Purchasing a vehicle is never an easy process. Not only do you need to find the funds to pay cash or ensure your credit is good enough to finance, but you will also need to search through an overwhelming number of dealerships and classified ads. While it is a big expense that should be taken seriously, buying a car does not have to be terribly challenging if you make a smart purchase.
Considering it is possible to save a great deal of money depending on mileage, age, and desirability, buying a used car may be your best option. Unfortunately, most buyers are not familiar with the signs that ensure the car is a lemon or a decent-looking vehicle that is not in good running condition. With these tips, you will know what to avoid when buying a used car.
Inspect the Exterior
One of the first things you should do when looking at a vehicle is to inspect the exterior thoroughly. The seller may tell you the vehicle has never been in an accident, but signs of damage to the exterior may tell a completely different story.
Check for visible dents and dings in the body and bumpers. Chipped paint, mismatched parts of the body, broken lights or light covers, or gaps in between the panels of the body are all signs that damage has occurred to the body. Also, check the wheel wells for paint overspray. This is a common sign that the vehicle's body was recently repaired or repainted. These signs are common in vehicles that were involved in an accident and repaired. Unfortunately, these accidents may or may not have been reported, preventing them from showing up on a motor vehicle report.
Purchasing a vehicle that has been in an accident could be devastating since you may experience serious complications that affect its operation in the future.
Check the Engine
Before you even test drive the car, pop the hood and give the engine a thorough inspection. You should not see any grease or heavy build up on the radiator, battery, or engine. Heavy amounts of grease or fluid indicate an underlying leak that could become a problem.
Remove the dipsticks of the oil and transmission to check fluid levels. Healthy oil should be brown or black in color. If you notice any discoloration or the oil appears thick and gritty, oil changes were not performed sufficiently on the vehicle. This could indicate improper maintenance, which could mean the car is not in good condition.
Drive the car for a few minutes before checking the transmission fluid. Transmission fluid should be red or reddish brown in color. If the fluid is yellow, brown, or black, the transmission is most likely in distress. Replacing a transmission can cost between $4,000 and $8,000, so avoid buying a car that has the signs of a problematic transmission.
Check the Interior
You may be surprised to learn the interior could show telltale signs that you should avoid buying the car. A cracked dashboard, doors and windows that do not open and close properly, or frayed seatbelts could indicate the vehicle was in a crash. If the airbag warning light remains lit, the airbag may have been deployed recently and not repaired properly. A worn driver's seat may indicate the vehicle has high mileage, even though the odometer shows a low mileage. Lastly, a strong odor in the vehicle may stem from mildew. If mildew is in the vehicle, there most likely has been water damage due to flooding. Water damage is not only a cosmetic concern because it could lead to electrical issues that are dangerous and costly to repair.
Buying used cars in good condition is extremely possible, but you have to do your research and make smart decisions. With this guide, you will know a few key signs to look for to avoid buying a lemon.