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We’ve all heard horror stories of people who have spent thousands of pounds on used cars – only to find out they bought a dud.

So how can you make sure you don’t get caught in the same trap? One option is to pay for a used car inspection service – these cost between about £100 and £250 and are designed to give you all the information you need to make the right choice…

What is a used car inspection service?

A used vehicle inspection service involves a mechanic checking over the vehicle you want to buy to ensure there aren’t any nasty surprises in store. The RAC says the main aims of its vehicle inspections are to make sure a car is “roadworthy, safe to drive and worth the price you’re prepared to pay for it”.

Which companies offer them?

Vehicles inspection services are offered by the AA and the RAC, as well as a number of specialist providers.

The RAC range includes a basic check – the Essentials package – at £99, Essentials Plus at £175 and the Prestige & Classics inspection service starting at £349.

AA vehicle safety checks, meanwhile, cost from £128 for members and from £142 for non-members, depending on the engine size of the vehicle and the type of inspection required. Its inspections offer same-day feedback and the checks can be conducted on vans and motorhomes, as well as cars.

Other providers include My Car Inspections, where you pay between £125 and £155 for a pre-purchase inspection of a recent Volkswagen Golf 2.0l, and DEKRA Expert, where prices range from £99 to £395.

What is included?

The details your vehicle inspection service – the nuts and bolts, if you like – depend on the type of car and the level of inspection you choose. With a basic inspection, for example, you will usually get mechanical and structural checks.

With a more comprehensive service, you can expect an interior check and a road test. And with a specialist prestige inspection, a brand specialist should conduct a wide range of checks, including an extended road test.

Any disadvantages?

A major downside of getting a vehicle inspection is that it inevitably means a delay until you seal the deal – so there’s a risk you might lose the car to another buyer.

And while inspections provide a degree of comfort, they are not a cast-iron guarantee that the vehicle is fault-free – and you’d struggle to pursue a claim against the service provider if your car turned out to be a dud further down the line.

What’s the alternative?

The cheapest way to check out a used car you are buying is to persuade a knowledgeable friend to take a look. You can also get your local garage to carry out a report, but in any event, just having a companion to provide moral support is a good idea.

After all, it’s always easier to negotiate a deal if you have someone to back up your point of view.

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