PDXinspections featured on KATU News – Pre-Purchase Vehicle Inspection Report
This special Problem Solvers report was done By Kerry Tomlinson, KATU On Your Side Reporter KATU News, (Portland Oregon) on why you must have your next used vehicle purchase inspected prior to purchase. Originally aired 11/16/10 @ 6:30PM featuring PDXinspections as your Portland used car-buying expert. This particular scam was discussed in detail on our blog.
PLEASE READ THROUGH THIS INFORMATION
These are our used car buying tips for things we routinely see in Portland and Vancouver markets. We guarantee it will save you time, headaches and expense when searching for your next used vehicle
Dealer vs. Private party sales
This is a long-lasting debate on where the best cars come from. The good news is that you the consumer have all the technology at your fingertips to weed through the junk and find a great vehicle. Everything you’ll need to aid in your searches is listed below.Dealers
- Yelp – Be sure to check out the “Not recommended/filtered reviews” as well. Watch out for dealers who have 1 star reviews followed by 5 star reviews
- Google “Company name + reviews”
- BBB – We have mixed feelings about the better business bureau and would suggest sticking to “real people reviews” rather than a company in the business to solicit business participation in their “accreditation”
- And finally simply typing in their business name in Google combined with the word “reviews” “PDXinspections reviews”
You’ll quickly find out what dealers care about customer service and sell quality vehicles (they go hand in hand) and which care only about the bottom line and have no conscience. You need to beware of the many dealers posting their own amazing reviews online; there are several on SE 82nd avenue doing this. When looking through their reviews you’ll notice are all equally mixed 5 star/1 star reviews as they attempt to move the real reviews down the list or off the page. Sure, people will always more apt to criticize vs. praise but you can still get a good idea who’s good and who’s bad based on their reviews. Avoid budget auto-rows like 82nd avenue as they are often a sea of poorer quality vehicles. If you hire us to inspect a vehicle at one of theses poorer dealers with bad reviews, we’ll attempt to talk you out of it. We’ve been to most of these dealers in the past and we regularly turn down multiple inspections each week based on those who don’t read through our site or know about some of the things we see there. We don’t want to waste your inspection money on the wrong vehicle, even more so we don’t enjoy inspecting poorer quality vehicles. Remember, if you’re buying a $3000 vehicle, the dealer paid much less than this and has to turn a profit to stay in business. If you find a real registered owner/private party who has the same vehicle your money will go farther without the hassle and you’ll likely get some maintenance history as well. This is the true secret to buying a long-lasting reliable vehicle.
Research – Before the call
1) Google can be your best friend when buying a used vehicle
2) Verify the vehicle by VIN
3) Have a general idea what the vehicle should be selling for
- Leave the search bar blank
- Search by year (plus one and negative one) if you’re trying to price 2006’s enter 2005 to 2007 for example (assuming its the same generation)
- Enter the Make and Model ie. Honda Civic
- Check the title status box and click clean only – You can’t compare clean title vehicles to salvage title vehicles!
- Click “Search”
- Sort by price low to high by clicking the $$$ (Small to big blue link)
- Look at the average pricing and look at the lower priced vehicles, check them out and find roughly where the clean title vehicles start and then go back and adjust the minimum and maximum values to exclude the salvage vehicles and those that are clearly overpriced or out of your budget. Finally hit search again.
- Now re-search, adjusting the year up and down and see what others are listed for.
4) If the price to good to be true, it is...
- SCAM. If there are no plates on the car or if the plates are blanked out, there are no phone numbers and the car doesn’t look like it was photographed in your climate (i.e. Palm trees in the background located in Portland Oregon) Move on, it’s 100% a scam.
- Clean title? Probably not… If the seller doesn’t specifically use “Clean Title” in the description it most likely isn’t. Don’t you think the seller ran a blue book value on the car prior to listing it? Why would they be asking $1000’s less? Be very cautious of stories. If you’re referring to a later model vehicle it’s NEVER just a minor accident which results in a reconstructed or salvage title.
- Overall condition? Private party and most independent dealers don’t typically sell their vehicles in tiptop shape with important safety items like good tires, brakes or even simple things such as fresh oil. Most don’t even check the oil. Tires and brakes alone could easily cost $700 – $1000 on most vehicles.
- What’s the story behind the vehicle? Smoking vehicle (burn holes, smoke odors), flood, previous accidents, paintwork, major mechanical issue, internally failing head gasket or worse?
5) Before you call
6) Know who you're buying from, are they the registered owner or someone who is illegally flipping cars
- For starters, they’re not a dealer there is absolutely no accountability if/when you have issues registering your new vehicle.
- They usually don’t know anything about the vehicle they are selling and they probably don’t care. Depending on how many vehicles they sell this way these may be the most impersonal people you will deal with. They will likely tell you what you want to hear or hopefully if they are honest they will let you know when they don’t know about the history or be straight up with you and tell you they purchased it with the intent to resale. It’s usually all about money with these sellers and most have no conscience. There are plenty who buy cheap junk and resell quickly/cheaply. Ask yourself this: If the vehicle caught your attention at their asking price, why were they able to buy it so much cheaper to turn for a profit?
- Be wary of any stories – I’m selling it for my (Insert family member here), moving, bills, bigger car, etc… Does the car have plates or a temporary tag in the pictures? REAL REGISTERED/TITLED OWNERS will have license plates on the cars.
- Most importantly they are already lying to you claiming to be the owner… What else are they hiding? Where did the get the car from and why was it sold? Maintenance or service history?
Kerry Tomlinson of KATU Problem Solvers here in Portland does a great job of reporting these stories
1st story involves a guy selling an odometer rollback truck as a “Curber” http://www.katu.com/home/video/108354209.html
2nd story involving the same seller now a licensed dealer, not following the DMV rules that govern all dealers and still using the trickery you’ll read below. http://www.katu.com/home/video/117463379.html
So how do you catch curbers? Again back to step one, use Google and search Craigslist for the phone number. If you see multiple vehicles for the same phone number of a seller who is claiming to be an owner? Guess what….You’ve found a Curber. We can guarantee this is the case for 1 or more vehicles you’ve already been looking at, yes it’s that common! Another dead give away is when they attempt to fool you by listing their phone number in a photo rather than the ad text (so Craigslist and search engines can’t index it) or using different formats with spaces such as 5 0 3 – 7 8 9 – 0 1 6 8; replacing the zeros with O’s; spelling out numbers (5O3)-7 eight 9 O16eight, or a combo of all the above. If someone goes through the hassles of doing this they are 99.7% positive not the registered owner of the vehicle…
Still not sure if they are a licensed dealer or a Curber? If you’re buying a car from Oregon, check out Oregon Dealer Business Registry – http://dmv.odot.state.or.us/cf/dlrsliclkup
(Enter the phone number in this format XXX-XXX-XXXX) If they don’t show up in that search and they are selling multiple vehicles they are breaking the law and are selling vehicles illegally.
*OREGON LAW STATES: Only persons or organizations currently licensed as vehicle dealers in Oregon may buy, sell, or otherwise act as a vehicle dealer in Oregon. By law, a dealer must announce they are a dealer in EVERY AD: Required to give their business name, dealer number, address and phone number.
7) What you need to know about vehicle history reports
If these reports are important to you, we suggest you run both (PDXinspections includes at least one history report with every inspection). The information will often vary between the two and in our experience AutoCheck is the winner when it comes to speed of reporting information. They also collect auction data almost instantly, something Carfax will not do as it would devalue their reports when it came to the dealers. If a vehicle runs through auction and is announced as a frame damaged vehicle it will show up on an AutoCheck report the same day, however it will never show up on a Carfax. We see this almost every day. Carfax can often lag years behind for some vehicles. 80% of the vehicles we inspect have one or more repainted panels yet nothing shows on either of the reports. Here is an example of an inspection on a BMW M3 we did.
You can visit the Free Carfax Airbag Deployment Report to access the free Carfax air bag advisor tool – again it likely it won’t show anything but it’s free so you might as well try (update: we wouldn’t put much faith in this tool as we’ve seen Carfax’s show airbag deployments yet show nothing on the free tool). Carfax also offers a Free Carfax Flood Check Report.
6a) NICB free VIN check – https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck this isn’t as detailed as the above reports but the important info comes from the same sources. It should tell you whether its a clean title and/or stolen.
8) Damaged/Salvage/Rebuilt or Reconstructed vehicles
Most banks will not finance these vehicles and some insurance companies will not insure them so we suggest you do your research prior to scheduling an inspection.
9) Other things to look at in the ad
Some of our favorite used vehicles for under $10K
Most of the vehicles below can be had for less than $10K and are typically reliable and seem to wear very well when maintained. We strongly recommend continuing to look for real owners (hopefully who have owned it longer) vs. rebuilders/curbers and be very cautious when dealing with any smaller independent dealer on the auto rows such as SE 82nd ave or in Milwaukee off Mcloughlin Blvd – always check dealer reviews.
- 1998-2000 Civics – Amazing car for the money if you can find one that hasn’t been young adult owned/abused
- 2001-2004 Civics – Good cars but some plagued with head gasket issues. 2006+ being a large upgrade, great looking car and problem free so far (stay away from Civic Hybrids 80% or more of the cars we inspect have Hybrid battery issues. Many people trade them in or decide to get rid of them when they start to have issues)
- 1998-2002 Corollas – Low maintenance (No timing belt) and very good cars.
- 2003+ Corollas – Newer generation, low maintenance (No timing belt) and very good cars.
- 1996+ Camry’s – very good cars, stick with the 4 cylinder cars for ease of maintenance and reliability. The older cars typically have very worn suspension and timing belts that require replacement. Newer models just got more reliable and require even less maintenance.
- 2006+ Kia or Hyundai cars – Elantra/Spectra – Likely the best value, the timing belts must be done every 60K miles. We wouldn’t suggest anything older than 2006
- Any Honda Accord – V6 cars are less desirable due to very common transmission problems/failures therefor they typically sell for less. We recommend the 4 cylinder vehicles
- 2003+ Subaru’s (All newer Subaru’s sedans/wagons are AWD) assuming they have been cared for and don’t have head gasket issues. They must be inspected as head gasket failures are very common in the used car market. On average about 80% of the 1996-1999 DOHC and about 50% of the 2000-2004 SOHC cars we inspect have internally failing head gaskets. Keep in mind many people trade them in or decide to get rid of them when they’re fronted with a $2000 decision to fix
- 2004+ Nissan Altima and Sentra – Low maintenance (No timing belt)
- 2004+ Prius – The batteries in these vehicle have been very reliable and are warrantied by Toyota for 8yrs/100K miles. We’ve driven these cars with upwards of 250K miles. In 2015 we just started seeing a few of the 2nd Gen 2004-2009 cars with hybrid battery issues
- Any Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix (Same car)
- 2008+ Ford Focus
Making the call (private parties or curbers)
When you call and the other person the other line is rude and short, hard to understand or difficult to get information out of, hang up and keep looking, again you are most likely dealing with a Curber. If you are dealing with the owner of the vehicle they will want to sell their vehicle to you, they will most likely welcome your call and be accommodating to your questions.
Questions to ask:
Are you the registered owner?
Second question should be whether the title is free clean/clear.
Has the vehicle ever been in any accidents or required any re-paint?
What’s the overall condition of the vehicle?
What’s the condition of the tires and brakes?
Are there any maintenance history or records?
Would you welcome an inspection by an independent inspection company to look over the vehicle such as – PDXinspections.com?
Your initial viewing
When you go to look at the car. Start it up and pay close attention to all of the warning lights in the dash. They should all light up and then disappear within about 10 seconds. If any of the Airbag, SRS, ABS, Check engine, Service engine, Oil Pressure or similar lights remain illuminated after starting the vehicle, ask the seller to fix and provide receipts of service prior to further considering the vehicle. If they aren’t interested in doing this then why would you waste your time? It always amazes us how many vehicles we show up with lights on such as the airbag light on, especially at dealerships! This could be a $100 fix or it could be a $1000+ fix, why not eliminate this issue prior to spending your inspection money on a vehicle that the seller isn’t going to be willing to fix or negotiate into the price. Many times people are selling their cars once they get an estimate on what it costs to actually fix. Don’t fall for stories, it’s not typically as minor as they may portray otherwise they likely would have fixed it.
The all important pre-puchase inspection
There are a lot of companies popping up claiming to perform mobile onsite used car inspections. Would you find your next doctor on craigslist? Your next vehicle purchase may be your second most expensive and possibly most risky purchase. It’s never more important to trust a “real” established company who employs properly certified ASE technicians who use real high tech equipment, perform all necessary tests while inspecting the entire vehicle, who has established a long list of real customer feedback dating back to 2007, and most importantly can provide a completely unbiased inspection without any hidden agendas or performing any other automotive work. We speak from experience from someone who started working in a dealership performing used vehicle inspections, no other automotive business anywhere gives you all of the information needed between our upfront research, history report(s), class leading customer service/communication and our in depth inspection itself.
The information above should help point you to the right car more quickly with fewer frustrations. If there’s anything we can clarify or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us. When you find the right vehicle feel free to book your inspection instantly.
Josh – Owner/Lead Inspector
Buying a car you find online is a lot like buying a car through a classified ad in the newspaper. In either case, use your best judgment.
- Know the car’s market value
- Be suspicious of a vehicle priced significantly below market value. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Obtain a vehicle history report
- A vehicle history report can provide useful information, such as who holds the title to the car and whether the car has been in an accident reported to authorities. You’ll also find out whether the car was ever reported stolen, salvaged or damaged. (We include a History report and often additional information with every inspection)
- Inspect the car
Schedule an inspection with a professional mechanic or an inspection service if the car is not in your area. An early inspection can help you identify problems. However, keep in mind that an inspection isn’t a warranty and won’t guarantee a car is free from defects or that inspectors have identified all existing problems.
- Confirm contact information
- Before you send payment, verify the seller’s street address and phone number- an email address is not enough. ZIP codes, area codes and addresses should match up. Be wary if the seller is located overseas. (BAD ADVICE – Work with sellers face to face only)
- Use email wisely
- Avoid sending sensitive personal or financial information (such as your social security number, credit card number or checking account number) to a seller via email. Remember that email communications are not secure and can be easily forwarded to others.
- Get a detailed receipt
- Ask the seller for a receipt that states whether the vehicle is being sold with a warranty or “as is.”
- Get title to the vehicle
- Make sure you know what’s required in your state to transfer title to the vehicle you’re buying.