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I’m casually shopping for a good used car, and I’m particularly looking to find a relatively pristine 2nd-generation Acura Integra. Arguably one of the best cars Acura ever sold, I fell in love with the Integra’s surgical steering, straightforward cabin and rev-happy engine. It was also a gorgeous looking car – as long as it was equipped with a rear spoiler.

I’ve actually owned two Acura Integra coupes in the past, a 1995 RS and a 2000 Special Edition, both bought new. Now that the kids have grown, the time is right to proudly park one back into my driveway.

As I sifted though the classifieds, searched on the Internet and looked around in my neck of the woods, my enthusiasm fizzled out rather quickly.

The vast majority of used Integras on the market are either beaten up, horribly modified or tearfully rusty. Not many of these cars boast clean, unrusted front and rear fenders.

After a while, I thought I had found one. A 1999 Integra SE had just been registered in online classifieds, and after wiping the tears from my eyes, I checked out the pictures very carefully. The silver Integra looked fantastic, with no rust, a clean interior and 180,000 km on the odometer. Posted at $2,700, it seemed too good to be true.

The next morning as I shuffled to work, I immediately went to my buddy Matt’s desk and showed him the ad. With a solid experience in used cars from his days working at the APA, I knew Matt would give me a good second opinion because if I only listened to my heart, the cheque would already have been made out.

It took about 30 seconds for Matt to burst my bubble.

In the pictures, the shiny Integra’s front fender and door didn’t quite have the same hue. That, boys and girls, is an indication of a repainted car, at least partially. Matt also noticed the brand-new license plate bolted on it, which could only mean the current owner hasn’t been the owner for very long.

Also in the pictures was what seemed like a pretty big garage behind the car. “I’ll bet this guy got the car real cheap, fixed it up to make it look good and is re-selling it,” Said Matt. To top things off, in one of the pictures with the car’s hood open, we noticed a rubber stopper was painted silver. I started crying again.

Sure enough, after sending a message to the seller of the Integra, the guy said he was a certified mechanic and added that “chances are good that a 12-year-old car has been repainted.” Ciao.

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t be expecting perfection in a $2,700 car, but that’s what I’m looking for. On the other hand, the car initially looked good because I was so thrilled to find what seemed to be a great used car that I was emotionally drunk.

The morale to this story: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you find the pre-owned vehicle you’re looking for, don’t overlook all the necessary verifications to make sure what you’re buying is legit.

2001 Acura Integra GS-R 3/4 front view
2001 Acura Integra GS-R (Photo: Acura)