When purchasing a big ticket item, such as a car, the process can be anxiety-inducing. While savvy car buyers recognize that buying a previously owned vehicle is a smart buy, the worry of inheriting car issues from a previous owner can be of concern. But, that shouldn’t take the option of buying pre-owned cars off the table. Learn the facts about lemon cars, lemon laws, and steps you can take to avoid buying one!
What is a Lemon?
A lemon is defined as a car which does not live up to the warranty by having a severe defect affecting its value or safety, or that is unreliable for transport. For example, if the door handle of a vehicle falls off but the car is still operational, it’s probably not a lemon. But, a vehicle that repeatedly has defective seat belts or airbags can be a lemon, as it hinders the safety and driveability of the car itself.
Even new cars are subject to recalls and defects which is why many states have lemon laws in place.
In 1959, under common law, the United States passed the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which offers buyers added protection from manufacturers and warranties.
Six states also have more specific laws in place to further protect car buyers, Minnesota being one of them. Commonly known as the “lemon law,” Minnesota’s motor vehicle warranty statute helps protect you when buying or leasing a vehicle that is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
Minnesota’s lemon law does not protect you from all problems with a car, but it requires manufacturers to honor their written warranties.
How do you know if your vehicle is a lemon? Your vehicle might be a lemon if:
- There have been four or more attempts to repair the same defect.
- An unsuccessful repair caused failure to the steering or braking system.
- A vehicle has been in a repair shop for more than 30 cumulative business days.
7 Steps to Avoid Buying a Lemon
There are many tips and tricks you can employ to avoid buying a lemon. We’ve listed our top 7 below.
Research. It’s essential to search for different makes and models that you’re interested in. Try to reference as many independent sources as you can whether online, in reports, or books. In today’s day and age, you have the ability to access forums containing expert advice and customer experience on specific car models. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s best to concentrate on reliability scores and the frequency of repair problems.
Choose a reputable dealer. An excellent way to start your search for a car is by looking at third-party review sites. Dealers with a good reputation should have plenty of reports from people just like you. Review sites such as DealerRater and Cars.com should give you a good idea of which dealer is a good fit for you when buying a vehicle.
Look for low odometer miles. Typically, low-mileage cars have experienced less wear and tear and are less likely to have been involved in accidents. Minimal wear and tear means less potential for issues. And, low-mileage vehicles may still be within the manufacturer’s warranty to protect you in case anything goes wrong.
Search for vehicles with warranties. Consider looking for previously owned cars that still have their factory warranties in place. Ask the dealer for information on the history of the vehicle, the warranty, and if there have been any repairs. Knowing the warranty history is essential before making a purchase. You may also want to discuss extended warranties with your dealer. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Test drive. Test driving helps spot potential issues with a vehicle. Inspect the car yourself by reading the window sticker first; then check the exterior, interior, under the hood, tires, and the steering for problems, dents, and anything out of the ordinary. Many different vehicles will fall in line with your budget, wants, and needs, but reliability is key to a successful purchase.
Obtain a vehicle history report. Find information about a car’s repair and title history by asking your dealer. Your dealer should be able to search for it through the manufacturer's system. Keep in mind that a specific authorized dealership like GMC won’t have information on vehicle history of a Ford, but a Ford dealership should. Upon request, some dealerships also provide reports from third-party reporting sites such as CARFAX. Understanding a vehicle’s history is crucial, and may help you avoid purchasing a lemon.
Consider previously owned or leased vehicles. Generally, pre-owned or leased vehicles are well maintained and tend to be one-owner cars. Many one-owner cars often hold their value over time, as they tend to have a cleaner history than a vehicle with multiple owners. Contemplate going to a dealership who specializes in pre-owned luxury cars, as they usually put their vehicles through tests and select only the best options for their customers.
Get More Value out of Your Next Vehicle in the Twin Cities
When it comes to your next car purchase, don’t let the worry of buying a lemon blind you from the value of purchasing a pre-owned car. The key is to set yourself up for success throughout the process. Use our tips above help to reduce the potential for purchasing a lemon.
At Poquet, we have an accident-free guarantee, backed by a free CARFAX report, and complete inspection from an ASE-certified technician. So, you can be confident that you’re getting a premium vehicle at pre-owned prices.
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