You’ve heard of people buying lemons - not in the food store, but in the auto dealer’s sales showroom. Maybe you've been lucky so far, but when you hear the stories of how some people have suffered and been inconvenienced from broken down cars and high repair bills and troubles, think about getting some help before your next car purchase – just in case it’s a lemon. Here are some tips that will help you avoid a lemon car.
Pick Your Favorites and Research Them
Tip one is to do your research. Google will show you page after page about the types of cars you plan to look at. Some cars have much worse records than others. Search for the worst lemons and avoid all of those in the bottom half of the table. Choose a vehicle that has a good reliability record. There are charts and data on all brands of cars. If a certain manufacturer is always recalling cars, it might be time to take them off your list.
If you’re buying from a used car dealer, the Federal Trade Commission rules state that every used vehicle should have a buyer’s guide clearly attached to the window. You will know if you’re buying purely as seen, or whether a warranty is included. If you’re buying without a warranty, the cost of anything that goes wrong with the car from the day you drive it away from the showroom, comes from your wallet.
Take a Walk Around the Vehicle
Sometimes damage isn't as obvious as this: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Damaged_car_door.jpg
That's why you need to take a slow walk around the vehicle. You’ll be looking for anything out of the ordinary – do all the body panel gaps line up perfectly? Do you see anything broken or replaced by parts that just don’t look right? For a video of how we spotted one wrecked car by looking it over carefully, click here.
Want to know if the previous owners used their driving school insurance to have the car resprayed (which alerts you to accidents)? Look out for paint that has been sprayed over the line and lands on chrome or rubber trims.
Check that all the moving body panels – doors, hood and trunk – fit perfectly. Use a magnet around the car. If it doesn’t hold onto the metal, there might be body filler lurking behind.
The Inside is Just as Important
When you look inside, go straight to the pedals. If they are worn, it will be a sign of a high mileage vehicle; don’t rely on what the milometer says.
A general look around the interior will help you know if the car is feeling worn out. Are there any missing knobs and are the handles original?
Checking the seat belts, can you see melted fibers? This might be evidence of a front end collision. Belts not in 100% pristine condition will need replacing.
Water smells, perhaps mildew, are especially difficult to erase. They may be a sign that the car has been flooded or suffers consistent water leakage. Walk away now.
How Good are the Tires?
Obviously you can change the tires easily, but there are some tell tale signs of problems you can look out for. Aggressive driving can affect the whole car. To spot this, you’ll see heavier wear on the exterior shoulder by the sidewall. If the tires are worn unequally, you’ll have to look further into brake, suspension or steering problems.
When it's time to test drive, look out for these clues. When driving normally, the car shouldn’t pull to one side or the other. If it does, you may have a worn steering gear. Steering wheel shake can tell you to look into the vehicle’s suspension frame. If this has been bent during a collision, it will cost you.
Under the Hood
Most people won’t know what’s good or bad under the hood, but there are a few signs you should be wary of even before a mechanic looks over the car.
Of course most engines won't sparkle like this one:
But it ought to be pretty clean. There should be a lack or corrosion and the engine and battery should be grease free. The oil should be slick and not too thin. Any metal particles will show you it’s time to move on.
After the vehicle has been running for at least ten minutes, check under the hood to see if the engine sounds better or worse than when you started it. This is also a good time to check that gear changes are smooth.
Finally, "bounce the car" (by leaning or pushing hard on one corner of the body and suddenly letting go) to see that it bounces once or twice. More and you will know the suspension may be suspect.
If the vehicle passes all your tests, it’s time to call in your mechanic to check it thoroughly. The expense will save you hundred of dollars over time. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy a lemon, would you?
Isabella Woods is a professional writer for numerous websites and publications. One of her very interesting articles was published at US Daily Review raising the question Should Inventors and Innovaters be Compared? It's an interesting discussion contrasting the contributions and style of Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison and well worth the read.
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