11 Urgent Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

questions to ask when buying a used car

When buying a used car, it’s essential to know everything you can about the car’s history. Here are some of the vital questions to ask when buying a used car:  

  1. How Old Is The Car? 
  2. How Many Miles Are On The Vehicle?
  3. How Long Have They Had The Car, And Why Are They Selling It?
  4. Is There An Up-To-Date Service Record?
  5. Have There Been Any Known Accidents In The Vehicle?
  6. What Damage Does The Vehicle Have?
  7. Are There Any Mechanical Issues? 
  8. Does It Come With A Warranty?
  9. Can I Take It To My Mechanic For An Independence Inspection?
  10. What Is The Vin Number?
  11. Would You Drive It From Coast To Coast Tomorrow?

I’m sure you can think of many more, but if you’ve asked these, you have definitely covered the essentials! Remember that buying a used car is supposed to be an exciting time… don’t get too bogged down in worry. 

To help gather all of the info you need, I’ve broken down the questions in more detail below.

Top Questions To Ask When Buying A Used Car

1. How Old Is the Car?

The age of the vehicle impacts the value of the vehicle greatly! Up to 10% of the vehicle’s value is lost after you drive it off the lot. After a year of ownership, a vehicle is typically worth about 20% less than its original price. Every year after that, a vehicle loses 15-25% of its value!

Knowing the age of the car can help you gauge if the price is fair. An old vehicle should generally cost much less than a new one. However, this is not true for vintage and antique vehicles.

2. How Many Miles Are On The Vehicle?

One of the greatest indicators of how long a car will last is the amount of mileage it has. While all makes and models vary when it comes to lifespan, most last for 200,000 miles. Many vehicles last up to 250,000-300,000 miles, but the older a car gets, the more repairs you can expect.

3. How Long Have They Had the Car, And Why Sell? 

Ask how long the seller has owned the car. If they have owned the car for more than a few months, they will be well acquainted with the problems the vehicle has. You should expect that they have made some repairs to the vehicle. If the vehicle was not maintained or repaired during the time the seller owned it, expensive repairs may need to be done.

If they’ve only owned it for a short time, ask them why they are selling so soon, as there is likely an issue with the car.

Ownership History

While most used car sellers might not know much about who owned the car before them, they may be able to tell you how many owners there have been and if it was bought from a dealership or an independent seller. A vehicle coming from a dealership is often more reliable than a vehicle from an independent seller. 

If a car has been passed around more times than a “magic cigar” at a college party… avoid at all costs!

Do They Have the Title in Hand?

When buying used, sometimes the car hasn’t been paid off yet, so you should check to be sure they have met all of the payments and have the title in hand. If you don’t, you could be stuck with an expensive payment plan.

This is often forgotten and is one of the most essential questions to ask when buying a used car.

4. Is There an Updated Service Record?

questions to ask when buying a used car

If the car has been serviced regularly and the owner has taken care of the service record, you will know exactly what maintenance the vehicle has undergone. If the maintenance record is sparse, you might need to complete repairs that have been neglected.

What Repairs And Maintenance Have They Performed On The Vehicle?

Some sellers won’t have a complete list of all maintenance done on the car, but they can tell you what repairs they’ve had to complete. If they’ve recently replaced the brake pads or tires, you know you won’t have to replace them in the next few years. It can also be helpful to find out when the last oil change was completed.

5. Have There Been Any Known Accidents In The Vehicle?

The seller may not have a complete record of everything the vehicle has been through, but they would be able to tell you if they ever crashed in the vehicle. If a vehicle has been through a crash, you can ask for a discounted price based on any damage it sustained. If the car was in a crash, they probably took it to the mechanic for repairs, but you should still be wary of any long-term damage it could have sustained.

If the car sustained structural damage, unless you’re particularly brave or it’s a particularly amazing deal… you should probably move onto the next one. 

6. What Damage Does the Vehicle Have?

Before you go look at a vehicle, you will generally be able to take a look at pictures of it. However, sometimes the pictures don’t expose the exterior damage.

Before you purchase a vehicle, look at the interior and exterior and determine if there is any damage. Common damages you should check for are windshield or mirror cracks and chips, rust, dents, and the tire and wheel condition. If there is severe damage, discuss the price with the seller and try to reduce the price if necessary.

7. Are There Mechanical Issues?

When you purchase a used car, make sure there are no mechanical issues, as they can be expensive to repair, and you will be stuck with the bill. If you have experience maintaining or repairing cars, you can also ask to take a look under the hood. Any signs of leaks should be noted. If you see any fluids in the engine compartment or puddles or stains beneath the car, you should ask about leaks. 

While asking what mechanical issues the car has may return some information, if you are purchasing from someone who isn’t very knowledgeable about cars, you may want to ask more specific questions such as: “Does it make any unusual sounds when you drive it?” “Does the engine smell funny when it runs?” “Does it have trouble shifting gears or accelerating?” Answers to these can help you identify potential issues with the vehicle. 

Are There any Malfunctioning Features?

While some issues may be mostly cosmetic, ask about the small things such as A/C and heat, power windows, windshield wipers, and headlights. It can be expensive to repair all of these issues, and A/C and heat are must-haves.

8. Does It Come With A Warranty?

Some used cars may still have the manufacturer’s warranty in effect. If you are buying used from a dealership, they may have a maintenance warranty that lasts for a few months to a year after you purchase the vehicle. Be sure that you know what protections your vehicle comes with before purchasing it. 

9. What’s The VIN Number?

If you have the VIN number, you can view the accident history of the vehicle. When you search the VIN, you will get a VIN report, which typically includes information about ownership, accident history, title status, mileage, and other details about the car. Knowing these can help you make an informed decision about the vehicle. The information in the report can also challenge or confirm the integrity of the seller.

10. Can I Take It To My Mechanic For An Independent Inspection?

Some sellers will let you take the vehicle for an inspection, but you will have to pay for it yourself. Some sellers will reject the idea either because it’s too much of a hassle or because they know there is something wrong with it that they aren’t telling you. Either way, this question could help you discover any issues you will need to anticipate.

11. Would You Drive It From Coast To Coast Tomorrow?

While this isn’t a necessary question, it’s a fun one to ask the owner. If the owner responds with an easy yes, your fears about the vehicle’s condition can be assuaged. If they are uncertain about it, ask them about their reservations, and you’ll likely learn something about the vehicle you will need to know.

If a car can be driven for a long distance without issue, there is nothing wrong with it and you should purchase it. However, if it can’t be driven for a long distance, there are many issues and it probably shouldn’t be purchased.

Summary: 

Hopefully you now know exactly which questions to ask when buying a used car. 

Go out there and find the car of your dreams (within budget of course). 

If you’ve found this article helpful, be sure to come back soon for more money saving/money making tips! 

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