If you don’t know much about automobiles, then not knowing the right questions to ask when buying a used car can make the shopping experience that much more intimidating. The old adage, “you don’t know what you don’t know” really rings true.
Before you get started with specific questions, make sure you understand how to use KBB to figure out the car value. When it comes to car shopping, a little research can go a long way. However, nothing can replace a few good questions. In the long run, once you’ve driven off in your newly acquired vehicle, the questions you asked are your best defense against buyer’s remorse.
What Questions Should You Ask When Buying A Used Car From A Dealership?
So, let’s say you’re looking at a two-door sports car. It’s red. It’s shiny. It’s fun. And, it’s used. But that’s okay, because it fits nicely within your budget. Before you start signing paperwork, however, you should ask if that nice, shiny, red paint is the car’s original color.
Why you ask? Well, if the car was originally blue, there’s probably a reason why it’s now red. Maybe the former owner just wanted a red sports car; there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. However, if the car was involved in a crash, and the result was some serious front-end damage, that’s a different matter.
If the repairs from that crash required plenty of bodywork to go with the new paint, you should know about it. And just because the aesthetics were given a face lift doesn’t mean there aren’t problems lurking through the frame, suspension and powertrain.
Who knew that asking about the car’s paint could open up such a larger conversation about past repairs? Regardless of how you got to that conversation, one thing is certain — the road to car-buying satisfaction is paved with curiosity.
Questions To Ask When Buying A Used Car
There are two types of questions you should ask at a car dealership. One type looks for specific information, while the other type seeks possible red flags. Here are some examples of each:
Specific Information Questions
Specific information questions are designed to help you learn as much as possible about a used vehicle. Some examples of these questions include:
- Does the car come with a spare tire and jack?
- What is the condition of the tires?
- What is the status of the brake pads?
- When did the car last go through safety and emissions testing? Did it pass?
- Does the car have a clear title?
- Are there any signs of smoking or pet damage?
- How much is this car after fees and licensing?
- How many miles are on the car?
- Does the car have a current and comprehensive schedule of maintenance history?
- Are there any outstanding recalls on the car?
- Is the car still under warranty?
- Is this the best price you can offer?
Asking about the condition of the tires, brake pads, and other components will help you determine whether or not the vehicle will need repairs or maintenance services in the near future.
If the vehicle will most likely need to be serviced soon, you should consider the costs of these services when determining how much you are willing to pay for the vehicle.
These questions can also help you get the best deal possible on a used car. There’s no need to beat around the bush when it comes to negotiating with a used car dealer. Don’t be afraid to be straightforward by asking for their best price.
Red Flag Seeking Questions
Knowing what to ask when buying a used car can help you uncover potential issues with a vehicle that you should know about before deciding whether or not to purchase it. Some examples of red flag seeking questions include:
- Has this car ever been repainted?
- Has the vehicle been in any accidents? If so, what was the extent of the damage?
- What mandatory fees do I have to pay?
- Have optional fees been automatically included?
- Can I test drive the car?
- Why are you pricing the car this way?
- What dealer-installed options are on this car?
- Can I see this car’s maintenance schedule history?
- Would you drive this car from coast-to-coast tomorrow?
- Can I take this to my licensed mechanic?
- How many previous owners have had this car?
- Is the car certified pre-owned by the manufacturer?
- Do any features not work the way they are supposed to?
- Is there a return policy or a repairs policy if I discover anything wrong with the car after buying it?
Asking the seller to explain how they arrived at their price is one of the most important questions on this list. This question forces the seller to justify their price. If the seller cannot explain why the price is fair, this could make it easier for you to negotiate a better deal.
If the seller says that they looked at a price guide or comparable vehicle sales in the area to come up with the price, don’t take their word for it. Research price guides and comparable vehicle sales in your area to verify that the price is fair.
Sellers should be more than willing to answer these questions. If a seller is not willing to answer, this could indicate that they are trying to hide something related to the condition or sale of the vehicle.
What to Ask When Buying A Used Car From A Private Seller
You should ask the specific information and red flag seeking questions listed above regardless of whether you are buying a used car from a dealership or a private seller. If you are buying a used car from a private seller, there are a few other questions you should ask in addition to those listed above. These questions include:
- Why are you selling the car? If the seller claims that everything is working perfectly and the car is in great condition, there has to be another reason why they are selling it. Find out what it is.
- Do you have the title in hand? If the seller has owned the car for a long time, it’s possible that they may have misplaced the title. It’s best to find out whether or not this will be an issue by asking this question upfront.
- How long have you owned the car? The amount of information that the seller is able to provide will depend on how long they have owned the vehicle. If they’ve only owned it for a few months, it’s possible that they aren’t aware of some of the issues it could have.
- How many miles per week are you putting on this car? This will help you find out how often the driver currently uses the vehicle so you can get a better idea of how familiar they are with its performance.
There is more risk involved in private car sales, which is why knowing what questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller is so important.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Before getting that shiny, red sports car you’re thinking of buying, you’ll want to understand exactly what kind of deal you’re getting yourself into. After all, the last thing you need is a car that has a huge leak under the hood that will cost you a bunch of money to fix. Asking the right questions can give you a better idea of what condition the car is in and what future maintenance and care will look like if you drive off with the car.