As an intelligent driver, you are the master of the craft of driving. When you get behind the wheel, you have a near-preternatural instinct for the idiosyncrasies of its controls and can tame any engine to your will as though you were breaking in a mighty steed. You’re no slouch in the maintenance department, either. You know everything you need to keep on top of to give your vehicle a grand old life. You know which services just need an oil change and which require new pollen or fuel filters (20,000 miles and 30,000 miles respectively). You know when the brakes are not as effective as they once were and need to be changed just as you instinctively know when the AC could do with a regas. Still, a lot of your automotive intelligence stems from an inherent familiarity with your existing vehicle.
If you were buying a used car would you know the difference between a reliable roadster and a lifeless lemon? Would you be able to cut through the salesman’s patter and ask the questions that matter the most? Would you be able to look forward to years of happy motoring or would you need to consult with a Lemon Law Attorneys within 48 hours? Keep an eye out for these frequently-missed signs of a potential lemon just waiting to create a black hole in your bank account…
If a price seems too good to be true… It probably is!
There will be times when a private buyer needs to make a quick sale or a dealership needs to shore up some space on their forecourt. Either of these scenarios might help you to make a good saving on the potential car of your dreams. Just be wary of the fact that if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the seller tells you why the car’s priced so low, great. If not… Don’t take the risk.
Be very wary of rust
Rust won’t necessarily indicate that a car is on the verge of falling to bits, but it can be a warning sign. It may imply that the vehicle was poorly cared for. And since rust is expensive to fix, it may imply that the previous owner also cut costs elsewhere. It[s not a surefire sign… But why take the risk?
A fresh coat of paint
It’s easy to assume that a fresh coat of paint is a good thing… But the problem with paint jobs is that they can hide all manner of sins. Fresh or even mismatched paint could indicate that the vehicle was recently damaged in an accident. The damage may well be completely repaired. But in a buyer’s market, is it really a risk worth taking?
The airbag warning light is on
You likely know to keep an eye out for the engine warning light, but if you see the airbag warning light, accept no excuses from the dealer, just walk away. This is likely a sign that the airbag was deployed and improperly refitted.
You smell mildew, but you don’t see it
Finally, be wary of any sign of water damage such as mildew. Water damage to a vehicle may indicate a structural flaw in the chassis or a fault in the window seals that could lead to frequent water ingress. While a dealer or private seller might be able to rid a vehicle of the visible signs of mildew but the smell is much harder to mask.