We receive a plenty of emails each week from folks wanting to know if we can help them import a vehicle they found online – either in England, Spain, France, or some other far off place. Most people attempting to import their first Land Rover Defender don’t have the experience, skills, or resources to properly evaluate not only the condition of the vehicle from a small set of online photos but also process of determining the eligibility for import.
Because we can’t always tell people, “Don’t Do It!” we’ve decided to publish a series of online guides to help you understand some of the hidden issues you wouldn’t normally look for when buying a Defender from a distance. We’ve done the same by publishing guides on Land Rover Defender Importing, as well.
We do offer a service via our Salisbury, England workshop to help look at vehicles, perform pre-purchase inspections, get a Defender ready for export, and ship it out for you, but this guide is geared more for those that are a go-it-alone type of buyer.
We randomly selected a low-budget Defender 90 we found on eBay (UK) to use for this exercise. It was reasonably priced, there was a little bit of information in the description, and a fair number of photos showing the various parts of the Defender that should give you concern. Keep in mind that a “bargain Defender” only means you’re getting a bargain on your initial investment, not necessarily the other expenses you’re likely to experience.
The seller seems to be fairly honest about the condition of the vehicle – which is not always the case. Based on our initial assessment, he’s probably fairly priced, but that doesn’t mean you should consider it a good investment.
A quick MOT History search will show that this particular Defender was last registered on the UK roads 26 March 2019 – this normally means a MOT failure at some point, but this one seemed to have a fairly clean MOT history – last registering a bit over 100,000 miles. There isn’t any mention of chassis corrosion, so at this point in the analysis it could turn out to simply be a charming little Defender with some character and age marks.
Since there were no photos of the engine bay, we’re not able to assess the condition of that part of the vehicle – which we believe is the most important.
As we dig a little deeper, we find a few things that would make us shy away from this project – unless we were simply acquiring it as a donor for a complete rebuild.
When we do an in-person inspection of our vehicles, we bring with a few simple tools: screw driver, flashlight, and hammer. We happily bang and poke away. The sellers shouldn’t be concerned if you’re not being overly aggressive. The purpose is to expose hidden areas that might have been secretly painted over or sealed up to disguise the rust. In this case, it’s actually a fairly honest seller who provides us with the details of the chassis condition. Not all sellers would be this kind.
We would pass on this Defender, unless we were simply looking for a cheap farm truck to haul hay and kick around the woods without too much concern. The chassis will eventually need to be replaced, which is not a huge expense, but the time and labor will likely cost as much as the actual price of this particular Defender.
Feel free to drop us a note with questions or links to other Defenders you would like us to evaluate.