When you purchase a used car from a dealership, you have access to most of the information you need. Typically, they will have had their mechanic look the car over, and they have the vehicle history report for you to view.
However, purchasing from a private party can be a little more overwhelming, which is why you need to know what questions to ask when buying a used car.
For example, you should always ask about the history of the vehicle and discuss how it was used. It’s also important that you get information about the title and ask for permission from your mechanic to look over the vehicle. But there are many more questions to ask when buying a used car.
We dig deeper into these questions and others you should be asking. With a little due diligence, you can ensure this is the right purchase for you and avoid buyer’s remorse down the road.
1. Why Are You Selling the Car?
Before you go see the car, ask the seller why they are getting rid of it. There are some legitimate reasons for someone to sell their vehicle, such as after the birth of a baby or if there are no more kids at home.
On the other hand, if the seller stumbles or avoids the question, this could be a huge red flag. They may be trying to unload a car that has mechanical problems.
2. Is There Any Warranty?
Unless you are buying the used car from a dealership, it’s unlikely that you will get any type of warranty. You will agree to buy the car “as-is” with no protection.
However, newer cars might still be covered by the factory warranty. If this is the case, you want to know how to transfer this warranty, if possible, and how much coverage is left.
3. Is There Exterior Damage?
It’s important to know the extent of damage before you look at a vehicle. If you searched the car out online, there should be pictures of this damage. Otherwise, ask for it from the seller.
Once you arrive to look at the car, you can compare what you were told with what you see. It’s another tactic to use, helping you determine how honest the seller is.
4. What is the Quality of the Interior?
Detailed photos of the interior are also helpful before you go to meet the seller. You will be spending plenty of time in the cabin, and you want to be surrounded by a nice interior.
If there are rips in the seats or coffee stains on the console, you get a clearer picture of how the seller cared for the vehicle. When a seller can’t take the time to clean up the car before showing it, they probably didn’t spend a lot of time maintaining it either.
5. Has the Car Been in Any Accidents?
It’s not uncommon for cars to be involved in minor fender benders or run-ins with shopping carts. Even a few dings or scratches on a used car are no big deal.
However, if the car has even been in a major collision, it could have undergone extensive bodywork or mechanical repairs. It might have even needed to receive structural repairs that could compromise your safety down the road.
6. Has the Car Been Maintained?
If the car received regular service at a dealership, records for these visits should be available. You might even be able to speak with the mechanic that handled all of the services.
Responsible car owners keep these records for the time when they are ready to sell. If you are handed a folder of documents to review, you know the car has been well taken care of.
7. Is There a Vehicle History Report?
A vehicle history report offers the information you need to know before making a purchase. It is going to show you any open recalls, previous accidents, and how many owners the vehicle had.
It’s simple to get a vehicle history report. You can go online with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and pay a small fee for the information. Even better, the seller might have it available for you to review.
8. Can I Have My Mechanic Look at the Car?
If you aren’t a mechanic, it’s important to have one look at the used car. Hopefully, everything comes back okay and you are paying for some peace of mind.
Otherwise, if there are mechanical repairs that need to be performed, you might be able to negotiate the price with the seller. You may also choose to leave the repairs to someone else if they are too much. However, if the seller doesn’t want to let you visit a mechanic, move on to another car.
9. Do You Have the Title In Hand?
You never want to pay for a car that doesn’t have a title. If the seller has a car loan, you might need to go to the bank to pay the loan in order to get the title.
Additionally, you want to look over the title to ensure it is in the seller’s name. Plus, if the title reflects a total loss or salvage vehicle, it’s best to avoid buying the car.
10. Did You Use the Car to Transport Animals?
If you plan on carrying your animals around with you, this might not be a big deal. However, anyone with allergies will want to know if pets were in the vehicle.
Additionally, cars with pets tend to have more damage. They might not also be as clean as a vehicle without animals inside.
11. Did You Smoke in the Car?
Getting cigarette smoke out of the interior of a vehicle can be a daunting task. If you aren’t a smoker, you might not want to embark on this endeavor.
Ask upfront about any smoke smells and unusual odors you might need to contend with. Once you look at the car, give it a good whiff to ensure nothing is being masked.
12. Is There a Spare Tire in the Car?
This is something that many drivers take for granted, but avoiding the question could be disastrous if you have a problem. Make sure there is a working spare tire and jack included with the car.
If the owner had a previous flat, the tire might have been used and never been replaced. In this case, you might be able to knock the price down a little, so you can purchase a new spare.
13. How Did You Determine the Car’s Price?
Once you are ready to make an offer, it’s important to figure out how the price was determined. Some people randomly choose a number that feels right to them, or they are looking for the amount needed to pay off the loan.
However, you don’t want to pay more than a vehicle is worth. It’s best to run the vehicle through an online pricing guide, such as what’s offered by Kelly Blue Book, to ensure you are getting a good deal.
14. Will This Car Affect My Insurance?
While you won’t ask the seller this question, you should know the answer before buying a car. In some cases, the type of vehicle can dramatically raise your insurance premiums, making it more difficult to afford.
Get a free quote from your insurance agent before you buy the car. This way, you won’t have any surprises when the bill comes in the mail.
15. What Paperwork Do I Need to Sign?
If everything looks good, it’s time to finalize the deal. Make sure you get a Bill of Sale that shows you paid for the vehicle.
Additionally, you will want to fill out any paperwork required by your state. In some cases, you are asked to have the documents notarized, which means both you and the seller must make a trip to a local notary.