A nice lady just bought a car from her trusted neighbor. He assured her the car was sound. He told her the car was ready for a trip to Boston if desired. She trusted him, but she was bothered by a scraping noise as the car moved.
So, she took it to her regular garage for a check-up. They looked at it and refused to even attempt to remove a wheel. They felt that the car was so rusty, it would crumble from the attempt. Then something fell off from under the car as she was driving home. Now she was worried. She made an appointment to have us look at it. We spent a considerable time removing the wheels and inspecting the car. The noise was caused by rusty, front brake rotors. They needed to be replaced. The part that fell off was one of the two straps that hold the gas tank up. The steel brake lines were minutes away from crumbling, which would cause a loss of brake fluid, and therefore no brakes. The cost of repair would exceed the value of the car. If we were aircraft mechanics we could ground the aircraft, but we had to let this one drive away.
Seventeen states require safety inspections, but there are no laws in Florida protecting the public from cars like this. Florida used to have vehicle inspections, but the urban legend is that newly elected Governor Bob Graham had his car flunked at an inspection station, so he scrapped the whole program. Now, we all get to share the road with these time bombs.
The problem is that most owners do not know how bad their cars are. I hope the seller of the above-mentioned car didn't know. Most people feel that if their car runs good and goes down the road smoothly, the car must be in good shape. Rust is sneaky, hidden and catastrophic. The only solution is more frequent inspections on a voluntary basis by qualified inspectors. To protect ourselves from buying one of these disasters, we need to always have a pre-purchase inspection. If a used car salesman won't allow you to have it inspected, find another dealer. The good ones allow it. It is especially important when buying from a private seller, because the vehicle may not have been seen by a competent mechanic for a long time. Unless the owner is a mechanic, he won't really know. Even if he is a mechanic, did you ever hear the one about how the cobbler's kids go barefoot?
When buying a house a pre-purchase inspection is standard procedure, usually mandated by various governments. It is the prudent thing to do when buying an expensive boat. A professional surveyor can save thousands in repair bills on a prospective boat or house, and could do the same on a car, and there's an additional kicker on a car.
Your life is threatened by the car, whether you're driving it or someone else hits you with it. They can't hit you with a house.
Not to end on a morbid note, but if you can't be bothered with a safety inspection, be sure to kiss your spouse before you leave the house. See the title.