When you are shopping for a car, new or used, one of the worst outcomes of this process is winding up with a lemon car. A lemon car basically boils down to a vehicle which has problems that reduce its safety or performance capabilities, particularly problems that were not disclosed to you by the seller or the manufacturer. This is illegal in many places, including California which has specific laws to do with the knowing sale of lemon vehicles. The big question is, what exactly constitutes a lemon car, and how can you identify a lemon car?
Understanding What a Lemon Car is
There are certain steps that can and should be taken in order to better understand whether a potential vehicle you purchase or have purchased is a lemon vehicle. There are a number of aspects of a lemon vehicle that will stand out, but a certain selection stand out the best. For example, the first thing you should do is check whatever papers are on offer at a dealership. These papers are mandated to be included due to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirements that say that the dealership must include a guide on the vehicle, detailing multiple details of the condition of the used car. One of the details included in the guide will be whether the vehicle is “as is” or not. If it is marked as “as is,” the dealership is stating that they make no guarantee as to the condition of the vehicle. If not marked this way, it will be marked as being sold with a warranty. In addition to either of these labels, the guide must also include a list of every major issue with the vehicle’s mechanical and electronic systems and problems that may potentially occur in the future that they may be able to anticipate. Finally, the guide will list a percentage of the repair costs that the dealer will be accountable for under a warranty.
Next, make sure to give the exterior a good once over, as this can be all too telling of the possibility of problems occurring with your vehicle in the future. This may seem a little strange as the exterior does not necessarily indicate the existence of problems with the mechanical or electronic systems, but the trick is to look for the existence of major body work having been done. Keep an eye out for body panels that do not match up with one another, unusual gaps between the doors, and any paint-over sprays. This is highly suspect and may indicate a vehicle that underwent an aesthetic upgrade in order to make potential buyers think that the vehicle is in better condition than it actually is. Another helpful trick is to use a magnet in order to detect whether body filler was used at any point to cover up imperfections such as dents or rusted spots on the car. The reason this is valuable is that a magnet will normally attach to the metal of the car; however, body filler usually is not going to react to a magnet, so if the magnet inexplicably fails to stick to a certain spot of the car’s exterior, this may be seen as somewhat suspicious. Once you have checked over the car’s exterior and its guide thoroughly, you should look into the vehicle’s history. Namely, you should be sure to look on a website such as CARFAX.com in order to glean what damage may have been incurred and when. This may include damages caused by normal use as well as damage caused by flooding, fires, or collisions. Such websites can even provide information on the car’s odometer.
One of the biggest obstacles that you have to worry about in the inspection process is simple: most people are not an expert on lemon cars. Unless you are a mechanic, you should not expect to be able to identify some of the more subtle problems, and even if they were pointed out, you may not be able to glean them from looking over the parts. This has resulted in all too many lemon vehicles being overlooked because of people not getting a second opinion in addition to your own once over. Not only are you strongly recommended getting a mechanic to do a once over on the car’s engine and other parts of the vehicle, but it is also of benefit that you specifically seek out an unaffiliated mechanic, just to be able to ensure that the mechanic is giving a fair, unbiased assessment. It is not terribly expensive, but regardless, it is worth the cost of the assessment to avoid the worry that you are going to be ripped off by a dealer selling you a lemon vehicle. Basically, if the dealer is on the up and up in this sale, they will not show reticence in you taking your time to identify any problems with the vehicle they are trying to sell you. Assuming that you can verify that the vehicle does not have any major, unidentified problems, and that the dealer is not acting suspiciously, you may be safe to purchase a vehicle from them. However, if they are behaving in a suspicious manner, you may be well advised to move on and find a different dealer to buy from, no matter how much the vehicle may appeal to you. A vehicle purchase should not be something you rush into, so be careful that you are not buying or leasing a lemon.