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5 Ways to Avoid Buying a Lemon

Lemon

There’s a risk when buying a car that one is going to end up with a lemon. Whilst someone buying a new car will generally be safe, the used car market can be fraught with danger for the unsuspecting consumer. But avoiding a lemon is actually more about applying good judgement and using some research skills rather than about being lucky.

Let’s look at some ways to avoid getting stuck with that car that nobody else wants:

Do Your Homework on the Make and Model

There are particular models of car which are prone to trouble. Use some research tools to check whether the car you’re considering has a poor track record. Some websites will also have surveys of the best and worst used cars, where you can learn from the experiences of others when deciding on which model of car to buy.

Check the Exterior

The exterior of the car can often carry tell tale signs that it may not be a prime specimen. As well as the obvious chips and rust, keep an eye out for gaps between body panels (they should all be the same size), as well as different colored paint on the panels. These signs can indicate the car has been in a serious accident and may be unsound.

Look Under the Hood

The engine bay should be free of grease and corrosion. Check to make sure that rubber hoses and belts are not worn out and are supple and flexible. Keep an eye out for damp spots which indicate engine leaks. Also be sure to check the oil when the car is cool. The oil level should be within the appropriate range and the oil should be brown or black, depending on how old it is. Oil that is gritty, milky, or frothy can indicate severe problems with the inside of the engine, so keep an eye out for these signs.

Check the Tires

This might seem superficial; after all, it’s just a tire, right? Wrong! Just as the eyes are the window to the soul, your car’s tires can be the window to bigger problems with the drive train and suspension. The tires should be evenly worn, and inconsistent wear and tear can often mean the car requires serious attention.

See How it Handles

Ideally you’ll be able to take the car for a test drive. Be sure to put the car through its paces by moving through all the gears if it’s a manual, and braking suddenly (as safely as possible of course) to make sure the car brakes well and doesn’t veer off course. When you step on the gas, if the engine revs a lot before accelerating, it can indicate problems with the clutch or, in the case of an automatic, the transmission. Also listen closely to the sound of the car while driving. Knocks and bumps can indicate problems with the ignition timing or engine cooling problems.

By doing a little homework before you buy a car, hopefully you’ll avoid ending up with a lemon. If for some reason you do find yourself with a car that has serious issues, check your state’s “Lemon Laws”. Most states have legislation in place to protect consumers and there’s usually something you can do to seek compensation.