Find a good used car, avoid buying a lemon

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

July 25, 2014 at 2:25 a.m.
Updated July 26, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.

Creed Galbraith, 24, of Victoria, changes the air filter on a Ford F-150 at his shop, Bubby's Lube and Car Care on Mockingbird Lane in Victoria.

Creed Galbraith, 24, of Victoria, changes the air filter on a Ford F-150 at his shop, Bubby's Lube and Car Care on Mockingbird Lane in Victoria.   SHANNON MILLARD for The Victoria Advocate

Buying a car can be scary.

Shopping for a used car can prove to be a more daunting task.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid buying a lemon.

Know what certified means.

There are certified used cars and there are used cars. A certified used car is inspected and repaired by a mechanic and given some sort of guarantee or warranty, according to The biggest difference is the warranty or guarantee is included.

Mileage counts.

Depending on the vehicle, mileage may or may not be a big deal. Cars with more than 150,000 miles are still reliable cars because of the way engines are built nowadays, said Gary Moore, salesman for Premier Auto Sales. "They have better motors, and transmissions last longer."

Paint jobs can tell a story.

If there is paint missing on a bumper, fender or hood, there's possible a story behind it. Moore said to run a finger or hand along a fender to feel for creases or bumps.

New car smell.

Car dealerships often have their cars detailed before they hit the sales lot. It's easy to see whether the owner before you kept the car in good shape.

Cool air is a must.

Make sure the air conditioning is working. It's essential in the Crossroads to have a car with a working air conditioner. Turn it up during a test drive and open all the vents. Try the heater, too, to make sure it's in working order.

Look under the hood.

Make sure it's clean; no oily spots or caked-on dirt. Make sure all the hoses are tightly in place. Red flags include dark oil and low fluid levels and spots under a car.

Be nosy.

Ask for the Carfax or some other form of car history. It's easy to look online if a car has been involved in a wreck or other incidents that raise red flags.

Look for lights.

If signals in the dash are lit up, talk to the dealer/seller to see what he or she is going to do to fix it. Signals can range from telling when a door is open to low air pressure in the tires.

Take it for a spin.

A 10-minute drive at a leisurely pace will not reveal any problems hidden within a used car. Be sure to take the car through neighborhoods, busy streets and on the highway. It's easy to identify problems at a high speed, said Creed Galbraith, owner of Bubby's Lube and Car Care in Victoria, including alignment or brake problems.

Have a professional look at it.

If you have a reliable mechanic, take the car to him or her for a look-see. Running a diagnostics test might help, too. It's like a health screening done on a car.



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