Buyers' guide: ask for expert advice
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A comprehensive pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is an incredibly valuable service to car buyers that shouldn’t be overlooked.
In a competitive used vehicle market like New Zealand’s, there are always dicey vehicles around that could catch people out.
In-depth inspections can often uncover secrets of a vehicle’s past and protect your investment.
Narrow your shortlist
Unless your house has money trees growing outside, you’re not going to want to fork out $150 on a PPI for every single vehicle you look at. So, before you commit to shelling out the cash, take some time to partake in a bit of DIY PPI to whittle down the contenders.
Look under the bonnet
Are there signs of leakage, corrosion or damage? Warming up the engine will make coolant leaks more apparent.
A freshly cleaned engine bay doesn’t tell you much about the vehicle.
Just because it’s clean or tidy doesn’t mean it’s problem-free, so start with obvious indicators such as the engine oil and lube sticker. Thick, black oil is a sign that the engine may not have received adequate servicing or, if the oil level is low, it may have an oil leak or an oil consumption problem.
Give the engine a good rev from idle, up to about 3000rpm or half its maximum RPM. A worn engine is likely to smoke under these conditions.
What can a professional PPI do that I can’t spot myself?
- Diagnostic checks like compression tests, blow by tests and head gasket checks.
- Signs of recent panel work, corrosion or evidence of stripping a vehicle. These are tell-tale signs of prior damage, rust or a vehicle that has had more hits than The Beatles.
- Leaks need to be checked invasively, too, from the engine and drive train, through to the cooling system.
- Batteries need to be tested to ensure they have a decent life
left, while faulty electronic systems, including diagnostic warning lights, can also spell disaster.
- A road test should be carried out to uncover issues relating to the vehicle’s transmission, drive line and braking issues.
What a PPI can’t do
No matter how good the inspection, a technician can look only at the vehicle that sits in front of them on the day.
They can’t foresee the future, but they can draw your attention to warning signs of potential repairs or WoF failures – as long as they’re showing signs of materialising.
The end decision on buying the car, though, rests with you.