Buying a used car is a great way to save money, but at the same time it involves a certain degree of risk. You might save the cost of depreciation only to be walking into a minefield of impending repairs. Although most sellers are scrupulous, not all of them will be aware of the condition their cars are truly in and some will try to swindle you. Avoid these unpleasant situations and driving away with a lemon by keeping an eye out for the following signs of trouble.

Car Wreck


Image Source: IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons

1. A Confusing Advertisement

Gone are the days that we would automatically head down to the local used car dealership to purchase a vehicle. Today, many of us look at online listings not only to find a suitable vehicle to take for a test drive, but to research our options. One immediate warning sign of a bad deal is a poorly written or confusing listing. If the seller doesn’t bother including important information or every other word is spelled incorrectly, they may not be the best person to haggle with. You can find more here about how to protect yourself when searching for a car online.

2. Poorly Disguised Scratches                                               

Naturally, not every car is going to be in mint condition after a certain age. It’s natural for cars of a certain age to have been involved in a minor fender bender or two during a decade on the road, after all. Yet if the car is covered in dents or scratches this could be the first sign of more serious, less visible neglect.

3. Mismatched Tires

Worn down, mismatched tires are another tell-tale sign that this car may not have been looked after properly. If there are four different brands of tires on the car, this is an indication that it’s been through some rough patches and the owner wasn’t super concerned about consistency.

4. Lots of Modifications

Although one might think that aftermarket modifications are a sign that a car was looked after and well-loved, some modifications are better than others. Added security features are a bonus, but unnecessary modifications to the lighting and bodywork may not be worth the trouble. Too many amateur modifications could potentially compromise a car’s safety, so you want to ideally purchase a car that’s as close to its original factory condition as possible.

5. Dark or Gritty Fluids

Take your time as you examine the vehicle, and sneak a peek at its transmission fluid and oil. If pulling out the dipstick reveals black, gritty, and tar-like oil, this shows that it wasn’t taken in for oil changes on a regular basis. The transmission fluid will also show its age. If it has a burnt smell or is dark in colour, it hasn’t been changed either.

6. Lack of a Paper Trail

Finally, always ask to see a history of the car’s servicing and repairs. A private seller may seem honest and not everyone is great at filing. However, without proof of repairs you really have no reason to believe the seller. Sellers who keep detailed records take pride in their cars and are more reliable.

Even if you’re no car expert, listen to your gut when you’re shopping around for a used car. If something feels “off” to you, it very well may be. There’s no shortage of competition in the used car market so it’s worth investigating thoroughly before making a final decision.



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