A new way to take the hassle out of getting a used vehicle inspected has been introduced by Alliance Inspection Management (AiM) designed for both buyers and sellers. AiM, a unit of Kelley Blue Book parent Cox Automotive, is the nation’s leading vehicle inspection company than evaluates more than 13 million autos annually.

The company has launched a new website, AiMCertify.com to provide an easy and convenient way to find out the condition of any car or truck located in the U.S. before buying it or putting it up for sale. Offering tiered inspection services starting as low as $129, AiM has four products it is offering to vehicle buyers and sellers: AiM Preferred, AiM Plus, AiM Premier and AiM Commercial. All packages include a 150-point inspection, bumper-to-bumper interior and exterior evaluation, a test drive by a professional inspector, and 15 or more photos documenting condition. Other services offered in the higher level packages include vehicle history reports and fluid evaluation. All inspections include condition reports with “A” to “F” letter grades making the information quick and easy to comprehend.

“One of the biggest concerns when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle are underlying issues that might go unnoticed,” said Eric Widmer, AiM senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Prospective vehicle buyers can use our services to ensure these items get identified before they pay for the car. It is also a good practice for people selling cars to be proactive and get a third-party inspection as this creates a trustworthy sales experience for both parties. With used car sales at an all-time high, we’ve launched AimCertify.com to provide a solution for used car shoppers that want to have an independent verification of the condition of a car before making the purchase and sellers who want to address items before they list their vehicle for sale.”

A pilot of the AiMCertify.com program has also been launched on KBB.com to help sellers be more transparent with their listings and increase the likelihood to sell their cars faster. Among the markets taking part in the test are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. AiM employs more than 1,400 full-time vehicle inspectors nationally.

Used car sales set to rise

While some industry experts see a decline in new car sales next year, some forecasters believe the slack will be taken up by a rise in used vehicle transactions, with estimates ranging between a 2 and 5 percent increase. Even as sales increase, rising stocks of off-lease vehicles could depress prices somewhat.

The observations were made during the Used Car Week conference at the National Auto Auction Association annual convention. Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive, expects the supply of used vehicles to grow by 300,000 units as a result of that off-lease volume. He also predicts that auto auctions would see a plateau in retired fleet vehicles, dealer wholesale units and perhaps a small increase in repossessions. Overall, he expects 39 million used vehicle sales for this year and a 2 percent increase in that number for 2018.

While this year will fall short of last year’s record of 17.54 million new vehicle sales, Smoke said he expects the year to end at about 16.6 million and points to an increase in volume coming from manufacturers who are offering “pull-ahead” deals on leases that get customers out of their current car into a new one before the contract’s end.  He expects this activity will push down next year’s overall sales.

Hybrids axed

Despite the introduction of more and more hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, two manufacturers are cutting a dedicated hybrid model from their lineups. These people-hauling hybrids are the Toyota Prius V and the Ford C-Max.

The tall-roof Toyota Prius V, which will go out of production after the 2017 model year, was on the market for six years. Unfortunately, its wagon body style is not part of the new Prius, which is now based on the Toyota New Generation Architecture, which is also shared by the new Camry. Monthly sales of the Prius V numbered only in the hundreds. Toyota is looking to fill that gap in the lineup with the RAV4 hybrid introduced last year.

Meanwhile, Ford halted production of the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid in September and will end the standard hybrid model in mid-2018. Also on the market for six years, the C-Max sales hit a high of 35,000 units in 2013, but fell by nearly half within three years. Plans for a 7-passenger version with sliding doors were abandoned when the 2-row 5-passenger C-Max with conventional doors didn’t sell as well as expected. C-Max production capacity in Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit is being given over to the upcoming midsize Ranger pickup and Bronco SUV.

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2018 Nissan Murano priced

Returning again with four trim levels (S, SV, SL and Platinum), the 2018 Nissan Murano also boasts significant upgrades in driver assist and convenience features. Among the new equipment are automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning standard on all models, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert now standard on SV and above, and adaptive cruise control standard on the SL and included in the SV’s premium package.

Other features include a new center console with more storage, NissanConnect with navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility on all models, motion-activated power liftgate on SL and Platinum and a dual panel moonroof standard on the Platinum.

Prices on front-drive models start at $30,550 for the S, $33,850 for the SV, $38,250 on the SL and $41,980 for the Platinum model. All-wheel drive versions begin at $32,150 for the S, $35,450 for the SV, $39,850 for the SL and $43,580 for the Platinum. Destination and handling is $975 extra. The 2018 Nissan Murano is on sale now.

The rundown

The Kelley Blue Book 2018 Best Buy Awards have been announced. Get the rundown on the 12 category winners and the overall champ here.

The 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show is set to open to the public at the end of the month. We take an early look at what’s expected in this preview.

If you’re in the market for a crossover SUV, the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse should be on your shopping list. Check out its features in this Video Review and Road Test.

In the market for a new car? Explore these useful tips on how to get the best deal:

Kelley Blue Book’s Complete Guide to Incentives

All you need to know about leasing

Which dealer services are right for you?

What to look for in your next economy car

What you need to know about conditional rebates

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