12 Key Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

couple posing by used car

Buying a used car is a great way to save money, but you want to make sure what you're getting is reliable and safe. After all, you don't want to buy a car that will end up being a lemon!

Now the problem is that it can be difficult to know what questions to ask when buying a used car. Just like any other secondhand purchase, not knowing what you’re getting into can leave you with an expensive repair bill.

That's why it is important to ask the right questions when buying a used car. Doing so will help ensure that what you are getting is what you expect and that you won't be blindsided by any unexpected costs or issues down the road.

To help you make a decision, here are 12 key questions to ask when buying a used car:


1. Why Does the Owner Want to Sell the Car?

Before you ask for any technical details, it's important to know why the car is being sold. Is the current owner trading up for a newer model or looking to downsize?

Knowing what you are getting into will help inform your decision and give you an idea of what you may need to do after you buy it. Make sure to properly assess the seller's answer. Any inconsistency might mean they are just trying to cut their losses.


2. How Many Miles Are on the Vehicle?

According to The Zebra, the average number of miles driven per year is 14,263. Pay attention to what the seller says about how many miles are on the car. If it appears that the mileage is a lot higher than what's normal for its age and they can’t explain why then it might be wise to look elsewhere.

Don't overlook the mileage and consider a car just because they are fairly new or acquired just recently. Remember that wear and tear are influenced by the vehicle's use and you don't want to end up with a car that's been used more than what is normal.


3. How Old Is the Car?

Aside from the mileage, you should also consider what kind of wear and tear the car has been through. A car's age will help you determine what kinds of repairs have been made to it, what might need to be done in the future, and what kind of condition it is currently in.

The first month is when the car loses most of its value and continues to depreciate from there until its fifth year when its depreciation can go up to 40%. Take time to compare the car's value to the same cars from different marketplaces. From there, you can have a better idea of what you should be paying for the car.


4. Are There Any Damages or History of Accidents?

One of the big red flags when buying a used car is if it has been in any accidents or if there are any existing damages to the vehicle. This can be anything from scratches and dents to major repairs that have been done.

Make sure to ask what kind of damage or accident history the car has, as well as what types of repairs were made. It's also important to ask for proof of what was done in terms of repair work. 

When you discover any damage or accident history, it's best to have a mechanic inspect what repairs have been made as these can pose a long-term risk. You can also use this as a reason to negotiate a better price or ask for what kind of warranty is provided.


5. Ask for a Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report can provide valuable information on what kind of events the car has been through, such as accidents and repairs. Thus, having access to this kind of report is a must.

The vehicle history report can tell you what type of maintenance has been done on the car, what kind of repairs have been made to it, what its odometer readings are, and what kinds of inspections have been done.

Depending on the record, you can adjust your offer according to what you find. There are also some online tools where you can view the vehicle history report for free, such as VehicleHistory.com, Vindecoded.com, and CarFax.com.


6. Ask Whether You Can Take the Car to Your Mechanic

Another safety measure before buying a used car is to take it to your mechanic and have them do an inspection. Most sellers won't have any problem with this as long as you pay for the inspection.

Moreover, an honest seller that is not trying to hide anything will most likely be very open to this request. A mechanic can provide you with a detailed report regarding what repairs are needed, what needs to be done in the future, and what kind of shape the car is currently in.

If the seller says no, it might be a good idea to move on and look for other cars.


7. Are There Mechanical Problems Present?

What's under the hood is what matters most. The car's engine, transmission, brakes, and other components work together to ensure you have a good driving experience.

Be sure to ask what kind of mechanical problems the car has or if it has been serviced lately. Look for signs such as oil leaks or any strange noises and ask what type of maintenance has been done on the car.

Even if you don't have that much of an idea, just take a look at what's under the hood and what you can recognize. If it looks like it has been maintained, then that's a good sign. If there is someone you can bring that has more knowledge, have them take a look as well.


8. How Many Previous Owners Has The Car Had?

Though someone who is buying a car should rely on the performance of the vehicle, it is also important to consider the previous ownership. If the car had many owners, it can be an indication that there has been something wrong with it such as mechanical issues, damages, or a history of accidents.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the car is in bad shape. It's just important to do some extra research and ask questions about any issues that the car may have had in the past. If possible, a full history of car repair, maintenance, and ownership should be available to you.


9. Are There Any Existing Damages That Need to Be Fixed?

Most sellers are honest when it comes to disclosing any existing damages and repairs that need to be done on the car. However, some are not so honest. Check the car carefully and look for any signs of damage, rust, or corrosion. If you find anything suspicious, ask the seller what repairs were done to fix them and if there is any proof that they have been fixed properly.

The seller won't usually open up if there are any existing damages, so it's important to be knowledgeable and observant and/or ask someone who is.

This can also help you negotiate a smaller offer. You can simply tell the seller that you're aware of the damages and are willing to offer a lower price as you'll be the one to cover the cost of the repairs.


10. How Is the Interior?

When buying a used car, it's important to check the interior of the car as well. This includes the seats, carpets, dashboard features such as air conditioning and audio systems, and any other components that have been added by previous owners. 

However, some buyers can't see the actual car and must rely on pictures or videos. In this case, make sure to ask the seller for as many photos and videos of the interior of the car as possible. 

If you can travel and see the vehicle for yourself, there are some things you need to check inside the car such as the seating, carpets, and any other parts that have been replaced. If possible, take a look at the owner's manual to get a better insight into what features are available in the car.

If you see any rips, tears, leather damages, or any other interior flaws that need to be fixed, then you can use it as an advantage to lower your offer.


10. Ask For the Title

The title is one of the first things you should ask for when negotiating with the seller. A vehicle title is a document that proves ownership of the car and it's important to have one before transferring the ownership rights.

Make sure to check if there are any discrepancies between what is written on the title and what was stated by the seller during negotiations. You should also find out if the title is clean or not and if it has been verified by a third party such as a professional mechanic.

If the title has any issues, then it's best to walk away from the deal as it could cause legal complications down the line.


11. How Would the Car Impact Your Car Insurance Premiums?

Car insurance premiums are based on a variety of factors that may or may not be affected by the car you choose to buy. So, it would be wise to ask your insurance provider how the type and model of the car you are interested in purchasing might affect your premiums.

This is especially important if you're looking at cars with higher performance capabilities such as sports cars. You should also be aware of any additional costs that may apply if you choose to insure a car with an antique or modified engine.

It's also important to keep in mind that different insurance providers offer different rates, so make sure to compare quotes from multiple companies before making a final decision.


12. Is the Car Returnable?

While this is rare, it's important to ask the seller if they offer any kind of return policy. This is especially true if you are buying a used car and can't physically check it out before making the purchase.

Most sellers would not accept returns and will only provide refunds in certain cases, so make sure to double-check their policies beforehand. Additionally, you should also ask if you would be able to return the car in case of any issues or damages that were not disclosed before the purchase.

Usually, a certain mile number or period of time will be set for you to return the car, so make sure to read all the terms and conditions carefully before making your decision.


The Bottom Line

As cars depreciate faster than any other asset, many opt to buy used cars to save money. Before making a purchase, it's important to do your due diligence and ask all the right questions. This will not only help you make an informed decision but also ensure you don't end up with a lemon.

It is important to consider all factors before making a final decision. This includes looking at the car's history and understanding insurance premiums.

If you need an auto loan, a 121 Financial Credit Union auto loan with low-interest rates can help you buy a used car, truck, or SUV from any dealer in town.

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