up stone chips and scratches
- Have replacement panels such as doors, wings, bonnets, bumpers and seals
Nobody wants to spend their hard earned cash on a used vehicle that’s had accident repairs. Unusually bright and shiny paintwork is a warning sign. Also, remember that a car history check (such as an HPI check) cannot tell you about every accident a car may have suffered.
Do you pay little or no attention to the sound of the engine, especially when cold?
Yes or No?
Buying a car without listening to the engine from cold is a huge risk, even on low mileage cars that can inherit mechanical problems as easily as aged and higher mileage vehicles.
If you don’t listen to the engine because you’re unsure what a good engine sounds like, compared to a defected one, a car inspection service can be very helpful.
Will you buy a car without test driving it? Or will you take a test drive but only spend a few minutes doing so?
Yes or No?
A used car may drive perfectly for five minutes along an A road, but what about at speed along a dual carriageway or down twisty, bumpy roads?
Test drives must be at least twenty minutes long and the car should be driven both gently and under stress, testing the brakes, transmission, steering, suspension and engine performance.
Would you still buy the car if you heard unusual noises from the suspension or juddering breaks when the car warmed up?
Ineffective test drives cost car buyers hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds year on year.
Do you glance at a car’s documentation without thoroughly investigating that the car has been consistently serviced throughout its life?
Yes or No?
Checking the expiry date of a MOT or only taking note of when the car was last serviced is not a sufficient way to safeguard your money.
Car docs give you vital information about how the car has been looked after, if the car is genuine, and what money you may have to spend on it in the coming twelve months.
Therefore going through all of the car’s paperwork with a fine tooth comb can potentially save you stacks of cash, heartache and inconvenience.
So, have you answered yes to any of my four questions?
It’s very easy for me to tell you what you need to be doing. But if you have little or no experience in determining a quality car from a poor one you may feel resigned to taking a risk with your money and hoping for the best.
77% of car buyers answered yes to at least one of the questions I have asked, and admit feeling as though there are taking a risk when buying a used car. Perhaps more surprising is that the cost of the car doesn’t make much of a difference.
Whether the car is £2,000 or £20,000, the attention to detail is about the same.
This is why car vehicle inspection services are so valuable for car buyers that lack confidence in making an informed used car purchase.
With all of this information to hand, I decided to put together this free guide that runs through the pros and cons of two leading vehicle inspection providers.
AA Car Inspections & ClickMechanic Pre- Purchase Inspections
But before we go any further I have one final question I’d like you to answer…
“Are you prepared to spend between £73.60 and £105.60 to find out that you should NOT buy a car you are interested in?”
Yes or No?
If you’re not prepared to do this I’d suggest this guide isn’t suitable for you.
But common sense says that if you AVOID buying a used car that is likely to cost you a lot of money in repair bills, a significant amount of money (and time) has been saved!
So a small upfront cash investment is both legitimate and necessary for those that feel any kind of uncertainty about buying a used motor.
After all, you would never buy a house without having it surveyed first, and a car purchase is really not so different.
My Experience with ClickMechanic Pre-Purchase Inspections
ClickMechanic was founded in 2012 so they’re a relatively young company. Their first service is mobile mechanics. You simply book a local mechanic online and let them repair your car at your office or home. This service revolutionised the used car repair sector in the UK and has thrust ClickMechanic into one of the industry’s leading car servicing providers.
Soon after, ClickMechanic launched their pre-purchase inspection service which allows you to pay a nominal fee (between £73.60 and £105.60) to have a local, fully vetted and qualified mechanic come and inspect the car that you’re thinking of buying.
The key benefits of ClickMechanic Pre-Inspections:
- They’re around 40% less expensive than AA Vehicle Inspection and RAC Car Inspection.
In fact, the quote you receive is relative to the area in which you live. This is a key point because if the inspected car is flawed and you’re advised to NOT buy it you have spent significantly less that you would with the AA or RAC.
- The cheapest ClickMechanic inspection is £73.60 and the most expensive is £105.60
- A simple online booking form to secure your inspection. You add some essential information on their website form and they send you an email confirmation
- A thorough phone call directly after the inspection that describes the overall condition of the car and whether you should buy it or not
- A comprehensive written report within 24 hours of inspections – note you should not buy the car based on a verbal summary. It’s best practice to thoroughly read through the written report first
- The car will usually be inspected from 24 to 48 hours
- ONE comprehensive inspection service. No add-ons, extras or up-sells
My Experience with AA’s Used Car Inspection Services
Automobile Associations (AA) were founded in 1905 so their long established name and brand come at a price.
From my experiences with the AA their actual car inspection is almost identical to ClickMechanics but costs at least 40% more.
But some car buyers (particularly those of the older generation) will always choose the AA above any other service provider simply because they know and trust the brand.
The key benefits of AA Car Inspections
- They’re a household name that you may trust
- Peace of mind because it’s the AA
- They offer two inspection services – Basic & Comprehensive
- A thorough phone conversation describing the vehicle’s condition and whether you should buy it or not
- A comprehensive report outlining all findings
- The car will usually be inspected with 72 to 96 hours
Note that the AA’s basic inspection is far cheaper than their comprehensive, but there are many components that are simply not inspected. I’d suggest the basic option is not worth purchasing at all. What good is a minor inspection when so many of the critical items are ignored?
If you buy AA please buy their comprehensive service. Just be aware that it’s rather overpriced.
Click here to see what’s covered on AA vehicle inspections
Limitations of a used car pre-inspection service
- Car inspections do NOT give you a guarantee that the car won’t break down or cost you money
- Inspections are not a used car warranty
- Inspections are specifically designed to give you greater peace of mind and help you spend your money wisely
Do’s and Don’ts
- Never rely on a verbal report from the inspection. Always insist on the written report before buying the car
- Always read the small print of the inspection service and understand its limitations
- Make sure the car owner will not sell the car while you wait for your inspection
- If you lay a deposit prior to the car being inspected get written confirmation of a full refund should the car fail its inspection testing
- Always account for the age and mileage of a car before buying an inspection. You must expect wear and tear on a used vehicle
- Once you buy the car YOU are the one that is liable, not the inspection service provider
In my opinion, ClickMechanic is the best value independent car inspection provider in the country. They comprehensively vet each car they inspect, have a quick response time from booking to inspection, and are massively cheaper than the AA or RAC.
You may know there are very few motor industry services that I advocate. In fact, there are only five:
Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), Autotrader, HPI, AA Breakdown Cover and ClickMechanic Pre-Purchase Inspections.
Useful, related articles
If you don’t want to buy a vehicle inspection you may be interested in my Private Members Area. Once inside you’ll gain full access to my mini video series and full text guide to buying a used car the right way. My 25 years of motor trade experience are poured into the Members Area and I am very confident that you will not find this kind of information anywhere else across the internet. Click here for more information.
The Used Car Guy