New or preowned vehicles are significant investments. New cars might be more expensive than preowned models, but according to Edmunds, the average cost of a preowned vehicle is around $16,000.
Preowned vehicles seem and often are consumer-friendly options. However, preowned vehicles always carry some measure of risk. Unless a vehicle is covered by a warranty, consumers take that risk on themselves.
One way for buyers to reduce any anxiety they may have about preowned vehicles is to learn as much as they can about automobiles and spotting potential lemons. Despite the availability of vehicle history reports, some lemons still make it onto used car lots. The following are a handful of ways buyers can protect themselves from buying lemons.
Research vehicles through reputable sources
Investigate the reliability ratings of certain vehicles on reputable sites such as Edmunds.com, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website (NHTSA.gov) and Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com).
Ask the right questions
Once you find a vehicle that interests you, ask pointed questions about its condition and features. Relatively new cars with high mileage may raise red flags, so ask how many owners such vehicles had and if maintenance records are available. Consumer Reports says a high-mileage car used on a long highway commute is better than if the car does many short trips or stop-and-go driving. Also ask if a vehicle you’re considering has been in an accident or if there are any recalls on the make and model.
Request a vehicle history report
Ask to see a copy of the vehicle’s history report. Such reports may include information about major accidents, mileage counts, number of owners, airbag deployment, and many other clues that can shed light on the condition of the vehicle. The report also may include warranty information and whether the car or truck was branded a lemon.
Conduct a visual inspection
Look at the vehicle for certain telltale signs of wear and tear that may indicate you should not buy the vehicle. Such indicators may include prematurely worn pedals or a sagging driver’s seat. Check for dents, chipped paint, mismatched body panels, body filler, or sloppy repair work. Inconsistent welds around the hood also may indicate the car has undergone significant repairs.
When looking under the hood, Consumer Reports suggests paying attention to the level of grease and corrosion on the engine, radiator and battery. Check for wet spots that may be indicative of leaks. Melted wires or blackened areas can be a sign of an engine overheating or even a fire.
Rely on a trusted mechanic
Ask a mechanic you trust to give the vehicle a thorough, professional inspection. He or she may be able to spot signs of a lemon more readily than amateurs.
Purchasing a car can induce anxiety. Research and patience can calm buyers’ nerves and ensure they find the right vehicle at the right price.