It was the summer of 2010. I had just graduated college and had saved up a down payment for my dream car, a 2004 Acura TL. I had researched the heck out of that car and it came out on top whenever I compared it to other vehicles. I was on a mission to get my used car and no one was stopping me!
At first, I tried the used car dealerships. A found a couple that I loved but my excitement about the cars overtook my common sense. I narrowed it down to two cars and brought my Dad to help me look and check for warning signs. At each of the cars we looked at, it took my Dad literally less than five seconds to tell me the car was a lemon. I was in denial! How could these cars be lemons! As it turns out, my Dad spotted spray paint near the bottom of the doors. Also, when we asked the dealers about maintenance records, they didn’t exist. According to my Dad, these were signs that we were looking at a lemon.
It was evident that these cars were either trashed or crashed and fixed up to look like new again. Looking back, I’m thankful I had my dad there and thankful for the warning signs my Dad has taught me about avoiding a lemon when you’re shopping for a car. The next time you’re shopping for a used car, remember these tips and they will save you some heartache:
How to Avoid Buying a Used Car Lemon
1- Ask question after question
From my experience, this is the most important thing you need to do. Don’t hesitate to ask a question. You are about to spend a pretty penny on this car, so find out everything you can about it. Ask the seller about how it drives, where it came from, what the last owner was like, any car repairs done, and for maintenance records. Ask, ask ask. Ask where maintenance was done and try to go to the repair shop ask ask the mechanic if there are known issues the seller isn’t telling you about.
2- Get the maintenance and service records
Any respectable dealership or seller will have all previous year’s inspection and maintenance records. If these are missing, run away fast. Typically, if these are missing it means it was in a crash or could possibly be stolen. Now, if you do find something strange on the maintenance records, don’t fret. It could be something that is common for that year’s model. Not every issue is a red flag. The key here is to get all the records.
3-When you feel lied to, run for the hills
This is one that is more of a”gut feeling” than logic. I have shopped for three cars in my life and this is something that my Dad has taught me. If at any point, you feel uncomfortable or feel pressured, that is a big red flag that something is wrong. A seller should never pressure you. Buying a car should be a relaxing experience and relatively smooth. You should be able to build up trust with the seller from the first hand shake. If not, ditch the car and move on.
4- Inspect every square inch
Just like my personal story, if you get lazy and just skim over the exterior/interior, you might miss a serious issue that can cause problems down the road. Many dealers try to cover up past damage by repairing paint or with plastic panels. Look for anything that is out of the ordinary. You should especially focus on anything engine and exhaust related. Check out the exhaust pipes, interior carpets for leaks, and even if there are any recent oil leaks on the ground under the car. Check the tires for uneven cupping or wear. This could mean that there is a suspension issue. The key here is to do your own research and check for problems areas. As you can see, the list of things to check for goes on and on.
So, the next time you’re out in used car jungle, remember these tips and avoid purchasing a lemon for your next car.