4 Warning Signs that a Used Car is a Lemon

4 Warning Signs that a Used Car is a Lemon


Used cars can be affordable little gems of personality and safe transportation. Choosing a used vehicle can be a great option for a new driver, a broke college student, or anyone else looking to save a few bucks. However, when choosing a used vehicle, not watching for warning signs can quickly turn a money-saving venture into a financial disaster. Be wary of these four used-car warning signs, and save yourself a headache down the road.

  1. No Paperwork
    When shopping for a used vehicle, you want to acquire as much information about the car as possible. The average car sees about three owners in it’s lifetime, and you want information at least from the most recent owner. Ask about the car’s history of damage, auto parts replacement, and repairs. A seller who doesn’t have any papers documenting the recent brake work they claim took place, or says that the obviously worn car hasn’t needed a dime of maintenance, take your search elsewhere. They’re likely hiding something about the car’s history or functionality.
  2. Pretty Inside, Rough Outside
    Sometimes sellers will post enticing ads of glittering, new-looking exteriors to lure in buyers. If you get to the car and notice that the interior is stained, smelly, dirty, or in disrepair, the seller is probably untrustworthy. A clean outside means they want to sell the car fast, and for a higher price than it’s worth. If they can’t be bothered with the slight effort of keeping the seats clean, you can bet they don’t maintain the engine well, either.
  3. Worn, Mismatched Tires
    Tires are an essential aspect of a vehicle’s overall health. If the tires are bald, it shows the owner has not taken proper care to ensure their vehicle’s safety, and you’ll likely have to buy tires in the near future. Mismatched tire wear patterns on the left and right side of the car can also signal alignment issues.
  4. Funky Check Engine Light
    A check engine light is the first signal of car problems. While examining the vehicle, start up the car yourself. In the moments before it starts, dashboard icons should come on, then shut off after a few moments. If the engine light never comes on, or flickers, it might have been tampered with. Don’t trust that used car to tell you when it needs engine repairs.

Owning a used car can be a fun, freeing experience. A little diligence can ensure that you don’t get scammed into a maintenance nightmare. Follow these four tips, and enjoy your used-car adventure!

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