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Published January 05, 2022

What to ask when buying a used car?

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Image shows a man and woman in the front seats of a car, with a boy in the backseat.

Buying a used car is as exciting as it is nerve wracking, it’s not just about the cost either.

Your vehicle will impact your life greatly, and if you want to make sure you’re in for a smooth ride you need to think about what to ask when buying a used car. Here are some tips when buying used cars to make sure your ride is a joyful one.

Questions When Buying a Used Car From a Dealer
How many miles has the car traveled?

For many cars, their lifespan is tied to their mileage, so knowing what’s on the clock is essential for estimating its value.

Thankfully, with good care cars can go the distance for longer, and most dealers will do performance checks and quality control on their vehicles. Some dealers may even have limits on the mileage of vehicles they sell.

Is this the total price?

There’s nothing more defeating than finding the perfect car, only to be hit with additional fees while handling the paperwork.

It should be an exciting purchase, without any hidden potholes. Make sure the dealer you are using is being upfront with costs and that there are no hidden fees, only the named price you see on the car.

Are there any known issues with this model?

Not all cars are perfect, and they may have historic issues that come to light after years of use.

Maybe the bumper doesn’t have enough clearance for off-roading, a trunk has limited space, or perhaps the navigation system isn’t perfect. Reputable dealers should be upfront about the pros, cons and issues of a vehicle, but it’s always a good idea to ask.

Has the car been road tested?

Most dealers should be forward about any road testing or quality assurance, as it’s an important selling point.

It’s an essential question to have answered, and any reputable dealer will have a rigorous inspection and testing process.

Do you provide a warranty?

A great tip when buying a used car is to see if the seller is willing to offer a warranty, it’s an example of faith in their work and their vehicles.

These often provide protection up to a certain number of years or miles, and can cover you against any future issues.

What are the payment terms?

Asking about payment terms is essential, especially if doing a trade-in or finance purchase. You need to understand what you’re paying, when you’re paying and how you’re paying it.

Can you take it for a test drive?

It’s a classic question, but one that people can be nervous to ask. There’s nothing better than experiencing the car yourself.

While you can’t test every car in the showroom, if you’re close to purchasing but need that extra push to assure yourself, don’t be afraid to ask.

Do you provide a Carfax report?

A Carfax report gives a clear look into your new vehicle’s history, meaning you can know exactly what you’re purchasing.

It contains information about the original sale, odometer readings, structural integrity, service and maintenance records and previous owners, among other information. It’s essential when purchasing a used car, since it shows details that might otherwise be hidden.

What to Ask When Buying a Used Car from a Wanted Ad
Why are you selling the car?

Unlike dealers, when dealing with individuals it’s important to know why they want to trade the car. Are they buying up? Or maybe it’s not running like it used to? While you can’t always gauge honesty, it may give you some insight.

How did you come up with the price?

Enquiring into the seller’s decision behind their price lets you determine if it’s fair, but more importantly if they have done their research, or if there’s a reduction due to performance issues. Whether you think the price is fine, too high or too low, make sure you ask the question.

Has the car been checked by a mechanic?

Proof of the car’s safety is essential, especially when you’re not buying from a dealership.

Without proper assessment you can’t be sure of a vehicle’s safety, performance or if any work needs to be done. All of this could result in hidden costs down the line.

How many owners has the car had?

The number of owners may give some indication of how long the vehicle has been around, or if it may be trading hands due to issues. A lot of owners in a short period of time may be indicative of a mechanical problem with the car.

Has the car ever been in an accident?

As you may not have an accident report, unlike with a dealer, you should inquire about the accident history. However, while you’re still relying on word alone, it’s not impossible to prove. Carfax reports can show a vehicle’s accident history.

Can I test drive the car?

If you’re seriously considering the purchase, there’s no substitute for taking the car for a spin. You’ll quickly discover any issues, big or small, and be able to tell if the vehicle is for you. If they say no, then it’s worth considering why.

Do you have the car’s service record?

An official record will help to verify the sellers’ comments. This also proves the car has been looked at by a professional often, so should theoretically have fewer issues.

Buying from a Dealer Over an Individual
Do you provide a Carfax report?

When deciding between buying from a used car dealership or an individual, there’s plenty to consider. For example, once a deal is complete, but you decide against your vehicle, could you give it back to the seller?

Some dealerships have grace periods where you can change your mind, and even warranties covering your vehicle far into the future. All of that with a Carfax report so you know where it’s been, who’s had it, and how it’s performing.

You may want to consider any checks. Has the vehicle been inspected by a professional? Is there proof of that? What happens if things are wrong, how protected are you?

While buying from an individual could appear cheaper, you may end up paying for it in the long term if the car hasn’t been adequately tested or cared for.

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