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How to Spot a Lemon When Buying a Used Car

Not many people can afford their dream car. Sometimes the only way to get a car in your budget is buying a used one.

Some car dealers might try to sell you a lemon to make a profit. Here are some ways to spot the lemons on the lot when buying a used car.

A Skimpy Warranty

It’s not uncommon for a dealer to offer a low price for the car itself and then offer a small warranty.

Watch out for this. A warranty that looks amazing can be anything but. A 20,000-mile warranty that only covers the engine can cost you extra in repair costs.

The warranty that seems to good to be true is a sign that you’re about to buy yourself a lemon.

If this reg flag happens, look further at the vehicle. Check out the exterior, engine, and undercarriage of the car.

Mismatched Paint

Walk around the exterior of the car to look for dints and mismatched paint. A freshly painted car or mismatched paint could indicate the car was in an accident and the dealer is trying to hide this from you.

See if the dealer can provide a CarFax on the vehicle. Check for rust damage, especially if you suspect previous water damage, and inconsistent welding, which is a sign of sloppy repair.

It also goes without saying that a trunk or door that doesn’t close all the way signifies a bad repair or the car was damaged before it got to the dealer.

After you’ve gone over the exterior of the car if you’re still unsure look a the interior of the car.

The Interior

Worn pedals are the first thing to look for when you enter the car. Worn pedals mean that the driver put a lot of mileage on the vehicle.

Next look for the obvious like a sagging hood, cracked anything, or frayed seatbelts. Frayed seat belts are a sign of not only a lot of use but also that a collision happened.

Safety belts should be in working order, and ripped upholstery, no matter how slight shows that the previous owner was rough on this vehicle.

If still need more evidence that the car may be a lemon the next step may be to check the vehicle history. A sketchy history is a huge indicator of a lemon.

Vehicle History

It is true that all cars are different. Different models undergo different production methods. Even cars in the same model have minor variations when created. Some models are just made cheaper than others.

When you’re buying a used car always check reliable sources to see consumer reports. If you see a bunch of red flags, it might be a good idea to not go with the car.

A lot of former owners are hesitant to release the history on the car. Providers like Carfax can tell you the history of the car rather it be flood damage or a past accident.

Use these sources to your advantage. Another way to tell if a car is a lemon is by checking the window sticker.

Check The Window Sticker

Usually, you can find all kinds of interesting information on the car if you look at the window sticker.

For example, the sticker lets you know if the vehicle is being sold as is or with a warranty, and the percentage of repair costs the dealer will pay.

If the buyer guide says that it’s covered under a warranty, then the dealer has to honor the warranty.

The warning sign here is that if it says its sold “as is,” it means the dealer makes no promises on the condition of the vehicle.

While you’re checking stuff out, you should check out the vehicle’s VIN as well.

Check The VIN

Before buying a used car you always want to get the VIN and check it on the government database. Doing this will tell you many things that you need to know as a buyer.

One, it tells you if the car belongs to the dealer. This is important if you’re buying your car from some random guy on Craigslist.

Two, going this will tell you if the vehicle has undergone a recall.

If it comes back clean when you run the VIN, and you still question the car, checking under the hood reveals a lot of interesting secrets.

Look Under The Hood

The radiator and battery should pretty much be grease free when you look at it. Always check for corrosion, and wet spots.

Belts and hoses should be unworn and any wetness can indicate something is leaking.

All these are danger signs that can cause problems for you later on in the car’s life.

Once you’ve checked under the hood, get back in the car and step on that gas.

Take It For A Test Drive

When you step on the gas, see if the car revs before the car accelerates.

If the answer is yes, this might signify that the car is suffering from a worn-out clutch or damaged transmission. Both of these issues can be expensive to fix.

When all else fails, consult an expert.

Talk To A Mechanic

Most dealers won’t have a problem with lending you the car so you can have it inspected

Have the mechanic check the undercarriage, under the hood, the outside of the car, and the inside.

An expert can tell you for sure if you’re about to buy a lemon.

If you’re ready to start shopping around for a used car, click here to see more options.

Avoid Lemons When Buying A Used Car

Buying a Used car can be risky business. Always make sure you check for everything before committing. You may think you’re getting a good deal, and then have to shell out hundreds later on repairs.


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