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4 Ways To Spot A Lemon When Buying A Used Car

Are you shopping for a used car? Buying used can be a great way to get a quality vehicle at a reduced price. When you buy a used car, though, you're also buying all of its history. If the car has a history of accidents, mechanical problems, or excessive wear-and-tear, it could require serious maintenance after you buy it. The key is to get as much understanding as possible about a car's condition before you sign the deal. That way, you can avoid buying a lemon and instead drive home with a quality car that will last for years to come. Here are four ways you can spot a lemon:

  1. Get the vehicle history report. As long as you have the car's VIN number, you go online and order a report of the vehicle's history. This will tell you if it has been in any major accidents or if it has needed serious repairs. It will also tell you what the car's mileage is. You can then check that against the car's odometer to make sure the odometer hasn't been altered in any way. If the odometer reads differently than the report, then it may have been altered. Most reputable used car dealers won't engage in this behavior, but it is a possibility if you're buying from a private seller.
  2. Take it on a thorough test drive. The test drive can tell you a lot if you pay attention. Vibration or pulling on the steering wheel may mean that the wheels are out of alignment. Dark smoke from the exhaust could indicate that the fluids are dirty. Revving of the engine when you hit the gas may be a sign of a transmission problem. Be on the lookout for any noises or vehicle responses that seem out of the ordinary.
  3. Check the make and model's history. Certain models just have a record and reputation of reliability. Others have a long history of well-documented problems. A little investigative research online can go a long way toward eliminating potential lemons from your search. There are many publications that rank makes and models by reliability. You also may want to search the make, model, and year of the car you're considering to see if there have been any recalls or serious defects.
  4. Take it to a mechanic. Finally, there's nothing saying that you have to take the seller's word for it. If the seller believes in the quality of the car, he or she will likely let you take the car to a mechanic for an inspection. If you're buying from a dealer, they'll probably just require that you leave a form of identification while you take the car to the shop. With a private seller, you may want to go together to a neutral auto repair shop.

It's easy to avoid a bad car with a little research and preparation. It also helps to stick with a used car dealer who has a reputation of being ethical and trustworthy.