Was Our RAC Mechanical Inspection Worth It?

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Saturday 24 January 2015

Was Our RAC Mechanical Inspection Worth It?

With very limited knowledge and experience of car engines, one of the biggest fears we had looking at used motorhomes was knowing if there were any major mechanical faults. I mean, I'm fairly technically minded and understand the principle of an internal combustion engine but show me an engine block and unless there's a gaping rusty hole I'm unlikely to notice anything wrong. So before starting motorhome viewings I'd read various online articles about inspecting used vehicles and worked through a checklist of obvious points such as places to look for 'worrying rust'. However, once we'd found a motorhome we liked and had a good test drive the nagging doubt still remained, what if there's something wrong and I'm just too inexperienced to know what to look for?

One way around this, we thought, was to pay for an independent inspection by the RAC where one of their mechanics would give the motorhome a check over and produces a verbal and written report for us. The AA and some other companies offer a similar service. At a cost of just under £200 an RAC engineer would come out to the motorhome at the sellers site and give it a through check internally and externally (there is a list of the checks on the RAC website). The price also included a HPI check (to make sure it's not registered as stolen or written off), a phone report from the inspector and a printed checklist report via email soon afterwards.

Before booking the inspection we did some reading around on forums and the opinions we found were numerous and contradictory. Some people insisted it was just a glorified MOT and a complete waste of money. Others said it was a great investment. It certainly did feel like a lot of cash since at £200 it was a relatively large proportion of the price range we were looking in and there were cheaper alternatives available. For instance one seller suggested paying a local garage to do their own checks instead. However when we quizzed them about what they offered in their £70 pre purchase report it really was just an MOT. Another larger dealership also played down a third party check at all insisting their internal pre collection checks were just as thorough. However, here we felt their vested interest was too biased to trust their findings (and we decided we didn't trust the salesman in that dealership anyway).

In the end we decided that as this was such an expensive purchase for us and we were looking at 10 year old plus motorhomes, we preferred the extra peace of mind. So, despite the increased costs, we chose to pay for an independent RAC inspection before parting with any money to the motorhome seller. But was it worth it?

In short, yes it was definitely worth it. Whilst many of the checklist items the inspector went through were simple and easy for us to check ourselves (like the state of upholstery) others were less so. For instance, I've not looked at many vehicle chassis or exhaust sections before, so don't know what counts as worryingly excessive or normal corrosion on  12 year old motorhome.

But the main reassurance by far to us was the fact that a professional mechanic had inspected and driven the vehicle and was giving us his opinion on its mechanical state. The verbal report at the end of the inspection was the best part as the inspector gave us his no holds barred account of everything he had turned up. As the inspection was so thorough the list was long, but the inspector was patient, friendly and helpful in highlighting the key items we might be concerned about. All of this was then neatly summarised in a PDF report that arrived later that evening.

We did in fact have two vehicles inspected, the first of which we were told was liable to breakdown soon and may in fact be dangerous. This was a shock as it had test driven quite smoothly in our inexperienced opinion. When we called the seller to negotiate for some repair work he criticised the inspection as being too detailed and nitpicking, but he couldn't escape the facts that the chassis was dangerously corroded and badly repaired in places. Details we would have never spotted on our own and even though we walked away and the seller refused to stick to our agreement and return our £300 deposit we still feel it was a great investment in helping us dodge a bad purchase.

The second vehicle, and the one we bought, sailed through the RAC checks in comparison. The only repair we asked for was to fix the reversing light. However, despite not finding anything major at fault we still consider it money well spent as we were reassured before parting with a lot more cash. Plus, if we come to sell the motorhome in the next few years we also have another document to show a point in time report of the vehicle condition.

The only potential downside we experienced was the way a seller can respond to being asked to wait for their cash while the inspection is done, with potential renegotiation as well. The first seller, who stole our deposit in the end, was very unhappy about the inspection from the start, which should have told us something to begin with. The second seller whose motorhome we bought was completely at ease and confidently offered to put anything right which was found to be broken. We found that by being polite and explaining why we wanted the check done, as it was such a big purchase for us, was the best way to go about it. We also told the sellers very early on that we'd want checks done so it didn't come as a surprise after we'd made an offer.

Overall, our opinion is that with limited mechanical experience of our own that a third party mechanical inspection was well worth the money and much, much more than a glorified MOT.

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