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BUYING A CAR - A CASE STUDY IN WHY YOU MUST DO A PREPURCHASE INSPECTION

4th March, 2019

Looking around a typical Defence base carpark, it’s pretty clear that many ADF members enjoy their cars. Dual cab Utes are pretty popular, followed by 4WDs and SUVs. Then there are the lowered down, brightly coloured, V8, single cab Utes with 19 inch rims and the more specialised sports and classic cars. These are often purchased postdeployment using savings and allowances that might have been better deployed elsewhere, but that’s another story.

Many of these vehicle are purchased brand new. As such, they suffer spectacular depreciation in value (sometimes up to 40%) the moment they’re driven out of the showroom, but at least they attract factory warranties which offer some peace of mind.

The others are purchased secondhand or “preloved” through dealers or privately. Either way, it’s sensible to have the car checked over by an independent, qualified person. If the seller resists that request, do not buy the car. Why? Here’s a real life example recently brought to our attention by an ADF member. His experience is extreme, but illustrates the world of pain that can easily result without a prepurchase inspection.

The ADF member concerned is a classic car enthusiast. He had always wanted to own an Italian sports coupe from the early 1960s. He found the “car of his dreams” at about 70% of the normal market price through an internet car site. He arranged to view the car. It was not in great condition. It had a bit of rust here and there (normal for cars of that age), the paint was fair, the interior was poor, but the car could be driven and registered (or so he thought). It was love at first sight and a great weekend restoration project which he could undertake over the next few years at a reasonable cost.

After some discussion with the dealer and a further negotiated price reduction, he arranged for the car to be towed to a specialist classic car workshop for inspection. The tow (one way) cost $250 and the prepurchase inspection fee was $300. Sounds expensive, but as it turns out, it was money well spent. That afternoon, our ADF member visited the workshop to hear the verdict. Fortunately, he was sitting down at the time.

The inspector reported that the car had been in a major accident some years ago and that the repair had been poorly done. In order to fix that problem alone would be tens of thousands of dollars. Then there was the body rust. It wasn’t just “here and there” as our member had thought. It was everywhere. It was in most of the body panels and (fatally) throughout the chassis of the car. It had been covered up by body filler and the injection of foam into the chassis which was subsequently painted over and hidden. A well placed screw driver revealed the many and extensive problems in the body and structure of this car. In order to repair the problems permanently, the inspector estimated a cost of up to $100,000!

And then there was the engine. A cylinder compression test revealed that the engine would need a rebuild, estimated to cost between $30,000 and $50,000. And then, there was the interior…….

By this point (as you can imagine) our ADF classic car enthusiast had fallen out of love. He was facing a project that would require repair costs of at least $200,000. Worse still, the restored market value of the car would be well south of $100,000.

The seller claimed not to know about the extent of these problems. Our member was inclined to believe him as the seller showed no resistance to the idea of the inspection. Needless to say, our member did not go ahead with the purchase and was thankful that he had spent only $800 to uncover a disaster which might have bankrupted him.

Soon after, our member was surprised to see that the car went back on the market at the same price as originally listed. Let’s hope the eventual buyer has the common sense to arrange an inspection.

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