Guide to car inspection services in the UK
The AA or ClickMechanic?
Which independent car inspections service would I buy?
Do you really need a vehicle inspection?
To find out, see if you answer Yes to any of the four questions listed below?
If so, a ClickMechanic or AA vehicle inspection service is going to help safeguard your money and set up for a wise purchase:
I sold my first car at 11 years old from my father’s dealership in Bristol and have been established in the motor industry ever since. The guide below is current and comes from 30 years of solid dealer experience. This should help you buy a decent car.
If car paintwork is in perfect condition and appears almost brand new are you more likely to buy that vehicle? (Let’s say the vehicle is displaying at least 50,000 miles)
Yes or No?
A used car with 50,000 miles or more must show signs of wear and tear. The odd stone chip here or nick there, scuffed alloy wheel, worn seat lumbar, hole in the carpet under the pedals, chipped windscreen or other age bearing scratches and marks.
Flaws demonstrate the car is a genuine article due to signs of wear and tear. Exterior and interior defects signal the car hasn’t been repainted, suffered accidents, been repaired and isn’t carrying a mileage discrepancy.
If a car has covered considerable mileage but has paintwork that looks practically brand new it may have suffered one or more problems, including:
- Repainted panels to cover up stone chips and scratches
- Replacement panels such as doors, wings, bonnets, bumpers and seals as result of minor or major accident damage repair
Who 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, note that car background checks (such as an hpi check) cannot tell you about every accident a car has suffered An example of this occurs when drivers are involved in a road traffic accident but repair is made without insurance company involvement. Insurers have no record of these types of prangs and neither do hpi.
Do you pay little attention to the sound of the engine, especially when cold?
Yes or No?
Buying a used car without carefully listening to the engine from cold is a risk, even on low mileage cars that can inherit mechanical problems as easily as aged and higher mileage ones.
If you are unsure what a good engine sounds like compared to a defected one, a car inspection service is a good idea.
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 should be at least twenty minutes and the car drove 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?
Improper test drives cost car buyers hundreds or thousands of pounds each year.
Some motorists feel uncomfortable testing a car in the ways described because they are accompanied by the salesperson or car owner.
It’s perfectly normal to feel that way but it is not the best approach to buying a used car.
Do you glance at car documentation without thoroughly investigating that the car has been consistently serviced throughout its life?
Yes or No?
Checking the expiry date of an MOT or making a mental note of the last service is not going to safeguard your money and support a good buying decision.
Car docs give you vital information about how the vehicle has been maintained, if the car is genuine, and what money you may have to spend during the coming twelve months.
Keep in mind, once you have bought a car you inherit all of its defects and may be liable for repair bills after 30 days of purchase (if buying from a dealers).
It’s true that you have full Consumer Rights for the first 30 days after purchase (when buying from a dealer) but thereafter your rights quickly diminish.
Examining all car paperwork with a fine tooth comb can potentially save you money, heartache, stress and inconvenience.
Do I need a car inspection?
So, how many times did you answer Yes to your questions?
It’s easy for me to tell you what you need to be doing but, if you have little or no experience in determining a genuine, reliable 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 asked and admit feeling they take risks on choosing a car.
Perhaps more surprising is that the price 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.
Therefore, car vehicle inspection services are valuable for those that lack confidence in making an informed used car purchase.
Car inspection review
With all this information to hand, I put together this guide that runs through the pros and cons of two leading vehicle inspection providers.
AA inspections and ClickMechanic pre-purchase inspections, reviewed.
Before we go further, here is one final question?
“Are you prepared to spend between £73.60 and £125.60 to find out that you should NOT buy a car?”
I’m quietly hoping you answer Yes to this question.
Logic dictates that if you avoid buying a car that was going to cost you excessive money, time and stress, you have made the best decision.
So here is the true offering of a car inspection;
You commit to a small upfront cash payment to find out if you should spend your hard-earned cash or not.
Buying a car is often in the top three financial investments for the average British family. The first is buying a house and you do not buy one without a professional survey. Buying a car, that must last you years is not so different.
My Experience with ClickMechanic Pre-Purchase Inspections
A background check on ClickMechanic – they were founded in 2012 so they’re a relatively young company. Their first service is mobile mechanics. That process involves booking a mechanic online who will come and repair your car at work or at home.
This service revolutionised the used car repair sector in the UK and has thrust ClickMechanic into one of the industry’s leading car service providers.
Soon after, ClickMechanic launched their pre-purchase inspection service. Pay a nominal fee (between £73.60 and £125.60) to have a local, fully vetted, qualified mechanic come and inspect the car you want to buy.
Main benefits of ClickMechanic pre-inspections
- 40% less expensive than an AA Vehicle Inspection or RAC Car Inspection
Good news – the quote you receive is relative to the area in which you live. This is key because should the inspected car turn out to be flawed you have spent significantly less than you would with the AA or RAC, no matter where you live.
- The cheapest ClickMechanic inspection is £73.60 and the most expensive is £125.60
- A simple online booking form to secure your car inspection. You add some essential information on the website and get 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 inspection (do not buy the car based on a verbal summary. It’s best practice to thoroughly read the written report first.)
- The car will usually be inspected within 48 hours (depending on your area and the time of year)
- One comprehensive inspection service with no add-ons, extras or up-sells
My Experience with AA’s Used 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 ClickMechanic and costs at least 40% more.
However, 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.
Main 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 or not
- A comprehensive report outlining all findings
- The car will usually be inspected within 72 to 96 hours
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.
See what’s covered on AA vehicle inspections
Limitations of a used car pre-inspection service:
- Car inspections do NOT guarantee a car won’t break down or cost you money
- Inspections are not a used car warranty
- Inspections are specifically designed to provide greater peace of mind and help you spend your money wisely
- Inspections do not include background history checks from providers like AA car check or RAC car check.
When you buy a car history check use my sister website, CarVeto. My leading service carries almost identical data to hpi, the AA and RAC Passport but costs less. I also include my industry leading car buyers guide!
Do’s and Dont’s
- Never rely on a verbal report from the inspection. Always insist on the written report before buying the car outright
- 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
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.
I wish you every success with your new car purchase
Used Car Guy