Top 6 Ways to Reduce Buying a Frozen Lemon in the Winter – Winter Vehicle Buying Tips

Here are a few tips about buying a vehicle in the winter that may seem obvious but a lot of people overlook them because of the excitement factor.

The timeframe from Thanksgiving to New Year’s (really even Valentine’s Day) is very slow for car and RV dealerships.  This makes it a perfect time for you to shop and likely purchase a vehicle from them as they will be much more willing to negotiate a good price.  Just make sure you do your due diligence and have that vehicle inspected before you buy it! 

Make sure the vehicle you are looking at is free of any snow, raindrops or dirt. 

Top 6 Ways to Reduce Buying a Frozen Lemon in the Winter - Winter Vehicle Buying Tips
Water spots and residue can hide blemishes in the paint finish. Always make sure the vehicle is clean and dry before signing your purchase documents.

Any of these three can hide obvious scratches, dings and imperfections in the finish that you likely won’t be happy with when you find it the next time you wash your vehicle. Before you sign the dotted line make sure the seller has the vehicle exterior washed and dried fully.  Maximizing your opportunity to catch some hidden body damage.  Water spots on the windshield can often hide stars, chips and cracks that would normally show much easier.

Try and pick a sunny day when the sun is directly above you. 

Overcast skies can greatly affect the way the finish looks.  What you think looks like a nice paint job in the overcast sky could end up being a dull and boring finish without any depth.  Another point to add to shopping for a vehicle on a sunny day is to try and shop when the sun is high in the sky.  More often than not, when the sun is on the horizon either dawn or dusk it is in your eyes.  When the sun is in your eyes you end up rushing and not taking your time to fully check out the vehicle before you buy it which opens yourself up to hidden body damage.

Try and shop when the ground is dry. 

Spotting leaks is a lot easier when the ground is dry and the leaks will show up on the pavement.  Start the car up, let it get to operating temperature, move it out of the parking spot it was in and fully examine where it was sitting.  Leaks also happen in the rear of vehicles so be sure to check the back of the parking spot as well.  If the ground is wet for some reason, look for rainbows or grease slicks in the water.

Get it started up and warm. 

Try your hardest to be with the seller when they start up the vehicle.  If the vehicle is running when you get out there turn it off and start it back up. Listen for any strange noises during startup, smoke, rattles, smells etc. If something does not seem quite right, then it likely isn’t.

Don’t forget the air conditioning!

One of the most overlooked items when it is cold outside is the air conditioner.  Get the car warmed up, kick the AC on MAX and the COLDEST setting and on Recirculate.  You should hear the AC compressor kick in and out with a slight click on and off. Sometimes you can even feel the engine RPM’s change a small bit.  Even if the system is low on Freon at least you know the major parts of the AC are in working condition.  The rule of thumb is that a vehicle’s AC system should lower the interior temperature about 20 degrees within 10 minutes of running at idle. If it is very cold outside you likely won’t see a drop in temperature.

Do a FULL test drive regardless of the road conditions. 

If you end up having to go vehicle shopping in the not so great weather be sure to do a full test drive of the vehicle and don’t short change yourself, after all you will be driving the vehicle in all types of weather anyhow.  Many times the seller might feel nervous about the vehicle being test driven in the rain, snow or heavy traffic conditions.  Remember this one thing!  It is YOUR test drive and you will be the one that is UNHAPPY with the vehicle if you purchase it and it does not perform the way you expected later on.

Of course if you have any questions or concerns about buying a vehicle always consult with a vehicle inspection expert like TDT.  We will be happy to inspect the vehicle for you or answer any questions you may have.