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What Are the Common Signs of a Lemon Car?

Young woman using mobile phone while looking at broken down car on street
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Lemon Car

Lemon Car

Are you worried that the car you recently purchased is a lemon?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a lemon car is a vehicle that ends up having numerous defects that affect not only its safety on the road but its resale value. While this is a rare occurrence for newer vehicles, it can be fairly common when you purchase a used one from a dealer or private seller.

There are certain laws in place to protect buyers from lemon cars, but the first thing to do is figure out if your car is really a lemon. In this post, we’re going to tell you some of the common signs of a lemon car and what you might be able to do about them.

A certain feeling of hopelessness is associated with purchasing a lemon car. Keep reading and we’ll help dispel that feeling so you can get out on the road in a suitable vehicle.

A Rough Exterior

When you go out shopping for a used vehicle, the first thing you should do is give the exterior a once-over. Walk around and inspect the paint job, the tire tread, the bumper, and the state of the lights, doors, trunk, and hood.

You can actually glean a lot about how the car has been cared for by looking at the paint job and body. If the paint is uneven on parts of the car, it’s likely that things have been replaced in the past.

While inspecting the paint job, keep an eye out for scratches and dents on the body, as well as the glass and lights. There’s no reason to assume that a few body issues mean that the car is a lemon, but it should indicate that you need to ask for the vehicle history before cutting a deal.

Give the front and back bumper a good push as you’re circling the car. A vehicle with a healthy suspension should bounce once or twice when you push the bumper down. If it’s stiff, this is a pretty strong sign that the car is going to need suspension repairs or replacement, which can be incredibly expensive.

The tire tread also tells you if the car has been looked after. A well-maintained car will have its tires rotated regularly and swapped out for winter tires in the colder months. Uneven tread indicates that this hasn’t happened, which can result in costly alignment problems down the road.

Bumpy Test Drive

Obviously, you’ll want to give the car a lengthy test drive when you’re buying from a used dealership and especially when buying from a private seller. There are numerous things that you should be paying attention to, so be ready to utilize all of your senses.

For instance, be mindful of any strange smells emitting from the running vehicle. This could be any number of problems under the hood, probably indicating that something is either leaking or burning. A healthy vehicle shouldn’t emit any strong smells.

How the car feels as you’re driving can tell you a lot as well. If the steering wheel is loose or the car pulls to one side at higher speeds, then there’s likely some issue with the alignment or a steering fluid leak. Loose or tight pedals aren’t a good sign either.

Listen for any rattling or humming that seems unusual. Knocking sounds could mean that a gasket is about to blow in the engine, while any hissing noises indicate some sort of fluid leak. If the car shakes when you’re driving on the highway, there could be serious engine problems afoot.

Sketchy Seller

Your experience with the car will help to tell you whether or not it’s really a lemon, but so will your experience with the seller. Whether you’re dealing with a dealer or a private seller, use your judgment of character to figure out if this is someone you should be doing business with.

Always come to the table with lots of questions about the vehicle and come up with a few more if any issues pop up while test driving. If they evade your questions, they probably know that the car isn’t worth what they’re asking.

Try to request a vehicle history report and maintenance records. If they refuse to provide these, there’s a good chance they’re trying to sell you a lemon.

Your Mechanic Says So

If you have the opportunity to bring the car to your mechanic before purchasing it, you should always do so. Be wary of any seller resistant to your doing this.

For around $100, you can have a diagnostic mechanic determine if there are any major issues with the car. This can save you a lot of time and money if you do it before the sale goes through.

Taking it to a mechanic after you’ve already purchased it will make it harder to prove that the car was sold as a lemon.

If You End Up With Car Problems

You may go through all of these things with seemingly no issues, only to have them crop up after you purchase the car. If your car keeps breaking down within a few months of the purchase, then you’ve got a lemon on your hands.

This is a common problem for those buying used cars. Every state in the country has lemon laws in place to protect new car buyers from defunct vehicles, but it’s much trickier with used cars. That said, some states have passed used-car lemon laws in order to curb this epidemic.

If you spent a good deal of cash on a used vehicle only to find out it’s a lemon, then it might be best to hire a lemon law lawyer. Living in a state with used-car lemon laws may give you the opportunity for a full refund if the seller can’t rectify the car’s problems.

Don’t Get Caught With a Lemon Car

Now that you know what to look for and what to do, you can do your best to avoid buying a lemon car. Buying used is a great option and most used car sellers are honest about the condition of their vehicles. But you always need to do your due diligence before buying to prevent ending up with a lemon.

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