Inspecting a used car - Carchex or local mechanic?

I’m buying a car 1200 miles away and need it inspected first. Carchex offers a service where they send someone out for a 151 point inspection and a full report for - in this case $160. A local mechanic told me he’d charge his $90 rate and it would take him 2 hs. Carchex does not put the vehicule on a lift nor do they do any electronic diagnostics. I’d assume that a mechanic in a show would. What’s your take?

Before you can make a decision you have to get specific info from Carchex and the mechanic on just what they plan to inspect. Compression on each cylinder? Brake pads wear? Fluid levels and quality? Pull valve cover to check for evidence of sludge? Check for evidence of an accident repair, flood damage? Find out exactly what you are paying for then decide.

Carchex does not do compression. Should that be on anybody’s must-do list?

My suggestion given its a Vanagon is visit a VW specialist if available in the area. They will know the common problems.

A general mechanic can give the overview of majority of items but Vanagon like all VW’s have pecularities.

Good luck.

A compression test should be the first step actually. That way one knows right off the bat if there is an upper engine problem related to piston rings, valves, head gasket, etc.
If the compression test shows a problem then forget about all of the rest of the inspection.

Actually, it’s a Winnebago Rialta from 1995 but it only had two owners and 30K miles. But good advice about the compression etc.

The older the car and the greater the miles the more you can learn from a compression check. Any car that was not maintained well could have internal wear in a relatively few miles. A compression check can confirm that all is well with the motor’s insides and that all the valves are sealing properly. A car with 40K miles should easily pass a compression check, but you’ll never know what is going on if a compression check isn’t done.

It sounds like Carchex can do the stuff a knowledgable consumer could check out themselves. Since you can’t do that yourself you may use Carchex and if they pass it then have a mechanic check it further. Putting the car on a lift for a good look at the suspension, pull the wheels to check the brakes, and compression check can go a long way to be sure you have a good, solid car. My guess is the dealer’s warranty is short (30 days) and limited, additionally you are 1,200 miles from the dealer. The more “eyes” on the car the better.

These vehicles are “tough” miles on the engine, transmission, and drivetrain. They are heavy, push a lot of air, and the motor works much harder than a car to get up to and maintain speed. It’s like pulling a heavy trailer ALL the time.

You have to have this car checked by a mechanic and as closely as possible. Compression check is a must for starters. You need to have the fuel system check out too. This vehicle has been stored undriven for a lot of the time. Was is stored properly with fuel stabilizer etc. Varnish in the fuel system is hard to remove if it starts to cause running problems. Lot’s of old rubber hoses and parts may need replacing. If the motor uses a “timing belt” it needs to be replaced based on time unless there are service records showing it was replaced with the date of replacement.

Anyone who claims to check out a used car without putting it on a lift should be avoided. The lift is where most of the safety items are inspected.iThat’s the most important part. If the car doesn’t start it’ll ruin your day, but of the car doesn’t stop or a part falls off it can ruin the rest of your life.

I charge 1 hour labor for a preliminary inspections and when something indicates a possible problem further testing and inspection is offered. It is difficult to get this done in one hour in a shop with a lift and access to all manner of equipment and the advice of mechanics with all manner of experience with all common vehicles.

It is easy to test relative engine compression electronically, and if within tolerance with no blow-by from the oil fill hole at hot idle, cylinder/piston/valve integrity is considered good.

I can’t imagine the class room, text book training of a non gear head to adequately inspect a used vehicle. It honestly seems that like so many professions, some have a talent and easily and somewhat intuitively learn the skill. Just my observation.

Needless to say, find a real mechanic familiar with the make and model car in question.

What chassis is this Winnebago on? I can’t imagine it fitting on a standard car lift. Are they going to check all the comfort items like refridgerator,heating,sound/TV system,interior lighting. This is a true apples to oranges comparison if you compare a RV inspection to a passenger car inspection.

Thanks for mentioning the timing belt. VW today says they better be replaced at 75k or after 6 years, to prevent a nasty way of getting stranded with a wrecked engine in the middle of the desert. I found useful for getting a sense of what tends to break and what to watch out for, I’ll share it with the mechanic.

Chassis is a Eurovan, unloaded weight is 6000lbs plus another 1000 load.

A Winnebago on a Eurovan chassis? Is this dual rear wheels? what type of engine? Hope it isn’t any of the engines used in the Vanagon

This is what it looks like, it’s a 5 cylinder engine.

This needs a RV mechanic to check it out ,way different that a car check-out,better be one he** of a 5 cylinder engine. VW customer service could not be worse.

Why did you start your post "I will be buying a used car? this is not a car.

You can contact Winnebago and ask who they recommend in the area where the RV is located. And you could use the on line yellow pages to find RV dealers in that area. Make up a short list of questions that will tell you what they know about this RV. If you find a knowledgeable dealer or mechanic, start talking about getting the check-out done.

While 30k miles may not seem like much on the odometer a compression test should be performed anyway. I can’t even count how many low miles (defined as 5k to 50k miles) vehicles I’ve seen with engine problems.

Since this potential transaction involves a motor home, this would make me even more antsy; especially on a sight-unseen vehicle that is 1200 miles away.

You should also keep in mind that while the mileage is low (allegedly) the vehicle is still 15 years old. This means that a multitude of well-aged rubber parts are involved.
Brake hydraulics, engine/transmission seals, tires, A/C and power steering seals, belts, and so on are all subject to failure at any time.

This would have to be a whale of a deal to justify going 1200 miles for it even if the vehicle did check out fine.
If this is one of those eBay deals then chalk up another demerit.

I’ve seen a few of these on the road. They get pretty good gas mileage for an RV, but still use a lot of gas. As I posted before this is a lot of vehicle for this motor, trans, and differential to haul around. I would forget towing any trailer, or another car behind it. You are maxed out just as it sits. Figure to get very slow acceleration, and boat like handling. If it is a good price this might be about the best mpg you are going to get in an RV.

Did you purchase the Rialta???

Please give us an update.