Buying a Car: How To Buy a Good Used Car and Avoid a Lemon


Buying a car is really expensive and the last thing you want is more costs on top of that. The best way to avoid this is to avoid a ‘Lemon’. A lemon is a car that breaks down a lot or just costs a lot of money to maintain. Avoiding lemons will help you buy a good used car.

There’s an important distinction to make between a Lemon and a used car; a Lemon is where costs are excessive or the car is of poor quality, a used car will have quirks and likely some mechanical requirements. You should avoid Lemons but remain realistic about buying a used car. Remember the key word in ‘Used Car’ is ‘used’.

What are the Key Things to Look for to Avoid Lemons and Buy a Good Used Car?

  • Get a full record from Motor Web. These reports detail all the paperwork you need to know about a car. It won’t tell you about the present condition, but it can tell you about other key things. Like; previous WoF failures, ownership details, money owing, fuel figures, stolen vehicle check, odometer numbers, and many other features that are essential to buying a car.
  • Check the outside of the car. Don’t look at how pretty it looks. You’re checking the paint is all one colour, that there’s no touch ups or new bumpers, doors or other body panels. This tells you how the car has been driven and maintained. The trick is to buy a good used car that’s been treated well, and driven kindly.
  • Check inside and under the engine. You’re looking for a clean engine, no weeping of oil or coolant, and that all the belts look in good nick. Have a look at where it’s usually parked and see if it drips or leaks any fluids. If you notice that there are areas around the motor that are excessively clean, it’s worth investigating. Any areas around the valve covers or front of the motor that are clearly cleaner than the rest of the motor can indicate that they may leak and have been cleaned to hide this fact.
  • Listen to the engine. While it’s running, have the bonnet open and really listen to the engine while it’s running. You don’t want to hear any clanks, clangs, knocks or rattles. You want it to idle strong and true.
  • Exhaust smoke signals. If the exhaust is blue, black, white or dark grey, this can signal that the engine is burning things it shouldn’t be.

What are Some Other Things to Focus on When Buying a Car:

  • Go through the interior. Have a look at the seats, the dash and the stereo. Make sure all the dials work and that all the gauges work as they should. When test driving the car, make sure the odometer ticks over as you drive.
  • The test drive is essential. A used car can drive a little looser and generally won’t be as ‘tight’ as a new car. A Lemon will pull in one direction, stop weirdly, make squealing noises while braking, fail to settle as it goes over bumps and make odd noises when cornering hard. All of these can lead to more repairs and cost you more.
  • Make sure the tyres have plenty of life left in them. The sooner you have to replace the tyres the sooner you have to take on the costs of doing so.

Every used car is different and needs to be checked thoroughly. You need to imagine that you’re selling that car and look for the things that you would want to hide. Do all this and you can buy a good used car.

We recommend a Pre-Purchase inspection, a VIR from MotorWeb and do all your research so you know what you’re looking for and your common problems are.