This post outlines the perfect questions to ask when buying a used car from a dealer or a private seller. This will ensure you have all the information you need to get the perfect deal.
It’s important to know what to ask when buying a used car so that you can establish the condition of the vehicle, ownership history, and factors that may affect the price. This list of things to ask about a used car before purchasing will make sure you are ready to negotiate.
You need to establish what the right price is for the car as well as whether it is the right vehicle for you. These questions will help you establish some core information about the car so you can make an informed decision.
The factors below significantly affect the price you should offer, so the questions are centered around these topics.
Things To Ask About When Buying A Used Car
- Ownership History
- Servicing History
- Accident History
- The mechanical condition of the car
- Functionality of the features of the car
- Costmetic damage
Here are the specific questions with some explanation around each one.
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1. How long have you owned the car?
When you are buying a used car it’s important to establish as much information as possible about the car so that you can negotiate the right price. Understanding how long someone has owned the car will help you understand the circumstances surrounding the reason for the sale. This might help you when negotiating the price.
2. Where did you buy the vehicle?
If the seller purchased the vehicle from a dealer this can provide some reassurance on the condition of the vehicle at that point in time. Dealers will often fully inspect a vehicle before a sale so it’s a good sign if the seller purchased it there.
3. Why are you selling the car?
This question is important as it can help you determine if there is any urgency on the part of the seller. If the seller indicates that they need the money for something specific such as purchasing a new vehicle, this could help you when negotiating the price.
4. What is the ownership history of the car?
Find out how many owners the car has had. Having fewer owners will increase the value of the car as its generally associated with higher standards of care for the vehicle.
5. Has the car had a recent mechanical inspection?
Ask if the car has been inspected recently and if there is any supporting documentation. You can also ask if there has been a recent emissions test completed. It is very important to establish the mechanical condition of a used car before making an offer. Repairs and maintenance can be very costly.
6. Have there been recent repairs or component replacements?
Recent component replacements or repairs can increase the value of a used car significantly. If anything has been completed, ask for supporting documentation to see what has been spent on the car.
7. Can I see the service history of the car?
All vehicles require regular servicing, not only to ensure continued functionality but also to minimize wear on the engine and its components. Manufacturers will specify a service schedule but modern vehicles will often notify the user if early servicing is required based on the computerized vehicle monitoring system.
If a vehicle has been serviced very frequently and it used condition-based alerts, this could imply the car has been driven aggressively.
- Check that the service history against the manufacturers reccomended schedule
- Look for main dealer servicing stamps as this is considered to be of a higher quality
- Look for signs of small gaps between servicing. This can imply the vehicle has endured more wear due to aggressive driving habits, triggering frequent alerts for servicing.
8. Has the car been in any accidents?
If a car has been in an accident and then repaired, it significantly affects the value. This is because there may still be damage to components, even if the car has been repaired to a condition where it is roadworthy.
- Establish the damage caused in any accidents and find out what repair work was completed.
9. Are there any problems with the interior features of the car?
Many interior features are not required to be functional in order for a car to legally be driven on the road. It’s common for older cars to have problems with a variety of features so you should test everything before making an offer.
- Entertainment system
- Seat repositioning
- Dashboard features
- Climate control
- Electric controls for windows, windscreen wipers, central locking, and mirrors.
- Sunroof functionality
10. What is the condition of the interior of the car?
Ask the seller to show you any areas of damage to the vehicle’s interior. Having a well-kept interior can be a sign that the car has been looked after. It also affects your ability to sell the car at a later date.
- Seating and carpets
- Dashboard and central area
11. Is there any exterior cosmetic damage?
Sellers will of course choose the best photos when advertising a used car for sale. Make sure you inspect the exterior of the car thoroughly and ask the seller to point out any damage. Damage to the exterior of the car is not only costly to repair but can affect the resale value of the vehicle.
- Body work including the paint and car frame
- Windows, windscreen wipers and mirrors
12. What is the condition of the tires?
The cost of replacing a set of tires can be significant relative to the cost of a typical used car. Inspect the tires and see how long they will be before they will need to be replaced. If the tires will need replacing soon, this can be a good reason to request a discount on the price.
13. Does the car have a spare tire?
A spare tire and jack are a useful addition to any used car. Tire issues are one of the most common reasons for breakdowns so it’s useful to have a replacement.
14. Do you have the vehicle title in hand?
Never buy a used car without having the vehicle title in hand. If the car has been financed it’s not uncommon for the bank to have the vehicle title. You need this essential documentation before completing a purchase!
15. Can I take a test drive?
When driving the vehicle check all the core functionality. Accelerate through the gears and test the lights, controls, braking, and steering. Listen for any worrying sounds and get a feel for the car.
16. What is the vehicle mileage?
The more mileage completed by a used car, the cheaper it should be. This is because miles driver is strongly correlated to wear and tear on the car and its components. Use the mileage of the car to compare the price of the used car to other similar offerings online. This is a great way to start evaluating if the price is reasonable. Check the mileage of the car against the servicing documentation.
17. Is the car under warranty?
Some used cars are still under the manufacturer’s warranty. This is a very significant benefit as it means that you may save on some of the future cost o repairs or replacements. Often a used car is being sold “as is” which means you are responsible for the car upon purchasing it, including the full cost of maintenance or repairs.
18. How did you determine the price?
This question can provide important information as to how much research the seller has done when pricing the car for sale. If the seller has done significant research online you may find there is little room for negotiation if a lot of thought has gone into it. Checking their reasoning will provide a good process for you to determine if you think the price is fair.
After you have asked these questions, you should have a lot of information about the car. The next step is to decide if you are serious about purchasing the car. If so, you should begin trying to establish what you think a fair value is for the car.
- Use the information on the car to compare it with similar listings online
- Try to establish a range which constitutes “fair value” for the car
- Consider if the seller has any urgency to sell the car
- Consider any points of negotiation based on the condition of the car
- Decide on a price you are prepared to pay
- Consider starting at a lower price and negotiating, while having an upper limit for what you are prepared to pay.
When you have decided on a price you are prepared to pay, it’s worth offering lower at first to see if you can get a great deal. It’s important to know how to negotiate a used car price to get the perfect deal!
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