The following is a guest post by Melanie Lewis.
A brand new vehicle is out of the question for many consumers due to the high price tag. A used car can often be a good, and less expensive, alternative. On the other hand, buying a used car means running the risk of purchasing one that will be unreliable and have high maintenance costs. Being able to find the right used car, without picking a lemon, can mean the difference between getting a great deal and having a long-time headache.
How to Avoid Buying a Lemon
A used car has obviously been driven before, so there is a chance the previous owner didn’t take very good care of it. Whether it was in an accident or just not properly maintained, the money saved on buying a used car will quickly be used up paying for repairs. Finding one in good condition, though, can lead to a great deal.
Research first. Take the time before going shopping to find out which cars have good resale value. Defects that are common to particular models can be discovered and then avoided. Many online sites provide user reviews and surveys that can give insight. Databases run by the government can also be checked for known recalls and defects.
Talk to the seller. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the person selling the car. Find out their experience with the car (if sold by the owner) and ask for any records they may have kept. If buying from a dealer, ask if they have service records available. If anything they say does not feel right, it’s probably best to move on to the next seller.
Inspect personally. Take plenty of time to look over the vehicle. Look for any inconsistencies, such as body paint or panels that do not match. Inspect the tires and engine, and ask to take the vehicle for a test drive. Pay special attention to how the vehicle handles and steers. Colored exhaust can point to internal problems with the engine. Mildew on the interior carpet can signal flooding damage.
Get another opinion. Arrange to take the car to an independent mechanic you trust and have them inspect it. Ideally, find a professional that has experience with used vehicles. They may be able to explain if any of the inconsistencies found are serious enough to warrant not buying the car.
Buy from a dealer. If avoiding future repair costs is the main concern when buying a used car, it might be better to shop at a certified dealer that will provide some sort of warranty. It might cost more than buying from a private seller, but the warranty will provide some protection from expensive repairs.
Buying a used car can be a good alternative to a new vehicle, especially when money is tight. Any savings can be lost, however, if that car turns out to be a lemon. With a few basic precautions, it is possible to weed through the undesirables and find the diamond in the rough.
Melanie Lewis writes for a site that has advice on what to consider before taking out a used car loan. She believes there are some great deals to be found when buying a secondhand car, but she always follows these tips to make sure she doesn’t end up with a lemon.