Buying a Used Car: Things to Look for to Avoid a Lemon

 By Vin Hale

1970 Mercury Cyclone GT

1970 Mercury Cyclone GT

The number of new cars sold in America is quite staggering and many of the price tags these days are equally surprising. That said, the new vehicle market is quite impressive from the point of view of the features and options available on many models today.

Even with all these advantages, for many folks buying a brand new model just is not a viable option financially. It makes little sense to take out and service a loan on a brand new car which will only be fully paid once the car has seen significant wear and is nearly ready to be retired. For people of more modest financial means the used car market is the hot market.

Despite the negative connotations of the term, "used car", pre-owned vehicles can be quite nice. You will still need to pay a significant sum but you can purchase a very nice one or two year old vehicle and save a considerable amount compared to driving it off the show room floor with only five miles on the odometer.

For car shoppers who expect to pay in cash we might presume that the upper price limit would be more like $10,000. The good news is a good solid car with under 90,000 miles can very easily be had at that price point.

To make purchasing a medium mileage vehicle more pleasant and less of a headache later be sure to search out the cream of the crop for your particular price point. This can be hard below about four thousand dollars but above that level it's fairly simple to find a vehicle that has been well cared for. Many owners keep detailed service records that can help you determine how well the car has been taken car of and reduce the likelihood that you will end up with a catastrophic disaster on your hands in a month or two.

One good method is to search for cars that are being sold by their original owner. When you can find one in that situation you give yourself greater access to past data on the vehicle. When looking at or test driving a potential purchase it's a good idea to check under the car for loose plastic shields, evidence of damage from off road driving or potholes and the like. If you are looking at a vehicle online checking out pictures from under the hood and on the floor or floor mat areas can give you an idea of how well that car was maintained before anyone decided to clean it up a bit and post pictures of it online. If you see stubborn dirt in cracks and corners it may have been quite a mess in the recent past.

Another item to check out on used cars (especially FWD models) is the status of the CV joints. If they need replaced the usual cv joint replacement cost shouldn't be hard to find out and it is likely still worthwhile to buy the vehicle if everything else is in good shape. You can read more about CV joint issues here:

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