How to Avoid Buying a Lemon Car
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Buying a car is a big decision. You want a quality car for an affordable price. However, it's not unheard of for people to go shopping for a car, only to end up saddled with a lemon that has serious defects. If you want to avoid buying a lemon car, consider following the advice in this article.
Get a Car History Report or Read Reviews
Your first step when buying a used car involves getting a vehicle history report. To get a report, you can do one of the following:
- Check with the dealership: Many dealerships offer a vehicle history report on every car they sell. Either click on the vehicle history report link on the dealership's website or ask a salesperson when visiting the car lot.
A vehicle history report contains information that you can use to decide whether to buy a car. This includes the maintenance history of the vehicle, the accident history, and whether the vehicle has a salvage title — a sure sign that the car has problems. When checking a vehicle history report, look for recurring maintenance problems that indicate a car might be a lemon.
If you want to buy a new car, check online review sites such as Edmunds, MotorTrend, and Consumer Reports. You should also check out car review sites to see if an older make and model of the car has had problems since it was first manufactured.
Perform a Test Drive
You should also take the vehicle for a test drive. When performing the test drive, pay attention to the following:
- How the car runs: Listen to the car after you start it to see how the engine sounds. Misses, hesitations, and other weird engine behavior can signal problems that might be compounded later. Also pay attention to the thermostat to see if the vehicle overheats, which would indicate a problem with the radiator or cooling system.
- How the car handles: Drive the car on roadways that are similar to what you expect to drive on, such as hilly terrain, long straightaways, or curvy roads. This allows you to judge the car's power and other handling attributes.
- The other vehicle systems: Check the electrical systems, such as the radio, lights, power windows, and power locks. All of these secondary systems should work properly. If they don't, you should ask the seller why.
Take the Car to a Trusted Mechanic
Taking the car to a trusted mechanic and having a pre-purchase inspection conducted is another step you can take to avoid buying a lemon. Most often, a mechanic can detect a problem you might miss. Some of the common areas a mechanic will check include:
- The engine: A mechanic does more than just make sure the engine runs properly. A mechanic also checks for any signs of a leak, which can indicate leaky gaskets and hoses. They can also detect any leaks that are only visible from the bottom of the vehicle.
- The suspension: While underneath the vehicle, a mechanic also checks the suspension to see if they can detect any rust, a clear indicator of water damage or exposure. In addition, the mechanic checks the suspension itself to makes sure all of the tie rods and other linkage components are in good shape.
- The tires: When checking the suspension, the mechanic can also check the tires, the brake pads, and the braking system. You might miss brake problems if you're inspecting a vehicle from the outside only. A leaky caliper can indicate a far more serious problem, including potential brake failure.
You might encounter difficulty when trying to detect a lemon while buying a car. Often, you can catch car problems by checking the vehicle history report or going through online review sites. In addition, test driving a car and taking it to a mechanic before purchase can help you detect any problems you could encounter while driving the vehicle.