What Would You Pay For An Inspection?

Last week we asked if any of you would be willing inspect cars for fellow barn finders and we were surprised by the response received. There were inquiries coming in from all over the world and over 300 people have signed up to date. So, I think it’s safe to assume that this is a service that we should offer. There are lots of classic car inspection services out there though. Most charge around $300 for a single inspection and I have a sneaky suspicion they are just calling up local service stations to do the dirty work. Our service will be different in that other enthusiasts will do the inspections. We have determined who will do it, but we haven’t figured out pricing yet. So, I want to hear what your guy’s opinions. Please leave your feedback in the comments section below!


  1. Doug

    I have been doing post repair inspections for years. If the inspector is using equipment such as thickness gauge, endo/borescopes, lifts, etc. then it is worth every bit of $299 to $499. In some cases I’ve charged a lot more depending on the severity of the accident the car was involved in and if I removed and reinstalled mudwalls or other items so I had a better visual of hidden damage and improper repairs. If someone is just going to lift carpets and eyeball because they are not as skilled or don’t have the equipment, then $99 to $199 would be fair.

    • James Doherty

      This is a good point, how extensive should the inspection be? i.e. is it enough to just do a simple borescope inspection of the cylinders or is a compression test a must…. or both?

  2. Roger Owen

    ‘sneaky suspension’ ????

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Fixed it, Roger, thanks :-)

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks for catching that guys!

    • James Doherty

      I thought that was just a double entendre? Snap-oversteer?

  3. xroads

    I would think half that number is about right. It’s enough for me as an inspector and yet I would spend that as a buyer.

  4. David C

    It depends. If it’s close to me I wouldn’t mind doing it for free (within 20 miles). If it’s 50 miles away it could be a pain in the neck. I’m often out and about and driving all over Atlanta anyway. Of course everyone may not feel this way.

  5. DanaPointJohn

    I have a shop in San Juan Capistrano, CA that charges me $75 for an inspection that takes one hour and includes a compression test, pulling the wheels and valve covers and otherwise looking for leaks of any type. They even stick their finger in the transmission and rear end (sorry about that image burned in your brain!) to evaluate the fluid. Maybe I am not getting a full inspection if others are paying $300. Thoughts?

    • Imperialist1960

      The shop is not mobile.
      An inspector is mobile and must arrange to go to the site of the car, which usually means more than an hour invested, more like three is my average experience, although I’ve gone as far as 250 miles away..

      Hopefully this process here on BF will standardize expectations on both ends.

      I do inspections for buddies in my online club on cars that I specialize in who are in Scandinavia. No wheel pulling or anything like compression check – just going and looking for any blue-screen-of-death sorts of things that would prove the seller a liar and the car purchase a bad deal. Sins of omission and photos that exclude otherwise obvious problems. All cars have problems, it’s just nice to know which ones will be included free of charge on YOUR new/old car.

      If the car is what the ad looked like and seems to match buyer’s expectations/needs, then I hand the seller cash and pick the car up for them on my trailer (I ‘bring it’) and hold it for the shipper that the buyer arranges.

      I charge $500 for this, and people in Finland seem to like it just fine – I’ve been through about 15 cars this way in the last decade so far. Have passed on only one, which was terribly misrepresented. Otherwise I find most old car people are a pretty genuine cross-section of society.

  6. bonneville 64

    I’m thinking somewhere between $175 and $275. as an alternative an hourly rate plus mileage, depending on distance. Maybe first 25 miles included, if in large metropolitan area. for example Los Angeles, Dallas etc. since in most instances just the travel within the metropolitan area would entail that much driving from home and back on an inspection. How would payment be made? thru barnfinds.com, or direct payment to inspector? If from barn finds, we would be contract employees responsible for taxes, but barn finds would also have to keep track to issue 1099s’ at the end of the year.

  7. Neil

    It’s got to depend on the amount of work required, surely. If I’m asking someone to look at a rolling shell, sans engine & gearbox, it won’t be as in-depth or take as long as for someone who needs compression tests, vacuum tests etc. performed.

    Inspecting an ash-bodied British roadster requires specialist knowledge, as does checking that a rare bit of muscle is what it says it is and not a clone. A 1960s Cadillac is going to take much longer to look over than a Frogeye.

    Also, once you start accepting more than gas money for doing this, you’ve moved into the realms of being a professional – this really means the inspectors should have some kind of liability insurance or they could be opening themselves up to financial ruin.

    Whilst I have no doubt that all of the people you’ve signed up are genuine, what are the plans for an arbitration service (if any) or is just a case that BF puts two people in touch and then it’s down to them to sort it out?

    With the above in mind, as a potential customer (this would have saved me a fortune in travel costs when I bought my Caddies earlier on this year), I would suggest an hourly rate and I can’t see anyone’s time and knowledge being worth less than $50/hour, especially if they’re going to be paying for their own insurance.

    If it has to be a fixed price.. three hours should be enough for *most* vehicles, which puts it around $150. (two hours for inspection, an hour to write the report), but that’s not enough time for a 1970s Winnebago.

    See the problem?!

  8. hhaleblian

    It would depend on drive time, but I would say $100/hr plus expenses ie tolls and fuel (Chicago) would be fair. Does the prospective buyer want pictures, written report, etc? That all takes time. I charged $500 to view a speedster 1 1/2 hours away with a full report and pictures. The car was not even close to being represented properly. Saved the guy a lot of time and expense. Charged $100 for a Fiat close by. It was junk and I got stiffed on the ppi. So I get paid in full up front. Inspections are not my vocation but my avocation.

    • bob von Rinteln

      Spot on, different situations require different cost. Some cost can’t determined until your there, but I agree some sort of pre payment and or guarantee is needed. Also what qualifies the inspector. Is an ASE Master Tech worth the same as a hobbist with limited knowledge.

  9. Johnny

    An onsite inspection within a 30 mile radius should go for the $300.00 pricetag.

    More mileage unfortunately translates into more cost for the inspection.

    The inspection service should include a written evaluation, multiple pictures and especially pictures of any areas of concern to be sent to the potential buyer.

    Without a through shop inspection to measure frame rails and look for minor accident damage some things could get by on a site inspection.

    I would also defer to the “specialty” inspectors who have more knowledge about a specific make of automobile. I’m not the guy for a brass lamp car but I can sure do T Birds.


  10. Irish Bill

    That’s a hard question to answer because it depends on the debth of the inspection. What I would like to know in buying a “project car” is what are the rust issues and does the car run and stop. I’ve been mislead on these issues on project cars more than once. Any additional information regarding options overall condition, originality are also helpful and normally easy to determine on a visual inspection. Given these parameters I would believe $150-225 would be a fair range.

  11. Rob Barfield

    I would be very interested in becoming an inspector for barn find vehicles. I live in the Houston, Texas area and have been in the car business for 35 years.

  12. bonneville 64

    DanaPointJohn, some folks, like me, call that a differential, other call it a third member. I guess that is why we are called car GUYS. I couldn’t help myself, hope nobody is offended.

    • DanaPointJohn

      Bonneville64, no offense taken by me and thanks for your reply. I asked if it was possible I was not getting the same inspection as others. What I get from my $75 inspection tells me if the mechanicals are working and what the cost would be to repair any issues. My local shop does not place a value on the vehicle because I do not ask them for it and I have never been disappointed with the information they supply. Signed…a CAR GUY!

  13. David C

    I guess I should have clarified what type of inspection. When I go to look at a car (a project) I’m concerned with rust, completeness, if the engine is free, will it role, and overall condition.
    My last 3 purchases did not run or drive at the time I bought them. The last one didn’t even have an engine. I assumed we were talking about “barn finds”.

  14. Derek Habbeshaw

    Since being a transplanted Canadian living in Phx Az I have gone to look at many cars here in the Valley for my fellow Canucks just as a extra eye and have viewed many rust free drivers. Northern friends would call me and say ” I’m bidding on one in your city and can you just let me know if its a trap or a good buy” I have been doing this for years and will either say ” I would buy it” or “stay away from this one” I know uni body Mopars well and can call bad torque boxes and frame rail issues pretty quickly.

  15. Robert Amundson Member

    Gas money plus $75 if in a one hour driving area. Hands on dig deep dirty type $125.

  16. jimbosidecar

    I’m in agreement with most everybody on this thread. I do bank ATM inspections and home inspections, so paying between $100-$200 depending how deep the buyer wants to go sounds plenty reasonable and something that I would gladly pay to have done.

  17. LORNE

    Hi – i am a ex-service manager and spend summers in Canada and winters in Mesa AZ – would be will to do inspections as required within near driving distances . Now my questions is as much as we inspect these vehicles – who is liable if and when something gets missed ?

    • Neil

      A point I’ve raised above. Anyone doing the inspections will really want to be taking out liability insurance for that very reason.

      This is such a good idea, but as soon as money starts changing hands and profits are made, then it moves into the realm of the professional which is why existing inspections are $300 or more plus expenses!

      If it was kept as a purely amateur scheme – i.e., people willing to help out for gas money and for the enjoyment of poking about old cars – then this wouldn’t be an issue but I suspect many of the people who have signed up are already professional inspectors, looking to increase their customer base. I don’t have an issue with that, but if it’s going to be the same price as the professionals, with all their insurance and guarantees, I may as well pay an established pro.

  18. George Birge

    Even if we’re doing it amongst ourselves, it’s still 100% subjective to the inspector’s experience. I had an internet friend (a car guy through and through) look at a car for me, and in the end, I did not get what I was expecting. He saw things he could fix with little or no problem and neglected to mention them, whereas, I was looking for something more solid to start with.
    That being said, I am picky-picky-picky, so if you’re looking for a solid, honest inspection, I’ll do it for $100 within 50 miles of Spokane Washington!

  19. Chris

    The price would also depend on the expertise in the make and model. For example, I have owned several Chargers, GSXs, 442s, Chevelles, and I know those cars really well and can spot a fake. If I was in the market for an $80k ’70 Boss 302 for example, I would pay more than $300 for a Ford expert that can tell me if all the codes and stampings are correct. I think if you want to do this (and I think it would be fun) we should mark our specialties. I see a lot of random cars on these emails and it amazes me how much folks know that have owned these vehicles. I think this is the value Barn Finds brings to this business.

    • Neil

      Completely agree with you re. the BF value. So many really knowledgeable people on here but what happens if your inspector says that Boss 302 is the real deal, you buy it, get it home, and it isn’t….

    • Glen

      I agree 100%, the subscribers to Barn Finds ( other than me!), seem to have a wealth of knowledge, but as you suggest, each should specify their area of expertise.

  20. Velocette500

    Ah, I wish it was 1960 again and a fellow collector could go look at a barn find and say yes or no. This is 2015 and the issues of 1099’s, insurance and liability have replaced the old kick the tire inspection. I bought a Vincent for $500 on the word of a friend who inspected it. It was trashed inside and cost many thousands to fix but was a $500 Vincent after all! Now had I paid the going $25,000 and had to do all the same work I might not be as forgiving. Being old school I would take my lumps but some will not and then who pays? The courts would decide and everyone except the attorneys would be much poorer for it.

    • Neil

      I’m kinda with you on that sentiment and I probably should have raised these points in the original thread but, sadly, I missed it.

      I run a wedding car business. If you pay me $1000 to show up to your daughter’s wedding with two immaculate classics, you’ll expect the drivers to be courteous, well trained and adaptable, the cars to be exactly as described. You’re paying me to have a car and driver on standby in case something happens to one of the cars you’ve hired so the whole thing goes without a hitch if there are mechanical problems.

      If, through some negligence, on the part of one of my staff the wedding is cancelled or rescheduled then, quite rightly, you’re going to expect me to pay for it. I have insurance to cover that and I invest in training to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place.

      If you bung your friend $50 to turn up in his 1960s Olds and it doesn’t show, or he crashes it en-route.. well… that’s on you, basically.

      Same principle applies here. If this is purely an offer from one enthusiast to another to go look at something for gas money then I can’t complain if the inspector’s assessment differs from mine. I could have shelled out for the airfare, hotels and rental cars and looked at it myself.

      If I’m paying a fee – I expect a professional service with all that entails.


  21. splod

    Depends on distance traveled, time spent, and thoroughness of the inspection.
    A 20 min quick look and once-over within 20 miles, $50-$75 seems fair.
    More depending on distance and depth of inspection.

    Also, it seems a standard list of things to inspect, and a standard list of questions for the inspector to ask the seller, would be very helpful and would let the prospective buyer know what he is getting for the price of the inspection.

  22. Bob Lichty

    We own a collector car dealership and frequently have pre-purchase inspectors come to look at cars. We always welcome professionals with s cheat understanding of old cars. But the worse is many companies give inexperienced inspectors who do pnc of two things. 1. Overlook any items that should be discussed. OR 2. Pick the old car apart as those it was a new Lexus. In both cases the client is done a disservice. The usual rate is $350 for the inspection

  23. Matt

    It has to be a case by case basis with each inspector and each transaction in each location. I am going to give two very different inspections to a local in my rural town who wants me to look over a ’78 Dodge Power Wagon, and somebody who’s interested in buying a ’88 Mercedes 560 SL. Not that I won’t be thorough with the Dodge, but there’s so much less to look for. Also, I can’t expect the same labor or inspection rate here in my town that I can get if I travel to DC. What’s my time worth, and who is my client? I don’t mean to sound like I would rip anybody off, but I think it’s fair to acknowledge local labor rates, and complexity, or rarity of vehicle and the experience required to asses it properly

  24. Birdman

    I think there is a number of factors that come into play here….distance, time, how complete of an inspection is called for, I think even the overall condition of the car comes into play… Car with a tree growing through it is not worth, in most cases, as much effort as a car that has been babied it’s whole life. I think also the qualifications of the person doing the inspection has a big part too. ie: I’m not a licensed mechanic, but I have over 25 years experience in the automotive industry, I know my cars, I know a lot about the classics, I know what to look for…BUT…I would be doing this kind of thing more for the thrill than anything else, but would still take the inspection seriously. Whereas, a licensed mechanic or someone who does this kind of thing for a living, should and will charge more. So,yeah, there is a lot of things to take into consideration.

  25. David C

    All good discussion points. As stated above I don’t mind “thoroughly checking” a car out for someone but I’m not going to do a full blown inspection. By the way I am an ASE certified Master Mechanic and A&P licensed for 30+ years retired. I’m in a different field now.
    Anyway the offer stands if needed.

  26. Neil

    Having looked through all the points raised by everyone here I’m pretty much of the opinion that this is a non starter.

    The idea is excellent. What you should do is take it to some Silicon Valley startup and make a website, an app, that links buyers to inspections. Get some real investment and some real legal advice. What you’re proposing at the moment is full of holes and a potential legal minefield for anyone involved.

    Either do that or make this an enthusiast-to-enthusiast match-making service with no liability and no fees. You won’t be able to monetise it, but you won’t have any liability.

    As it stands, the idea is great but I see no real plans for execution, the handling of funds, offsetting of liability or anything remotely resembling a proper business plan. Either it’s a business, or it’s a favour. Pick one – you’re trying to make it both.

    I’d trust regular contributors like Dolphin to make a call on a purchase, but why should I trust JohnSmith283746 just because he’s told you he has various certifications? Do you verify them? Do you share them?

    The more I think about it, the more I think you’re out of your depth guys. You’re asking commentators for pricing structure. You should have this figured out yourselves and you should have figured out the problems. I see no evidence you have.

    Sorry to be harsh, as I know you’re trying to do something good here, but you might want to have a long hard think about its implementation.

    All the best

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Come on Neil, give us a little credit. I have thought through this plenty. As demonstrated here though, sometimes great ideas can come out of a discussion like this.

      • Neil

        Jesse, I don’t doubt for a minute that you’ve spent a lot of time on this project. The snag is, it’s very short on details at the moment which is why you see a lot of people speculating on how it’s going to work and pointing out flaws which may not exist in the business model you’ve envisaged.

        Perhaps a more detailed explanation of how you see this working before soliciting pricing suggestions might be more appropriate?

        Most of the comments which you might perceive as negative have actually been out of concern for your position – Waynard’s comment below sums up it well.

        This is a service I would use – in fact, it would have been invaluable earlier on this year – but you still haven’t explained how it would work or how you plan to price a kick-the-tyres inspection of a rolling MGB shell vs. a guaranteed mechanical and cosmetic inspection of a limousine.

        The idea is sound – tell us how you’re going to do it!


  27. randy

    I have a lot of problems with this service, first of all there are way too many scammers. I am quite sure there will be an “inspector” that gets paid and “pencil whips” the inspection, there will be other inspectors that will steal the car out from under you. Barn finds needs to do back ground checks etc. on any inspectors they reccommend. There is more to life than making money, I say let the good guys send you pics etc for whatever you both deem fair. Pro’s need to advertise somewhere else.
    I also get the sneaking suspicion there will be commissions or kickbacks.

  28. charlie Member

    I would do the basics for free, on a car north of Boston, MA and south of Portland, ME and east of Manchester NH, and about 1/4 of the time along CA 395 from Bishop to Bridgeport CA, but it would be from the point of view of an old guy who has owned 30 or so cars, and bought more for his kids, a few new, but mostly used, and could answer a few questions that are often raised on this site, particularly on cars without a lot of information – rust, engine turn over, head liner, but telling a real Boss Mustang from a clone, not me. If it runs, one can tell something by how it sounds, and smokes, or doesn’t. If it can be driven one can assess the transmission, steering, brakes, not as to useful remaining life, but, whether they work or not. My oldest car a ’39, newest so far 2014.

  29. Pat L

    I tend to agree with Neil, often people just want a second opinion, so I would suggest it be kept at just that-an opinion not a paid for service. You are opening yourselves up for a world of hurt one day. We would go and look at a car for someone who can’t. I figure we are all in this hobby of cars for the same reason so it’s nice to help others, and in turn they will help.. the old what goes around comes around.

    • Neil

      Exactly. Pat, if you ever wanted to import a Land Rover from a seller in Scotland, I’d happily trot round and look it over for you when I had a spare moment. What you wouldn’t get from me is a certified, insured assessment or valuation.

      You’d get an email with some photos attached and my opinion and, most importantly, no invoice! It’d be up to you whether or not to go ahead – all I would be doing is adding some of the details and photos that sellers always seem to miss out of their ads!

  30. Lee H.

    I’d be willing to do inspections here in SW Idaho. Price would depend on the job but would basically be an hourly rate plus mileage. I have access to a shop if the customer needs a really detailed inspection. Our shop has all the newest diagnostic equipment including emissions testing. I’ve worked on all kinds of cars and trucks from the teens up to the newer rigs. Import or domestic.

  31. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Agree with most said – Pat L brought up my point – after all….aren’t we just verifying what the seller is advertising or stated – ? One red flag or two should be able for a question on price of the vehicle being sold – would hate to get in a debate with sale’r over that – most flippers wouldn’t know most of the pacific stuff….make sense?

    • Neil

      Totally agree. There is a genuine need for professional inspections but that needs to be left to, well, professionals. Not people trying to make a few hundred dollars on the side without the necessary support structures in place.

      There is definitely a place for helpful car enthusiasts to have a quick look over something, take some photos, lift the carpets, take a test drive and see if anything is suspicious. What you can’t do is charge for that – you do it as a favour for a fellow car person.


    Boy you sure know how to get into troubled waters lol.

    A good inspection is a job as any other and should be charged accordingly. Not for gas money.
    If I buy a house, the inspector charges me 450. If a need a medical evaluation the doctor charges me 200. If the AC guy comes to my house to check on the system he charges 65 just for the visit. So how comes a classic car inspector who has a legit business (insurance, bond, taxes, utilities, etc) has to do an inspection which actually will save the potential new owner thousands of dollars for gas money?
    I charge 350, it usually takes half a day from the moment I left the shop till I come back and then it takes 1-2 hours doing paperwork. And that does not account for any research that has to be made for any specific car. (it can take hours, even days).
    I have nothing against car guys checking a car for a fellow BF for free, but charging any amount of money is unfair for us who do a living out of this.
    Sorry guys for the rant, just trying to be fair.
    Axel Caravias

    • Matt

      Competition is a bummer.

  33. waynard

    Both Axel and Neil have the right idea(s), along with a few other choice comments from others.

    I’m a Certified Appraiser of Collector Vehicles and I charge appropriately for what I do as a professional and it ain’t cheap. Our appraisals are detailed and complete, accepted by all insurance companies as well as the IRS. They are “Fair Market” appraisals and are based upon condition, desirability and the markets at the time of appraisal. But that isn’t what you are talking about here. What you have are, for the most part, “Barn Finds”, that appeal to a certain segment of the old car hobby, not usually people who need a full blown appraisal, but rather a closer look at a vehicle to ascertain condition and accuracy of description.

    Some of the questions I have are:

    How do you differentiate between an “inspection” and a full appraisal? Who defines this for the potential buyer?

    Who takes the liability for errors and omissions made in an “inspection”?

    There are very few “experts” in one marque or another that can certify a given automobiles’ authenticity. Who will you select? Are they local to the vehicle?

    If its “barn finds” you are “inspecting” what are you inspecting for? If you or a potential buyer expect perfection and authenticity you are barking up the wrong tree with un-certified people out there who have little or no experience and are doing it for the thrill of seeing old cars.

    My appraisals are paid for upfront. No exceptions. That would narrow down the tire kickers from the serious buyers, but what if three people all want the same car? Are they all willing to pay the fees? Who comes first?

    And, time is of the essence on many of these ads your are re-posting. Can the buyers afford to wait / waste the time on waiting for an “inspection”?

    Driving the vehicle or doing an in depth, hands-on inspection of mechanical components takes on liabilities. Are you prepared to assume those liabilities as a Contractor? Whether you are or are not, your going to be liable in certain situations.

    Frankly, I think you’ve opened Pandora’s box and given what you’re reading from the foregoing comments you might consider backing away from what might sound like a great idea but in reality is a bad one for you, especially when you consider your place in the scheme of things (your credibility) and your liabilities. Personally, I wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole from your side of the equation.

    From my side of the equation, I’m happy to do full blown Appraisals for anyone in my region.

    • bob von Rinteln

      what liabilities do you assume? what do you charge?

  34. Neil

    Axel and Waynard have pretty much summed up the problems you’ll face. I’m not a car appraiser but they’re giving you good advice.

    Here’s how you could make it work – make a directory of people willing to do inspections. A phone book of inspectors, if you like. List everyone involved by state, by country – list how much they charge, their website and qualifications (if any).

    Charge the inspectors a fee for advertising on your site and then disclaim any endorsement of their services. If the person is willing to do an inspection, basically, for free then don’t charge them for the advert – that’s the enthusiast-to-enthusiast match up. Keep a feedback rating, like eBay, for each person advertising – you’re charging people so you need to offer some value back to your customers other than just showing some text.

    If someone’s charges start at $400 and go up, then ask them for $250 a year to appear on your site. They are a professional – they can afford the listing fees. This way you’re just charging for adverts, like every other web site, and not for services.

    • bob von Rinteln

      Good idea but what about a return on investment, are you offering a protected territory, are you charging a guy $250. a year for an unprotected territory with 100 other inspectors, and no chance of a real return of investment. I think a broker fee with a liability disclaimer for all make better business sense. Then you can manage protected territories. As an example you could have maybe no more that 10 inspectors within the central Florida area, you provide a list of the inspectors, their qualifications and cost. You take an upfront fee for the service and simply guarantee the inspection takes place, and that the inspector gets paid. Then offer ratings like ebay, but carefully, like ebay, so that your inspectors don’t get thrown under the bus from buyers remorse, after a proper inspection.

  35. JamestownMike

    $300 for an inspection??…….really? Who can afford that?…….unless your buying a $20,000+ vehicle, I can’t justify that cost. What about the rest of us average folks? I usually spend a MAX of $5,000 on a restorable project vehicle. Let’s keep this VERY SIMPLE! If it was in my immediate area and it was a quick look over, $30 to $50 minimum. A longer drive and look, $75 to $100. I personally think the body is far more important (and costly to restore properly) than the mechanicals. If ANY car has been sitting 5 years or more, ALL mechanical systems are going to need some kind of work/restoration to get running/driving again (safely).

  36. bob von Rinteln

    You get what you pay for.
    Most shops with qualified personnel charge 80.00 to 120.00 per hour and you go to them.

  37. FreestateSteve

    I think different levels is good and costs is good. Maybe the lot of us could come up with a checklist of what gets checked in a level 1, 2, 3 etc. Are pictures included? Videos of a walk around or test drive? Thickness of paint is never usually an issue in my price range, but knowing the anti-freeze looks like a mocha-latte or that the interior smells like that cat lady’s townhouse basement, does.


    @JamestownMike, it is all about risk management, I have bought cars without inspecting them across the nation and I know I am assuming risks. Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when the car arrives, sometimes not, and when that happens after paying $500-1000 on shipping costs is when I regret of not having done an inspection. I have a restoration shop, so I can take more risks than a guy who has to paid someone else for hidden damage repairs, but $300-500 to open a pandora box before you pull the trigger is a smart decision even if it is a 5k project.
    For example, you can buy a 77-79 Corvette for $4-8k all day long and do most of the work diy but what about trailing arms? rebuilding them is a $700 bill and that is if you take them out and put them back in. I would charge $600-$1000 plus rebuilding to do that job at my shop. So it would make a huge difference if the car you get has good trailing arms instead of bad ones. A PPI would have save you $1300-$1700 and a lot of headaches. There is no way to tell bad ones from good ones without a knowledgeable inspection.
    Got you another example for you, on January a guy from Finland contacted me to inspect a BMW 635M that was going for auction at Mecum Kissimmee, we agreed on a price and I went there just to reveal that the seller was a flipper (nothing wrong with that) and the car was not even close to what the pictures in the catalog were showing. Lots of corners cut all around, just a cheap fixed-to-sell car. As there was no time for paperwork I sent him pictures of the “not-so-obvious-but-expensive repairs that the car will eventually need, call him with my feedback and saved him more than $20k and a lot of disappointments (I think I also saved his marriage). And this wasn’t at Craigslist, this was Mecum. Don’t get me wrong, the car wasn’t misrepresented in any way, is just that a buyer’s inspection will always reveal a lot of additional issues that the seller didn’t even know that exist. (Assuming bona fide from the seller)
    At the $5k price range you can always use a buddy who can check if the car indeed exists and the seller is a real person who would not steal your money. Anyways you will be assuming tons of overlooked issues that will be more than the said $300. As a matter of fact, usually when I perform an inspection the buyer always end up getting a better price because of nondisclosure issues revealed. Once the seller is aware of the known (and sometimes potentially dangerous) issues he/she must disclosure them for the next potential buyer, so they rather sell the car right away for $300 less than taking any chances or liabilities.
    As any other professionals, there are good ones, bad ones, no-clue ones, you name it. Just make sure you hire the right inspector for the right car.
    For example, I don’t inspect muscle car’s authenticity. I can perform a complete inspection but that. For a real authenticity inspection it takes a marque specialist and that will cost you more than $300. He will save the buyer from eventually being scammed big time. There are tons of fake muscle cars out there and very very good ones.
    Hope this helps to understand what the word “inspection” represents in the complex world of Classic Cars

    Axel Caravias

  39. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Wow, lots of great ideas here! I can tell that some of you would make better lawyers than entrepreneurs though. There are risks in starting any business, but there are always ways to mitigate them too.

    • Neil

      Those of us who do run our own businesses know the pitfalls only too well, Jesse! We’re offering advice based on our own experiences, that’s all.

      That said, none of us (as far as I can tell) are middle-men, linking buyers to sellers, so we’re not experts in what you’re trying to do. I hope you know what you’re letting yourself in for!

    • Chris

      Folks are making too big a deal about the liability. There is no recourse now for a bad inspection, buyer beware…I am psyched to do this. It would be a huge benefit to have someone local go look at a car easily. Photos just don’t tell the story.

      • waynard

        Not exactly. You’re putting people out there that have little or no training and passing themselves off as qualified to make a good inspection that the potential buyer can take to the bank. When they misrepresent a vehicle because of lack of knowledge or due diligence in constructing their reports who do you think will take the hit?

        There is recourse and it will be taken out on Jesse first as the Contractor and then the (so-called) inspector / appraiser. People will sue at the drop off a hat where they think they can gain a few bucks.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      And I appreciate it Neil. Maybe it’s my own fault for not sharing more about myself, but I don’t think I’m totality ignorant to the intricacies of business. I would never claim to know everything about anything though. I grew up in a family that was financed by a small business that was started well before I came along. I went to school for business and I have been building online businesses since before Google even existed. In fact, I haven’t worked for anyone but myself for the past decade or so. Along the way, I have found that it is always good ask for other opinions, but you should always question the motivation behind them.

  40. dj

    I’m just speaking for myself. I’ve got all my ASE certifications in my garage hanging on the wall. I would think that should be enough to verify I know some things about cars. I’m like others though, the mileage and time would dictate how much it would cost. If the car was brought to me, I would think $125 would be fair if I went to the trouble to check brakes and really go through the vehicle. A quick check would be $50-75.
    Not to be on the bad side. But if one of us does an inspection and something goes wrong. Barnfinds would be in the middle of it.

  41. waynard

    The idea is not to find a way to mitigate problems, but to know how to avoid them in the first place, with good business policies and structure.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      You’re right Waynard.

  42. waynard

    …and take a look at the big appraisal and inspection services that are out there to see how they do what they do to retain legitimacy and protect themselves.

    ClassicCars.com has a service listed today on their blog.

  43. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Are the “professional” classic car inspectors here really worried that we are going to become the Uber of the inspection world?

    We aren’t trying to take the place of the in-depth inspections needed for high dollar collector cars. We are talking about a simple service where you can pay someone a few bucks to go snap the photos that the seller was too lazy to do before listing their car on craigslist. Let’s not over complicate it guys!

    • Neil

      OK – now this is a little clearer. You’re not actually going to be offering an inspection service per se, but a photography/red flag kind of service. Does the seller point a shotgun at you whilst you photograph the rusty underside of his ultra-rare, one-of-a-kind Caprice that just needs the air-con topping up and a little roll-over damage buffing out?!

      In which case, $50 seems about right to drive out to a local car, photograph it, and then upload the pics.

      That’s not an inspection as I understand it and this is, I think, where the confusion has arisen.

      The ‘inspector’ will toddle off to the car, snap a myriad of photos, dropbox them and then email the potential buyer with their subjective opinion on whether or not it’s worth bidding/buying, without a breakdown of any issues – is that about right?

      Jesse, I have to say that the professionals here have offered very valuable business advice. I don’t think they feel threatened, and I haven’t read anything that is subversive to what you want to do. They just pointed out the problems based on what you originally wrote:

      “Last week we asked if any of you would be willing inspect cars for fellow barn finders and we were surprised by the response received.”

      This clarification is much more in line with what I think most of us were expecting from Barn Finds.

      • bob von Rinteln

        take me off the list, I thought you wanted to offer a worthwhile service. What you a proposing will create problems.

      • Matt

        I think this has more value as a networking tool than anything else. I’ve looked at dozens of cars over the years for members of the Alfa, Lancia, Mercedes, BMW, and Edsel clubs as well as marque bb members. I’ve also had several members look at cars for me. In most cases, I’ve done it for free to help a fellow car guy out. In other cases I’ve been reimbursed (or reimbursed someone) for gas and time. In every case it is understood up front that no one is holding anyone liable for anything, what you’re offering is a personal look-see, visual inspection, pictures, and a subjective opinion. I certainly wouldn’t mind having another geographical list of people who don’t mind looking at a car that is too far away for me to look at but is interesting enough that I’ll invest in having someone else look at it just to make sure it is what it says it is. And as far as pricing, I favor letting individuals set their rates and let the market decide.

    • Neil

      Could you also leave a bit of wiggle room for those of us who would like to help out without wanting any money? I’d be happy to snap any vehicle and offer a general opinion (as long as they’re 25 years old or more of course!) for someone, if it was close to me here in the UK for nothing.

      I’m not a certified appraiser, I’m not a specialist, I’m not an accredited mechanic so I would not feel right charging for that. I’d do it from one enthusiast to another.

      That doesn’t make you any money though, although there is probably a way to charge a nominal fee. I would be interested to hear if you have any plans to allow the Barn Finds expertise to be used, especially across countries or continents, without money changing hands.

      No one begrudges you monetising Barn Finds – it’s a lot of work and all that initial investment in time and effort should reap some reward. That’s how all successful online businesses have started, as you well know. Just don’t forget those of us who come here out of the love of old cars – I’m sure you won’t.

    • JamestownMike

      WELL SAID, THANK YOU! I completely agree with Jesse, “Let’s not over complicate it guys!” I think we could all use a very SIMPLE service of having a local person look it over briefly, snap some QUALITY pics and give an unbiased opinion………all at an affordable price. I’m SO tired of looking at blurry, low quality and lack of pics………most of which hide or don’t reveal problem areas. For the sue happy people, you could always add, “By hiring Looksy Lou Barnfinder Service, you agree to the disclaimer X,Y and Z.”

  44. Paull

    I live in the UK and would look for the following service from you guys in the States.

    If I found a car advertised for sale I would be looking for someone to go over take twenty or thirty pictures, have a good look round the car for the obvious faults etc – we are probably all car buffs so pretty much know what to look for. Check owner ship and title, make sure its complete, if not what’s missing, start it up if it’s a runner, if not is the engine free – remember this is Barn Finds so nobody’s expecting compression tests etc. discuss price with the owner.

    Should the car check out I would then discuss price and send over the money. I would then like someone to oversee collection of the car and delivery to the port. For this service I would expect to pay 5 – 10% of the purchase cost of the car.

    If you find me a car then it’s definitely 10% .

    The cars I am interested in regularly sell for a lot less in the states then they would in the UK and it frustrates me that there is no trust worthy way for me to get a few of these projects back here.

    As mentioned earlier this is a Barn Finds site so surely the inspection is limited to the points mentioned earlier. A friend of mine recently purchased a 993tt from NZ he had Porsche inspect it at a cost of £550 sterling – excellent inspection but it wasn’t a Barn Find if you see what I Mean. 50% of my inspection criteria would be does the car exist and is it a genuine sale.

  45. bob von Rinteln

    I’ve sold cars to Australia, and Denmark. one thing to remember is that the US is a big place so unless your paying travel cost you need a network of inspectors. Also don’t forget shipping cost. I was to able take a non running 412 VW from central Florida to Baltimore, 900 miles at no additional charge, but the boat ride to Denmark was over 2500.00. factor in customs duties and it gets costly.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      With over 300 signups in one week, I’m sure we could have a decent sized network in a couple of months Bob. I’m confused though because you commented earlier that you wanted to be removed from the inspector list.

  46. bob von Rinteln

    Thanks for your follow up. If your planing a network of qualified inspectors, that are properly compensated for their time I’m in. 50.00 is not enough. I realize your not looking to take advantage of my status as an ASE master tech, but to take a few pictures and run leaves a lot to be desired. Also just how far do you think the average inspection is likely to be, I’ve done this before and I usually end up driving 50 – 100 miles.

  47. 64 bonneville

    Re: Barn finds inspections. In my opinion, this means looking at the car, in person and talking with the seller. How good or bad are: body, interior, engine, transmission, front suspension appearance (like dry rot on A frame bushings), condition of chrome, and glass. does the engine turn free or is it seized? major body damage, like did a tree fall on the roof for example. You are not going out to put a value on the vehicle as to what it is worth, or how much to repair it to driver status. You are giving information to a potential buyer if it is going to be good money after bad. This is to provide an opportunity for the seller and buyer to come to an agreeable price. At the price of gasoline jumping up and down like a jack in the box, there should be some form of payment for going to look at the vehicle. As much as I like car, I wouldn’t drive 100-300 miles to look at a car for someone else, if I couldn’t at least get paid for the gas.

  48. Tundra/BMW Guy

    I have, in the past, on this site, offered to go look at a vehicle for a fellow BF’er. My offer has never been made in the hopes of making any money. It’s been done purely because there have been times in the past that I wish I had been able to have someone semi knowledgeable, take a look at something I was interested in purchasing but didn’t know if it was worth the $300 – $500 plus other issues that come into play, to have a “Proffesional Inspection” performed. That is what I would envision. An agreement between two enthusiasts as to what the other wants and what might be a fair cost to do what is discussed as far as depth and location go. Barn Finds would do the “introduction” between the two enthusiasts for N/C for Due Paying Members or $__.__ for non Due Paying Members. From there, BF is out and it is up to the two parties as to what they agree upon. For people that live in large metropolitan areas, getting anywhere, close or far, can be a nightmare due to traffic. For people that live in small towns, getting to and from would probably be a lot easier but it might mean further distances for them. There in again, letting the two parties work it out amongst themselves would seem to be an option to be considered.

  49. bob von Rinteln

    uniform guide lines are important. I don’t want to spend all day negotiating my worth if all I end up with is 50.00 and a headcase. Time, mileage, distance, and the detail should be part of a formula. personally I think a 30 mile round trip, a modest inspection with a flashlight and a camera, a general check list, and a section for comment or review should be at least 200.00. I think doing any less work would be a waist of time. I don’t agree with the guys that think taking a few pictures is all you need to do. I also think the guys that want 500.00 for a more detailed inspection are a great value for some of the better cars.

  50. Dave Anton

    I have been detailing cars and building for over 40 years,
    professionally and as hobbyist, I have friends who call me when they are inclined to purchase a new or collector car, and think that a tiered review would offer the client a variety of options. The dealership offers safety checks for $100, but if you want to go deeper, that can be arrainged for more.
    If you want to have a compression test, paint evaluation, interior assessment, the fees would escalate, and can include a huge variety of services.
    Tree hundred dollars is good for a valued assessment, I would start out at $100 and go from there, and offer 5 tiers for their value.

  51. bob von Rinteln

    how far would you travel for a 100.00 inspection


    $100 is a quick inspection if they bring the car to my shop. Just to make sure that what the seller states is true and some 20-30 quality pics.

    bob von Rinteln, How much would you rate an hour doing an inspection?

  53. bob von Rinteln

    I stated in an earlier block most qualified shops charge 80.00 – 120.00 hour. however there needs to also be compensation for travel, IRS allows 57.5 cents per mile, and that is intended to represent cost of travel not wages, and it is for a round trip, not one way. Again as an earlier post of mine states, a 30 mile round trip, with a good general inspection, pictures and general review should be worth at least 200.00

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