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How Can I Ensure That I Only Buy a Good Used Car and Avoid Lemons?

Buying a new car is incredibly expensive. Most people choose to take out large car loans in order to get it done. For some reason, the option of buying a new car seems to never enter into the picture. There’s a reason for this. People are generally afraid that they will purchase a used car that’s a “lemon”. The term lemon has been used for cars with constant maintenance issues seemingly forever. 

The thing is, used cars are often in really great shape. The savings from not buying new can easily pay for a little extra maintenance down the road while still saving the buyer a lot of money. The key is that there can't be constant large fixes that are required. It begs the question, how can I ensure that I only buy a good used car and avoid lemons? 

Answer: The key to avoiding a lemon is using a professional to inspect a used car. 

Before anyone buys a used car, they should make use of a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) from a licensed professional. If a buyer is ever in a rush or tries to keep a vehicle from undergoing such an inspection, that’s a huge red flag. Pre-purchase inspections are thorough and focus on three aspects of the car. They look at cosmetic issues, mechanical issues and the safety of a vehicle. In addition to finding current problems, a PPI will also look into the expected future of a vehicle. Some wear in one area might actually be a signal of many other problems that are sure to occur in the future. 

You may be wondering who you can hire to perform a PPI. Quite simply, almost any licensed mechanic or auto technician is going to be willing to perform the inspection for a fee. This is one situation where word of mouth is a great choice. If you know someone who can respond “I got a guy” after you ask about mechanics, you’re probably in a good place. Call and talk to them about their inspection process. If you can’t find a mechanic, try searching online someplace like AAA. They will have a list of mechanics who can perform the inspection properly and have no agenda beside trying to give a good recommendation. 

One other thing to consider is used car warranties. If you’re buying used from a dealership, they will usually be happy to offer a warranty to some degree. These aren’t three or four year bumper to bumper warranties like when you buy a new car. If it’s a recently used car, you’ll usually get the remaining amount of an initial warranty. For others, a 6 month warranty is pretty common. 

Additional Resources

There’s a lot more than can go into buying a used car. In addition to making sure the car works flawlessly, you want to make sure that any car bought is going to meet your day to day needs. The following resources are excellent options to help you learn more about buying a used car. 

  1. Edmunds - Edmunds is one of the biggest names in cars both new and used. This article focuses on the entire used car process, from determining your budget the signing the last piece of paperwork. Readers should note the section around vehicle history and inspections. 
  2. Investopedia - This is a website that’s designed to teach and assist people in all forms of financial endeavours. This article in question points out a lot of red flags that people might miss during their used car buying experience. 
  3. U.S. News - The U.S. News website are well known for offering a huge amount of car knowledge. This article in question offers a wide variety of information in the purchase of a used car. It has nine steps that end on considering extra warranties and insurance, which can be a great choice for used cars. 

Questions to Consider