How Can You Avoid Buying A Lemon Car?

Buying a car is a monumental decision in an individual’s life. Consequently, a lot of research and planning is required in order to select a car that fits one’s budget and performance expectations.

Though most people would like to believe that purchasing a trouble-free car is a matter of chance, the five effective tips shared in this post can help you determine whether or not a vehicle is a potential lemon, saving copious amounts of money and frustration in the long term.

1. Research. Research. Research.

Before buying a vehicle, you should try do thorough research. Although often very difficult to do so, try obtain service and repair documents for the car. This may enable you to gain access to the performance history of the vehicle.

Regardless of whether you are buying a new or used car, other vehicles of the same year, make and model, can give clues as to the reliability history of the different automotive brands and shortlist of common defects affecting your use, value, or safety.

For instance, the AutoGuide group’s annual lemon list shares the automotive brands that have had the most reported lemons. This exercise may enable you to reduce the risk of investing in a lemon.

If you are buying a used car, going through the vehicle history report can also offer you valuable insights on the recurring maintenance issues and whether the vehicle’s title has been marked as salvage or flood-damaged. Several auto dealers offer the vehicle history of the cars in their showroom.

You can also procure these records on the dealerships’ website or by asking the sales team to share the same. Also, there are several websites (namely Carfax and AutoCheck) that offer vehicle history at a nominal charge.

Did you know that if a car is financed by the previous owner it can be repossessed? Performing a state-based Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REV) check will ensure that the car isn’t financed by the previous owner, stolen, or written off. For gaining access to this information, you will need to enter the vehicle registration number (Rego), the vehicle identification number (VIN), and the engine number on the REV check website.

The Federal Trade Commission has made it mandatory for car dealers to attach a buyer’s guide containing critical information, such as the car reviews and ratings, whether the car is being sold with a warranty or ‘as is’, and the percentage of repair costs (if any) the dealer is obligated to pay.

Thus, going through the buyer’s guide, which is usually attached to a car’s window, can help you determine whether the car is worth buying or not. For instance, if the car is being sold ‘as is’, it implies that the auto dealer isn’t offering any guarantee on the condition of the vehicle. Consequently, the dealership is not responsible for any issues arising after the purchase has been made. But, look closely. Even though the dealership isn’t offering an additional warranty, the remainder of the original manufacturer warranty may still apply.

In the case of purchasing a new car, checking online reviews of the various automobile models on websites – namely Edmunds, Consumer Reports, Car and Driver, MotorTrend, and Kelley Blue Book doesn’t always reveal common or hard to repair defects. Also, make sure the new car comes with the manufacturer’s warranty that covers defects in materials or workmanship. This will not only provide you express protection (covered in writing) but also provides protection from warranties that are implied in law, and various “lemon laws.”

2. Check Recalls and Technical Service Bulletins for Used Cars

Motor vehicles are often recalled by automakers to correct their inherent defects. The selling dealership should advise of any open safety recalls and repair before resale. Multiple recalls may indicate an underlying manufacturing defect in the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists all official recalls, offering complete information about the vehicles’ history and performance.

Technical service bulletins (TSBs) are reports sent by the automakers to the car dealers informing them about the recurring issues (not related to safety) that have occurred after the vehicle left the factory. These bulletins offer information on the car make and model, the defects (if any), and may offer a clue as to how to diagnose and fix them. Before purchasing a car, ask the selling dealership if any TSB’s were issued for the model and whether the defects were fixed by the automaker.

3. Hire a Professional to Inspect the Vehicle

Getting an independent ASE-certified pre-purchase car inspection done is one of the best ways to avoid buying a lemon. These technicians are experts at conducting a thorough diagnosis of vehicles. While the diagnostic might cost you around $100, it could potentially save you thousands in the long term. Only a professional can tell you whether the car has been wrecked, modified, rebuilt, or not maintained adequately; helping you minimize the risk getting stuck with a lemon.

4. Take a Test Drive

Although a good idea, test drives don’t always reveal latent or hidden defects. When performing the test drive, pay attention to how the car is functioning. Does the engine make weird sounds when the car is started? Does the engine rev excessively before you step on the gas? Is the thermostat showing signs of an overheated vehicle? All these may be indications of a defect in the vehicle.

Get an idea of the vehicle’s power and your comfort level by test driving it on a commonly-driven route.

Don’t forget to check other vehicle systems, namely the radio, the lights, the power locks, and electrical systems, amongst other secondary systems.

A simple test drive may reveal a lot about the car you are about to buy, enabling you to identify and avoid buying a lemon.

5. Know Your Rights

The above-mentioned tips will help you make an informed decision when purchasing a vehicle, minimizing the chances of getting stuck with a lemon. However, not all lemons can be avoided. Should that occur, federal and the state laws (Lemon Law) protect car buyers against the manufacturing defects in the vehicle during the warranty period. Talk to an experienced lemon attorney in your area to assist you in this matter.

In some states, these laws cover both new and used vehicles. For instance, if you buy a used car in California, and there is a separate dealership warranty, or it is sold with the remainder of the manufacturer’s new car warranty, California’s lemon law provides the same rights as if you bought the car new. If your new or used car is defective, you would likely need a California lemon lawyer to represent your claim, protecting you from serious and ongoing defects in the vehicle.

No feeling is as upsetting as realizing your vehicle is a lemon. If you are looking to buy a car, the tips in this article will up your investigative skills in identifying a lemon car, potentially saving you from the ensuing anxiety and pricey vehicle repair bills.