Five ways to spot a lemon car and avoid costly repairs


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The second-hand car market is worth $39 billion a year, yet many of us don't know how to properly inspect a car before purchase.

So around a third of us are buying cars with pre-existing issues and having to fork out for repairs.

Issues to look for include:

lemon car second-hand car buying a car vehicle oil wheels motor engine approvalbuddy

Oil leaks

These can be a fire hazard and can cause the engine to fail. Use the light on your phone to look under the engine for leaks and cracked seals. Doing this may just save you $150 to $450 on repairs.

Oil colour

Clear means it's just been serviced; a dark colour normally means it needs a service; but a cappuccino colour could indicate a major fault, such as a blown head gasket, which could cost upwards of $1500 in repairs.


Turn the steering wheel so you can see the full width of each tyre. Driving on bald tyres is unsafe and illegal, and it will cost at least $75 a tyre to replace.


Any uneven paintwork or panels that don't match indicate damage and the car has been poorly resprayed. Each panel can cost upwards of $300 to fix.

Engine or transmission noise

Stay away from a noisy vehicle (knocking or whining) as it could set you back from $1000 to $5000 to repair or replace these parts.

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Anthony Simon is founder and CEO of ApprovalBuddy.