Many shoppers of classic cars are having to look hundreds of miles from home to find that right car. Online shopping sites enable them to find their dream car, and help connect shoppers with sellers. This is a great time saver, but what happens when you find that perfect car and are ready to press the “buy button?” Do you trust the pictures and description provided by the seller?
This has been a common concern for years. I experienced this with my first online purchase in 2004. For that one, I won an eBay auction on a 1984 Corvette. I trusted the information I gathered from the seller during the 7 day auction. I was lucky the car was as described when I went to pick it up, but it could have been a disastrous transaction. A vehicle inspection prior to purchase would have been smart, however, I believed I knew what I was doing. Looking back, that was pretty stupid on my part.
A number of online shopping sites recommend a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. In the past, this meant finding a local mechanic to go look at the car you intend to buy. This can cost anywhere from $150-300 for the mechanic’s time.
This is a great option if you can find a reliable mechanic residing near the car you are hoping to buy. This option can also be tough to arrange if the mechanic is only available at night or on weekends. Not all sellers will wait for that inspection to take place, and you risk losing the car.
You could also book travel to see the car for yourself; however, this can be expensive and time consuming. Not everyone wants to travel during the COVID19 pandemic, so the personal inspection becomes expensive and a potential health risk.
Is there an easier way? You bet!
In late 2019, a new pre-purchase vehicle inspection service was launched. This new service, R8TR (“rater”), is app-based making it easy to connect a shopper with an experienced R8TR.
Think of it like the Uber of vehicle inspections.
I discovered this app in November 2019, just after it launched. It intrigued me with its simplicity and ease of use. In fact, the process to request the service is very easy, as noted below:
- A prospective buyer downloads the free app and enters basic information and details about a vehicle they wish to purchase. They then send a request for a pre-qualified and independent R8TR in the designated zip code.
- The R8TR in the selected zip code gets an alert for a potential rating in their area. The R8TR then accepts the job and agrees to the predetermined fee.
- When the R8TR begins their inspection they will “check-in” on the app, which immediately notifies the buyer that he/she has arrived and started the inspection.
- The R8TR then performs a thorough visual inspection of the vehicle. The buyer also has the ability to make special requests for the review and inspection in addition to the R8TR’s pre-loaded checklist.
I spoke with Randy Wild, Co-Founder of R8TR, to get more details about the service and the future of the app. Randy was very forthcoming about the service and very optimistic about the growth of the network of R8TRs and partners.
The inspections include a 27 point checklist, and each area of the vehicle is graded on a scale of 0-8 (Randy shares that no car is a perfect 10!). If the R8TR finds the area is an 8, the app allows him to move on to the next section. If it is a 6 or lower, the R8TR must take pictures and comment on the reason for the grade (the R8TR can always take pics and comment if the grade is 7 or 8, and usually does).
The typical inspection takes at least 30 minutes to perform and starts at $80 for most vehicles.
Upon completion of the inspection, photos, descriptions, a video and client’s special requests are combined to form a vehicle’s overall rating for the prospective buyer. Once the info is complete and sent the R8TR will receive compensation for the inspection.
Things have been moving fast at R8TR, and there has been some good success with the service. Randy Wild shared these fun facts:
Date Established: November 2019
Number or R8TRs: Over 4,000 (all have mechanical background and/or have a rich history buying and selling vehicles)
Service Area: All 50 states plus Washington, DC (covering 190 of the top 200 markets)
Types of Vehicles Inspected: Cars, Boats, RVs and Motorcycles
Checklist/Grading: 27 point checklist, with each vehicle area scored on a scale of 0-8.
Inspection Cost: Starts at $80 for most vehicles.
Average Price of Vehicle Inspected: $15,000 (with a range of $1,500 for a Hearse to $500,000 for a Lamborghini)
Future Growth: Randy has developed partnerships with small auction houses and is finalizing an agreement with a BIG player (details to be shared soon!).
Number of Scams Uncovered: 34+
That last point is really the key benefit to this service. As more vehicles are sold online, it is critical that a pre-purchase inspection is performed. A number of those inspections determined there was no real car for sale (surprise!) or the vehicle had serious mechanical or cosmetic issues not evident in the vehicle listing. That $80 for the service was money well spent.
Now that the infrastructure is firmly in place, Randy and his team plan to increase their promotion of the R8TR service. He was quick to point out that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. I think his plan is sound and will lead to better adoption.
If you are in the market for a car, boat, RV or motorcycle and want an objective inspection of it prior to purchase, I highly recommend you give R8TR a try.