The best way to avoid buying a lemon is to avoid the lemon lot. Still, depending on where you’re shopping, it’s still possible to find a lemon on a used car lot, even if it’s surrounded by reliable, functional cars. One of the perks of shopping on our used car lot is knowing that all of those cars have been serviced and certified—so you’ll never buy a lemon. Here are some other ways you can make sure you’re not purchasing a very used car.
1. Ask to see the car’s history. It’s surprising how many people will buy a used car without asking to see its history. Every used car has a history, and even if the only thing on that car’s history is routine maintenance, at least you’ll know that whoever owned the car before you actually took care of it. If there is absolutely nothing on the car’s history report, that isn’t any reason to panic. Those reports only show what is actually actively reported on those numbers, so it’s unlikely they’ll have a record of every single thing that has ever happened to that car.
2. Look for damage. Some cars will come onto a used lot with a little bit of damage. They get discounted because they’re not in pristine shape. Sometimes, a car will show up on a used lot that looks pristine, but has actually been in a major accident. What’s wrong with having a car that’s been in a major accident? If it’s ever in one again, the occupants of that vehicle are more likely to be hurt, because the car’s frame may not have its original structural integrity. Evidence of repainting or uneven painting can be a good indication that the car has had massive body work done.
3. Inspect the engine. Even if you’re not a car maintenance expert, you probably know what a clean, functional engine should look like. When you buy a vehicle from a used lot like ours, it will already have a maintenance check and be completely ready to go. If you’re not sure, you can always have it inspected again.
4. Check the mileage. Today’s cars are built to last and many will run perfectly smoothly even after 100,000 miles of asphalt. You’ll still want to take a look at the mileage. A two-year-old car that has hundreds of thousands of miles has probably been driven hard. This means it also should have had regular maintenance. If it hasn’t, you might want to stay away. However, an older car with low mileage probably means it didn’t see much action and will still have decades of good miles on it.
5. Research used car prices. Once you’ve found a used car that you want to buy, ask for the make and model and model year and run a quick search for similar cars. You can probably get a good idea of what cars like that are being sold for in our area. A used car is almost always a better deal than buying a new car, but if you don’t check the prices yourself, you might not be getting as great of a deal as you otherwise would. Don’t be afraid to take a moment and step out to make sure that car is properly priced and the seller isn’t trying to sell a used car for more than its worth.
6. Look for out-of-state titles. If you’re not buying a car from a certified used car lot like the one at our Kia dealership, you will probably want to be wary of out-of-state titles. Sometimes, criminals will steal cars and then they will ship them across state lines, where it is more difficult for the police to track them. Some people will also submit a car for salvage, but the buyer will transport it into another state to sell it, instead, as crossing state lines can “wash” the title of that salvage indicator.
7. Ask the dealership to run a warranty check. If you take the VIN to a dealership that sells the make of the car you want to buy and ask them to run the number for you, they should be able to tell you if any work has been done on that vehicle that was covered by the warranty. For example, if the engine, transmission, brakes, etc. have been replaced within the warranty period, this could tell you that the car has an issue with that component or just that the car has a new transmission, engine, brakes, etc.
8. Watch out for cars that have no record of regular maintenance. Some people simply do not take their cars in for regular maintenance. While this is fine when the car isn’t experiencing any problems, it can devastating in the long run. Regular fixes and tuning can prevent more serious problems from occurring in the future—which is when you are going to be driving this car. Most people save the receipts from their oil changes and checkups, so ask to see them.
9. Consider purchasing an extended warranty. If you’re purchasing a car that still has some of its warranty left, you may not want to extend your warranty quite yet. However, if you’re buying a car that is already out from its warranty, you might want to consider purchasing a new one or an extension to ensure that you can benefit from this program. If you purchase a Kia that is less than ten years old, you’re likely to still have plenty of time left on your warranty.