Used Car Shoppers: How to Spot a Lemon Before You Buy

The used car market in the United States today is not what it used to be. What was once a way for Americans to purchase an economy-priced car from previous owners has turned into scammers trying to make a quick buck off of their lemon. What people don’t know is finding red flags on a used car are rather easy, and Warranty Direct knows the best practices when it comes to purchasing a used vehicle. Whether you’re a seasoned used car shopper or only started looking yesterday, here are some tips to consider while inspecting a prospective used car.


Exterior Inspection

Obviously, this is probably the first and easiest inspection you’ll perform. Walk around the car, inspect the paintjob and make note of any scratches, nicks, flaking or dents.  Although rust on the body isn’t a big deal, it does have the potential to spread and can be a difficult fix. Make sure you check under the wheel wells and the hood for rust too. If you spot rust on the engine, the seller might be trying to sell you a clunker.

Ask the Right Questions

You should be asking questions during the entire inspection. Before you see the car, ask the owner why they’re selling the vehicle and how many miles are on it. While inspecting the vehicle, be sure to ask where they bought the car, how often they kept up with the maintenance, if the car is sporting the original paint job (VERY IMPORTANT), and if you can see the title (EVEN MORE IMPORTANT). These questions might bring up some problematic features and reveal a scam.

Check the Vehicle History Report

If you didn’t plan on doing this, you might want to think twice. Vehicle inspection reports are inexpensive (cost between $7-45) and provide crucial information about your potential vehicle purchase. The report’s most important information is the registration records (origin of the car), vehicle title /branding (major accidents), and liens (debts of the previous owner). This kind of information will shine a light on any hidden skeletons of the vehicle and can also help you negotiate the purchase price.

Take a Test Drive

This is probably the quickest way to get to know the car. Test drive the vehicle for at least a mile. If you are familiar with the area the car is being sold, try to drive it around on various types of road conditions such as busy streets and hilly roads to get a better feel for how it handles. If the owner doesn’t allow test drives, that’s a big red flag and may indicate something is wrong with the vehicle.

Have to Car Inspected

If your potential vehicle purchase passes all the tests, it is highly recommended to have it professionally inspected for mechanical and/or safety issues. Most garages or service centers offer a pre-purchase inspection, also known as a “150-point inspection.” You should look for an inspection that includes a compression test that will check for internal leaks, and these can cost between $100-200.

Protect Yourself from Unexpected Breakdowns

When you do find the right used vehicle for your lifestyle and budget, protect yourself from unexpected car repairs with an extended warranty plan from Warranty Direct. No matter what information you’re given before you purchase the used vehicle, every vehicle has the potential to breakdown unexpectedly. Every Warranty Direct plan comes with additional benefits like car rental reimbursement, roadside assistance, the choice of repair facility, and more.

If you’re interested in purchasing coverage for your current or future vehicle, contact Warranty Direct today or call 800-632-4222.

We want to hear from you! Can you think of any other tips that would help used car shoppers spot a lemon before they buy?

Posted in Auto Repair, Auto Warranty, Car Buying Tips Tagged with: , , ,