Get a Peach Instead of a Lemon
June 1989

“Get a Peach Instead of a Lemon,” Ensign, June 1989, 66–67

Get a Peach Instead of a Lemon

You’ve been stranded on the freeway three times in the past week. You spend more time with your mechanic than you do with your spouse. You have to get a second job to pay for car repairs. It’s time to trade in your car.

But what if your budget can’t handle the expense of a new model? Buying a used car could be the answer. But before you buy, evaluate the car. Following are some items you might want to consider.

  1. Decide what kind of car you need. Consider the number of passengers you will normally be carrying, who will be driving the car, and the ages of family members.

  2. Consider the safety and convenience features of the car. Check out consumer-report magazines from your local library to help you compare features of different models and check their performance records.

  3. Shop around for the best deals on warranties and service. If you are working with an automobile dealership, make sure it is both reputable and accessible.

  4. Know the market value of the car you want to buy and of your present car, if you are planning to trade it. You can find sources such as the Red Book, Official Used Car Market Values, and Blue Book at your bank, credit union, or local library.

  5. Have a mechanic you trust check out any used car you are considering purchasing.

  6. Look for body damage, repainted panels, and badly rusted spots that may indicate neglect or collision damage.

  7. Check the condition of the upholstery. If it is badly worn, this could indicate the true mileage of the car or how well the previous owner maintained it.

  8. See if the doors open and close smoothly.

  9. Check for oil, water, and gasoline leaks. Have your mechanic put the car on his rack, or use a mirror or flashlight to examine the underside of the car for leaks, loose or broken parts, and collision damage.

  10. Check wheel alignment by noting uneven wear on front tires.

  11. Bounce the car from each end. When released, it should immediately come to rest. Continued motion means that shock absorbers need replacing.

  12. Drive the car at various speeds. Does it run and operate smoothly?

  13. Test the brakes with gradual and sudden braking. Does the car pull to one side? Do the brakes chatter?

  14. Test the steering by turning around sharp corners.

  15. Test for rattles by driving over a rough section of road.

  16. Drive up a hill. Does the car lack power? Does the motor overheat?

  17. Have someone follow you as you drive the car to check for poor alignment, black exhaust, and evidence of bad springs or shocks.

  18. Write out and have the selling party sign all offers. Read contracts carefully.

Spending a little time to shop wisely can save you headaches and expenses later on. If a car can meet these standards, you are more apt to get a good value for your money.—Church Welfare Services Department