Car shopping can be fun and exciting, but it also has the potential to turn into a nightmare. Just think of your friend with the hellish story about buying a lemon or haggling with a dealership. So how can you avoid getting scammed when you go car shopping?

Jalopnik, the auto-enthusiast website, asked its users to submit their best tips to prevent car shopping scams. The next time you’re shopping for a car, follow these 10 tips to avoid a lemon:


Tip #1. Know What You Want

Know what you’re looking for and shop with a budget in mind. You don’t want to set aside $5,000 for a sedan and end up driving home a sports car. If you stick to your budget, you’ll have an easier time resisting the pressure from a salesman who wants you to spend more.


Tip #2. Research the Model

Photo of a used car that is a lemon

Don’t buy a lemon. Research the model and see if there any prevalent issues with the car

Don’t buy a lemon — research the car you’re considering. Know the flaws, typical repair prices, and market value before you buy any car.

If you really do your homework before you set foot on a car lot or answer a classified ad, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.


Tip #3. See What People Are Saying Online

Virtually every type of car has an online forum where owners talk to each other. Google the make and model and join the discussion to get information the dealers won’t tell you.


And if you see a car for sale from one of the users, know that you’re buying from a community and you’re going to get a better price than shopping at a dealership.


Tip #4. Check for Local Used-Car Auctions

You’ll save a lot of money shopping at used-car auctions. While you’ll miss out on pre-sale vehicle inspection, the deal will always be better than what a dealership offers. Jalopnik user “POD” recalls their experience with used-car auctions:

My Dad has done this on his last 3 Volvo’s and despite the mechanical issues he ran into with 2 out of 3 of them, he was thousands ahead of the curve compared to what e-bay or dealerships wanted for the same make, model, and year.”


Tip #5. Find Out What “Certified” Means

“Certified Used-Car” might not mean much more than a cheap $350-$450 warranty power-train. Don’t put too much trust in a dealer that claims a vehicle is certified — only Honda, Mercedes, and Toyota offer truly extensive certified warranties.

Instead, look for a car that was purchased at the dealership where it was originally sold. Dealerships may have the service records on file and can answer more detailed questions about how the vehicle was used.


Tip #6. No Impulsive Buying!

Don’t make a decision before you’ve really looked at the car. This means no decisions before a thorough vehicle inspection — under the hood, under the vehicle, the interior — everything you can possibly check.


Tip #7. Use Your Own Mechanic to Check the Vehicle

You have a relationship with your mechanic. Use it. Ask them about the car you’re considering. You may get much more accurate information from your mechanic than the seller.


Tip #8. Inspect the Owner

Ask yourself if the owner seems trustworthy. Are they the type to sell you a lemon? Do they look like they could be hiding the bad stuff about the car? Does the owner look like someone who would neglect maintenance? Are they overly eager to sell the car?


Photo of the Ghostmobile

If the seller is shady or the deal seems too good to be true, watch out.

If you can’t trust the owner, you can’t trust the car. Walk away if you’re not comfortable.


Tip #9. Don’t Use Dealership Financing

Rule of thumb in used car buying: Never finance unless it’s at 0%. If the dealership can’t offer 0% financing, use a bank or lending center to finance your purchase. Shop around for the best financing offer.


Tip #10. Be Ready to Walk Away

Don’t let your emotions get in the way. It’s your money and the ball is in your court. Walk away if you’re not completely satisfied with the offer. There will always be another car!


What Do You Think?

Are you in the market for a used car? Have any dealership horror stories you want to share? Any tips for Scambook users that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section!


See Also

4 Car Repair Scams to Avoid
Car Hackers: Is Your Vehicle Safe?
LA Traffic Synchronization Reduces Daily Commutes, But Is Anyone Noticing?

7 Responses

  1. Randy Wagstaff

    Last year i bought a great car, and it turned out to be a lemon. I was distraught over this. I never thought i could get the money back that i felt i deserved.Thank god for the lemon law lawyers i hired. Without there help i would not have been able to get the cash i felt i deserved.

  2. Jerry B

    Great post! Really came in useful because Im buying a car right now!

  3. Dean Lewis

    Car salesman can be very deceitful when it comes to selling cars. That’s where most of their pay comes from, therefore they’re going to try any method possible to get you to buy that car. So, you have to be careful and research before you deal with them. When I browsed some cars for sale in Rio Grande Valley Texas last week I knew what to look for based on what I discovered online. I investigated the vehicles history, using sites like Car Fax and Kelly Blue Books. They provide great tools to help you avoid buying a lemon.

  4. Book Wheel Alignment

    Tip #10. Be Ready to Walk Away
    Definitely! You have to remember you are in the power postition, obviously they want you to buy a car. but they wont go far as to insult you if you say “not today thanks”. They still want your future custom.

  5. John

    A good probable research should be made when buying a vehicle. And it really helps to hear and read what people think about it. People use to post their opinions and experiences online and one might see friendly comments and recommendations that could also help.

  6. Thiago daLuz

    I’ve seen things like this before, and I can definitely say they’ve helped us the two times we’ve bought used cars in Quincy MA. We haven’t done an auction before, and I’m not sure we want to, but we’ll definitely be more aware of it if the need for a new car arises.


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