12 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car
Purchasing a used car can be a lot like walking through a minefield. Everyone has heard the horror stories. Even the term “used car salesman” is a euphemism for an untrustworthy person.
So how do you avoid buyers’ remorse when purchasing a used car? You need to ask smart questions. With that in mind, here are 12 questions you should ask before you buy a used car.
1. Why Are You Selling the Car?
If you’re thinking of buying a car from a private seller, it’s important to figure out why they’re trying to get rid of their vehicle. Most sellers will anticipate this question, but you should keep a watch out for an answer that raises any red flags.
For example, if they mention that the car has been giving them issues or “isn’t worth the time to fix,” you’ll want to investigate that further. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-ups if you have any concerns.
If you’re buying the car from a dealership, you could swap this question out for “how did you obtain this car?” or “why did its previous owner sell the car to you?”
2. How Long Have You Owned the Car?
At this point you’re trying to get a sense of the car’s history. The longer they’ve had it, the more they should know about the car. If they’ve had the car for a long time but provide vague answers to the rest of your questions, that should set off alarm bells. If they’ve had it for a short time, then it would be even more important to know why they’re trying to part with it so soon.
3. How Many People Have Owned This Car Before?
This question will also reveal a lot about the car’s history. It’s likely the current owner only has information on their personal history with the vehicle. Therefore, the fewer previous owners, the better. If the seller has a vehicle history report, that should answer this question as well as a few others we have further down the list.
4. Has the Car Been in Any Accidents?
Accidents happen. But they can also cause internal and external damage to the vehicle that might not have been fully addressed or that could lead to future problems. Get a report on the car’s accident history to find out exactly what happened and what was repaired as a result.
5. Do You Have the Car’s Title in Hand?
Hopefully you won’t have to jump through too many logistical hoops to get the title. If you do, you’ll want to know ahead of time so know what you’re in for if you buy it. A good rule of thumb is that you should have the title in hand before you make your first payment on the car.
6. Does the Car Have a Maintenance Record?
The better the car has been taken care of over the years, the less likely it is to break down for you in the future. If they have service records, that’ll allow you to see whether they have taken it in for regular oil changes and repairs as needed.
7. What Parts in the Car Were Recently Replaced?
If a major part of the car has been swapped out or fixed recently, that’s one fewer thing you’ll have to worry about in the near future. Engine parts, batteries, catalytic converters, transmissions, and camshafts are just some of the big things you’ll want to check for. Some of these parts (like the engine) are expected to last throughout the life of the vehicle, so it’s unlikely they will have been replaced. But it’s always good to check.
8. What is the Car’s Mileage?
Luckily this question is very easy to find an answer to, especially if you have the ability to see the car in person. Do some research on the particular make and model of car that you’re looking to buy and find out the expected lifetime mileage. You can measure that against the car’s current mileage to determine how long you expect the car to last for you.
If you’re buying from a private seller, you should also beware odometer fraud. Tampering with a car’s odometer is illegal, but there are ways to detect fraud.
9. Has the Car Ever Been Used for Food or Animal Transportation? Did its Previous Owners Smoke?
Before you buy the car, you’ll want to know if it’s going to have any interior scents or stains. The smell of food and smoke is difficult to get rid of and can be unpleasant to some people. Ideally you’ll be allowed to inspect the vehicle inside and out before you make a commitment to purchase it.
10. Can I Test Drive the Car?
If possible, always take the car for a test drive before you commit to it. You may discover problems you didn’t think to ask about or you may discover the car doesn’t deliver on certain aspects you were hoping it would.
For instance, you should be paying attention to any concerning sounds the car makes while you drive. Does the car handle well? Do all of the various features work (headlights, cruise control, backup camera if present, radio, etc.)? Is the brake too sensitive or not sensitive enough? Make a mental note of anything that seems out of the ordinary.
11. Is There a Reason This Car Couldn’t Make a Cross-country Trip Tomorrow?
This is always an interesting question. It also addresses a lot of potential concerns. Hopefully the person selling the car is able to give you a confident “yes” to this question. You might rephrase the question by asking, “If needed, would YOU take this car on a cross-country trip tomorrow?” You might get a more honest answer from the seller if they have to put themselves in your shoes.
12. Can I take the Car to Perfection Automotive for a Pre-purchase Inspection?
A “no” to this question would be a pretty major red flag. At Perfection Automotive, we can perform pre-purchase inspections for all cars in order to find any hidden problems the car might have. A PPI is the easiest way to avoid getting ripped off by a used car seller. We especially recommend these if you’re buying a car without a warranty on it, since you’d be responsible for any repairs needed the moment you purchase the vehicle.
If you have any concerns about a vehicle you’re about to buy, bring it in to Perfection Automotive. We’ll make sure that everything is in working order before you make a binding commitment.