SIGHT UNSEEN

Ever thought about buying a vehicle over the web? Delivery magazine does just that and finds a perfect purchase solution

The world of the FIFO worker (Fly-In/Fly-Out) has become very much part of current employment practices. But what of the FIDO worker, (Fly-In/Drive-Out)?

Delivery chose the opportunity of a flying visit to the Perth Truck Show from home base on the East Coast, one hour west of Sydney, to try out the concept of buying a used vehicle from the web, sight unseen, and then driving our acquisition back 4000 km from Perth to Sydney.

We keep being told that at some stage in the future all household purchases will be made over the web. It’s already happening in the high street. At the click of a keyboard, your groceries can be ordered, selected, picked from the supermarket shelf, the invoice settled by credit card and your produce delivered by refrigerated van direct to your door.Westside-Auto-Wholesale_8

But what if your purchase is something larger, like a vehicle. Are there pitfalls waiting to trap the unwary buyer who uses the web rather than walking to their nearest dealership?

We selected what looked like a good value buy that was listed on the carsales.com.au website. Our vehicle of choice was a 2012 current spec Land Rover Defender 90 and our enquiry was redirected to a Perth-based website of Westside Auto Wholesale, 42 Ewing Street, Bentley, a suburb of Perth in WA.

The Westside Auto Wholesale website  provided links to around ten Land Rover Defender models available that were currently in stock. When zeroing in on the web we were able to view ten images of the vehicle, each supporting the belief this was a low-distance vehicle (21,500 km) that had not been thrashed through the bush or driven through the ocean on a beach somewhere.

A phone call to salesman Glen Garner at Westside confirmed that all the details available, including a previous service record from the original supplying dealership of Southern Land Rover in Perth, appeared to be genuine and complimentary to the vehicle.

The next step was to enlist the services of an expert evaluation team, and here we Googled vehicle examination, finding that Autopections of Perth provided the service and experience we needed for an independent vehicle check on the mechanical and bodywork condition – the cost of a Supercheck being $270.00.

Westside-Auto-Wholesale_P1As we booked the inspection date, more web work called up a REVS check (revscheck.com.au) to confirm the vehicle had not been involved in a serious damage accident, nor was it subject to any outstanding finance. For $36.95, the enquirer receives a car history and PPSR certificate that details the basic spec of the vehicle, confirms it hasn’t been stolen, there are no financial interests reported, no odometer rollback reported, no insurance claims reported and that vehicle registration details were correct. It confirms the VIN number plus it gives an estimated value comparison.

Within two days Nick from Autospections (www.autospections.com.au) submitted his report on the vehicle, identifying the radiator core fins were showing signs of clogging through grass seeds, the air filter required changing, there was excessive moisture in the brake fluid (requiring replacement), the steering showed a slight drift to the left, there was a tear in a rear mat, dirt build-up under the vehicle did not taste salty (which we thought was beyond expectations of diligence) and a knob was missing off the rear seat lock.

Back to Westside salesman, Glen Garner, and the stated price was confirmed and the sale proceeded. Our finance company confirmed its approval and we settled on a delivery date one week later, in line with our arrival in Perth.

With all purchase approvals in place, we contacted Southern Land Rover, the closest brand dealership, to complete the 20,000 km service prior to our arrival in Perth, albeit some 1100 km later than the manufacturer’s recommended service timing. The car was delivered to the dealership by Westside Auto.

Data available through Land Rover maintenance records showed that an engine oil drain and oil filter replacement had been completed at Barbagallo Land Rover in Perth at an odometer reading of 12,312.

Our next step was to make contact again with Southern Land Rover’s service advisor, Roury Zitman, to stipulate additional work we required as a full precaution against any failure or breakdown on the 4000 km trip planned back to Sydney.Westside-Auto-Wholesale_9

The standard Land Rover 20,000 km/12-month interval service covers the following items:

Check all lights, wipers washers; adjust hand brake and check operation; inspect battery and condition; carry out corrosion inspection; inspect brake pads, callipers and discs; drain fuel filter and sedimentor; check engine compartment hoses for leaks, wear and security; inspect transfer case oil; renew engine oil and filter; check front and rear differential oils; and finally to road test vehicle, stamp service record and update stickers and check and confirm service campaigns are complete

In addition we requested the following extra work also be completed:

Replace air filter and windscreen wiper blades; replace oil in front and rear axles and transfer case, in addition to engine oil and filter; clean grass seeds and debris from radiator cooling fins; replace brake fluid and check operation; check mounting bolts on bullbar and towbar assemblies; check headlamp and driving lamp accuracy and adjust using beam setter to align driving lamps with headlamp main beam setting for standard kerb weight; check reported slight steering drift to left side of road; and complete wheel alignment if necessary with a rotation and balancing of all tyres.

During the service by Southern Land Rover we were contacted by Roury Zitman and informed that the technicians had discovered a slight oil leak on the input shaft of the transfer case and that it could be repaired on-site at the time of the service. This action was confirmed. The total cost of the service was $1600.00, which included $640.00 for the rectification of the oil seal leak from the transfer case input shaft.

At the conclusion of the service, salesman Glen Garner collected the vehicle and returned it to Westside for a final detailing, prior to our arrival for the conclusion of the paperwork and handover of the vehicle.

So far, so good, with all the arrangements and service requirements completed either over the web or with the occasional confirmatory phone call.

Westside-Auto-Wholesale_5On our arrival at Westside Auto Wholesale we met with Glen Garner who completed the vehicle handover and introduced us to Debbie Williamson, administration manager, and Jacqueline Roxburgh, administration licensing, to conclude the paperwork.

With the vehicle being everything we had expected by way of condition and presentation, once the finance approval was confirmed we were ready to head east for the 4000 km road trip.

A word here, though, about Westside Auto Wholesale. The name actually describes the company and how it operates. Based in a huge, single-span warehouse-style building, the stock carried usually numbers around 1000 vehicles. Such is the efficiency of the sales operation that it is not unknown for the sales team to retail up to 850 vehicles within a one-month period, meaning the stock is constantly being replaced.

The range includes late model sedans, utes, vans, pick-ups, luxury and prestige cars and 4WDs. There’s no fancy showroom with carpets and coffee machines, just hundreds of vehicles on display, each priced and with basic model details on the windscreen.

This concept of buying a vehicle as if visiting an automotive supermarket was certainly not one we had experienced before. It’s a highly professional approach and not the least bit intimidating. You find what you are interested in, plus perhaps a few more that you hadn’t considered and some that might have been thought unaffordable.

With 19 sales personnel, pricing is pretty much non-negotiable. This results in a far less stressful experience than one expects when attending a standard vehicle dealership, plus there’s the benefit that every vehicle is under cover.

Pricing of each individual vehicle is in our view very competitive, and buying from Westside resulted in recognisable cost savings from the East Coast, plus you get the benefit of being able to drive back and enjoy the scenery.

Provided the vehicle registration changeover is completed within 14 days, it is perfectly legal to drive on WA plates back to NSW. On arrival, head for a local garage authorised to complete blue slip inspections ($62) and then go to your motor registry to hand in the WA plates, collect your NSW plates and pay your registration costs.

The drive back across the Nullarbor can cover however much time you have available, with a suggested minimum of four days, which means travelling a maximum of 1000 km each day. The road quality is excellent.

Westside-Auto-Wholesale_6Overnight stays for our trip were at Merredin, Cocklebiddy Roadhouse, Ceduna and Mildura, with all bookings made in advance on the web. Fuel costs vary according to isolation, but as long as your vehicle has a minimum range of 450 km you do not need to carry spare fuel. Total fuel costs for our trip of 450 litres came in at $630.48, at an average consumption of 11.26 l/100 km (8.8 km/litre at an average $1.40/litre).

Accommodation is whatever satisfies your taste, from a lower limit of $120 per night. Advanced planning is essential to avoid a cold night sleeping in the car. We also strongly advise driving only in daylight hours to avoid animal impacts.

All official vehicle sales in WA come with a mandatory three-month/5000 km warranty, which provides peace of mind to the purchaser. If you are looking for an alternative way of purchasing your next vehicle that provides plenty of choice with the minimum amount of fuss and bother, buying on the web brings a new dimension to vehicle ownership. You also get to enjoy the drive home.

(N.B. Delivery magazine covered all costs associated with vehicle purchase, servicing, travel, accommodation and fuel. The cost of the service rectification to the oil leak on the transfer case of $640 discovered by the Land Rover dealership was accepted for payment by the warranty provisions contained in the Westside Auto Wholesale agreement) and settled within three days of the claim request.

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