Buying used cars can save you a lot of money upfront but if you’re not careful and ask the right questions, it could potentially cost you more over time.
With a new car, you’re sure of what you’re getting but this isn’t the case with used cars. No two used cars are alike. There could be differences in how they’ve been driven and maintained, whether they’ve been involved in an accident or not and many more.
So when you decide to buy a used car, you should do your due diligence and it starts with asking all the right questions.
15 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car
#1 Why are you selling the car?
A private seller may be selling for many reasons. The car could be old and starting to develop faults, the seller needs an upgrade probably because they now have a bigger family or any other reason.
Knowing why they are selling can help you decide if the car is a good fit for you too, both now and later.
For example, if the seller decides to sell to buy a bigger car because of a new baby, you should consider if you may also be in that situation in the near future.
#2 Who was the vehicle purchased from?
Was it from another private seller or car dealership? The Carfax report should contain information about the previous owners, but the question can also help you get better insight into how the car has been used in the past.
#3 How long have you had the car?
If a private seller is trying to sell a car after owning it for just a short period, it’s mostly likely because there are one or more unresolved issues with the car. You would want to thread carefully in such a situation.
#4 Do you have a clean Carfax report?
If the seller already has a Carfax report, then ask for a copy. Otherwise, get the VIN of the car and order it yourself.
Carfax reports contain detailed information about the history of the vehicle, such as the registration information, accident history, vehicle theft, search for liens on the car and many other information that can be used to understand the vehicle’s history.
But note that the information available may vary depending on the report you buy.
#5 Has it ever been repainted?
A car that has been repainted could be a sign that it’s been involved in an accident. So you definitely want to ask this question.
Also, take a closer look at the car yourself to check for areas with a different shade of color and ask about it.
#6 Has the car been in an accident?
This is not necessarily a deal breaker, but you need to know what was damaged and how it was repaired or replaced.
You would expect to find records of accidents on a vehicle history report like CARFAX, but this is not always the case.
So asking this question is a must.
#7 Can I see the maintenance log?
You want to confirm if the maintenance is up to date, whether the car was serviced at a dealership, licensed mechanic, or an unlicensed mechanic.
A good maintenance history is a good indication that the seller has taken good care of the car.
#8 Are there any parts that don’t work well?
With older cars, it’s expected that some features could be broken or not work the way they are supposed to. But you should know what you’re getting yourself into to avoid getting surprised with a trunk that is hard to open, noisy or weak air conditioning.
#9 What has been replaced or updated on the car?
If some of the car parts have been recently replaced, it means you won’t have to worry about them any time soon. That’s potentially more money in your pocket.
#10 Can I see the pre-certification inspection by a licensed mechanic?
If you’re buying a certified pre-owned car, ask for the pre-certification inspection paperwork. Before the certification, an inspection would have been carried out by a licensed mechanic.
The paperwork will let you know what was fixed.
#11 Do you accept trade-ins?
This question is relevant when you’re a buying from a dealership and you also have to sell your existing car.
A trade-in will make your life much easier and save you the stress of trying to a get a buyer.
#12 Can I take the car for a test drive?
Apart from being able to spot obvious faults and problems with a car, a test drive is an opportunity for you to see if you like how the car feels.
Even if you have limited experience, check the dashboard for warning lights, listen for noises coming from the engine or any other parts of the car, look out for steering alignment or lack of it, try to do everything you would normally do while driving.
Test it on different terrains if possible, listen to the stereo and try parking the car.
Car dealers should have no problem with scheduling a test drive, but if a private seller hesitates, you can invite them along for the test drive to put their mind at ease.
#13 And how long can the test drive be?
The longer the test drive is, the better and the more opportunity you’ll have to spot any problems. A private seller may not be able to release the car to you for more than 30 minutes to a few hours, but a dealer may allow you to keep it overnight.
#14 Can I take the car for inspection?
If you like the car and you’re seriously considering buying it, then it’s important to ask this question. You should always take a used car to an expert for inspection.
The seller should have no problem with this. If they do, it’s a big red flag that there’s something they are trying to hide
#15 Can problems be fixed before I buy?
If the inspection turns up an issue that must be fixed, depending on how serious the issue is, you should try to get it fixed before buying.
It may not always be possible, but if you like the car, you should be willing to come to a resolution that works for both parties.
Steps to Buying a Used Car
Here are the steps to buying a used car:
- Calculate how much car you can afford
- Pick an ideal vehicle within your budget
- Start searching
- Contact the seller when you find one
- Ask the relevant questions
- Obtain a vehicle history report
- Take the car on a test drive
- Do a pre-purchase inspection using a licensed mechanic
- Negotiate a good deal on the car
- Get car insurance
- Finalize the sale
Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Car
- They are a better investment since they won’t depreciate in value as quickly as new cars.
- You have several options: models, make and years.
- They are more cost-effective especially if you’re on a budget.
- They may be less reliable than new cars.
- If you’re financing it, expect to pay a higher interest.
- Limited warranties and none if buying from a private seller.
- You may have to settle for old features depending on how old the car is.
The age and condition of the car, the vehicle history, maintenance, and kilometers driven.
They are used vehicles that have gone through a detailed inspection process, with any damage or worn out parts repaired before they are put on the market for sale. Usually, they’ll come with a warranty so they’re generally more expensive than other used cars.
You are getting your first car, getting a second car for the house, on a tight budget, don’t want a long lease or financing requirement and so on
Buying used cars can be a hit or miss and is often a stressful and intimidating experience.
But by asking the right questions about the car history and its condition, you will be reducing the chance of making a costly mistake.
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