18 Important Questions To Ask When Buying A Used Car For The First Time

Knowing what questions to ask when buying a used car can help you immensely in getting a great deal. The used vehicles market is just as popular and big as new ones. Over the last few years, used cars have gotten a lot pricier. However, they still cost less than brand-new ones.

According to Experian’s State of the Automotive Finance Market report for the fourth quarter of 2023, the average monthly payment for a used car is around $950, about $200 lower than you might have to pay for a brand-new one.

However, you should not just go for any used ride simply because it is the best SUV for tall drivers or it is from an Italian car brand.

Used cars have a history that you must look into to ensure you do not end up with a car worth anything but trouble. How can you ensure it? Well, you need to learn important questions to ask when buying a used car.

It does not matter whether you are buying from a car dealership or an independent seller. There are a few things that every buyer should consider and ask before making a final purchase.

To help you with your search to find a reliable and financially smart used car, today we bring you this guide, which will tell you what to ask when buying a used car.

Let us begin.

What Are The Good Questions To Ask From Yourself When Buying A Used Car?

Buying a vehicle, whether it is a brand new or a used one, is an expensive affair. It is not difficult to find luxury cars under 10k. But they are still expensive for some buyers.

So, before diving into this used car market online and offline, you must be upfront with yourself. You need to be clear about your wants, reasons for purchase, features you desire, and the amount you can afford to spend.

Not every new car is premium, and not every used car is lame. You will not be fooled if you know your way around the market and have good questions to ask when buying a used car. Here, we have a few questions you should ask yourself before looking for a used car online or offline.

A. How Much Can I Spend?

The first question to ask yourself is how much you can afford to spend on buying a used car. It is wise to make a budget and stick to it to ensure you do not go overboard with spending.

B. What Type Of Car Do I Want?

After setting up a strict budget per your finances, you must be honest about what type of car you want. Explore if you want electric cars vs gas cars, small or compact rides, cars with paddle shifters, European car brands, large cars like SUVs, or cars with panoramic sunroofs.

The clearer you are on your wants, the easier it will be to narrow down your choices with the best questions to ask when buying a used car.

C. What Are My Intentions With The Car?

You need to ask yourself how you are going to use the car. Do you want it for everyday commutes, long road trips, off-roading, or more? You may need a particular kind of ride depending on your specific requirements.

D. Can I Afford To Pay Additional Fees?

Apart from the car’s selling price, sometimes there are additional fees you might have to pay. Sometimes, these fees will disrupt your budget. So, ask yourself how much you can spend on those additional charges.

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18 Questions To Ask When Buying A Used Car To Avoid Wrong Purchase

Sellers try hard to make a sale. Whether you are buying a used car from a car dealership or a private seller, not everything they tell you on the phone or show you on the internet is true.

Cool pictures and catchy advertisement does not guarantee a good car. You need to know your stuff before you negotiate with a seller to avoid getting ripped off. Avoiding asking necessary questions can make you end up with a ride, which is nothing but a liability. Another crucial question to ask when buying a used car is its age especially if you’re looking at used cars in sacramento. Even when you are buying a used vehicle, you do not want to end up with a ride older than five years.

So, you need to be prepared. If you are contemplating what are good questions to ask when buying a car from a dealership or a private seller, we have a long list of crucial questions that should be on your tips.

1. What is the car worth?

One of the most crucial questions to ask when buying a used car online or offline is its worth. Knowing the worth will let you know whether you are getting a good deal. You can cross-check the seller’s answer by comparing it with trustworthy online platforms like Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book.

If the seller asks for more than the car is worth, you can negotiate a reasonable price. If they do not budge, simply move and look elsewhere.

2. How old is the car?

Vehicles depreciate over time. It does not matter if you buy SUVs with the best gas mileage or the rides that run on premium gas. They will lose their value with time.

Generally, a brand-new car loses up to 60% of its value in the first five years. So, if you learn how old a car is, you can easily determine whether the price is right.

You can determine a car’s age by knowing its make and model. And you can use the car’s age to your advantage and negotiate a better price.

Thus, make sure you figure out the age of the vehicle you are interested in before driving to the car dealership or meeting that seller from Craigslist.

3. Can I Get The Vehicle History Report?

Asking for a vehicle’s history report is more crucial than looking for the most affordable electric cars. The vehicle history report will let you know the car’s past. This report will tell you the car’s history of accidents, open recalls, records of past owners, title information, service or maintenance history, and more.

All this information lets you know if a vehicle is the right choice for you. Also, you get the upper hand to get a better price. Several online platforms like Carfax and AutoCheck will let you know everything about a car’s history. You only need the vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate number.

4. Are there any mechanical issues?

Another question to ask when buying a used car for the first or hundredth time is if it has mechanical problems. Knowing is crucial as you do not want to spend thousands of dollars on a car and then learn if it has torque converter problems or shakes when accelerating.

5. Can I inspect the exterior and interior of the car?

Used cars, especially the older ones, have been used by several people. There are high chances of damage, especially the ones you can not immediately point out.

The vehicle can have AC that is not working properly, poor or no infotainment system, broken CD player, cracked windshield, scratches or dents on the body, bent wheels & tires, and more.

To ensure the car is in good shape, ask the seller if you can inspect the interior and exterior for any damage. Doing this will also let you know whether the exterior & interior styling is to your liking.

After all, you will spend a lot of time in it. And if you have a baby or pet, you will at some point want to install those infant car seats or dog car seats. This all can be determined by the close inspection of the interior & exterior.

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6. Can I get the car’s maintenance and service history?

Exploring the vehicle’s maintenance history will tell you if the vehicle has had any serious issues in the past. You will also learn if any parts of the car were replaced previously and whether it was serviced at a dealership, an independent mechanic, or a mechanic not affiliated with a garage.

Whether at a dealership or with a private seller, asking for service history can tell you a lot about a car’s well-being. Also, this will tell you if the car was serviced regularly. If a dealership or private seller cannot provide it, buying such a car can be risky.

7. Was this vehicle in any accidents?

You can usually find a vehicle’s accident-related information on a vehicle history report. However, that report does not ensure it has everything. So, apart from asking for a vehicle history report, ask for an accident history separately.

It is one of the crucial questions to ask car dealers when buying a used car and also the private seller. This way, you will learn if a car was in accidents in the past. If it was, find out how the incident happened and how the ride was fixed. If not repaired properly, a vehicle in an accident can be dangerous to drive.

8. Is the car still under warranty?

Another question to ask when buying a used fun cars under $10k or $20k is if it is still under warranty. Knowing a car’s warranty status is important. If you buy a car without any warranty coverage, you will be liable for dealing with any issues that arise after you drive away with it.

The good news is that you can still find some used cars under the manufacturer’s warranty, meaning they are responsible for some of the repairs & replacements on your car.

9. How will this car impact my car insurance?

When you change your cars, it impacts your car insurance. If you go for a newer model, the monthly payment will increase, while it will decrease for an older model. Thus, it is important to learn how much your new purchase will affect your car insurance and if you can afford it.

10. Do you have the car title?

Next, you should ask if the seller has the car title. You should demand the car title in hand, whether buying from a dealership or a private seller. Please understand that you should never buy a used car or make any kind of payment without having the car’s title in hand.

But do not get hasty if they provide the title. Examine it carefully. If a car’s title is marked as salvage title, it means the car is deemed illegal to drive.

Also, if the car has a rebuilt title, it means it was previously totaled and spruced up somehow. Try to avoid vehicles that do not have a clear or clean title.

11. Why are you selling the car?

This used car-related question is more appropriate if you buy from a private seller. Knowing this will let you know why they are giving up their ride. There can be a lot of reasons, like moving to a new city, getting a new car, and more.

However, it is a red flag if they cannot provide you with a clear answer or change the subject. In such a case, the seller is simply trying to cut their losses by selling a ride, which is a liability for them.

12. How long have you owned this car?

You should ask the seller how long they have owned that ride. If a private seller is selling you a car they have driven for a while without many problems, it is a sign that the ride is pretty reliable.

However, if they are selling it only after a year or two of buying, it means they are unhappy with the ride for some reason. Similarly, if a used car is sitting at a car dealership for too long, like for a few years, it clearly means it has some issue that no buyer was okay to compromise with.

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13. What is the mileage of the car?

The mileage of the car matters a lot. The longer a car has been on the road, the more wear and tear it has accumulated. So, ask the seller how much they have driven the car in the city and on the highway.

Some brand models, like Honda, can drive high miles without breaking a sweat, while others can not achieve the same. Also, highway driving is less straining for a car’s brakes and suspension. Thus, asking for driven miles will let you know if a vehicle was vigorously used or occasionally.

14. Is the owner’s manual present in the car?

The owner’s manual of any car is your sitemap for your ride. It has all the information about the car and tells you how to take good care of it. Make sure you get one from the seller. If they do not have the original with them, ensure they provide you with a free set of manuals with your purchase.

15. Is any kind of financing available?

When buying a used car, seeking a loan to pay for it is the last thing to consider. Avoid taking a loan at any cost. However, if this is your only payment method, you can ask the dealership if they will provide any financing.

But do not restrict yourself to them. Ask around, and compare offered interest rates and other terms of used car loans. You will easily learn which financing option is right for you with proper research.

16. Can I take the car for a test drive?

Test drive is the base for car buying. This is the only way to learn how a car moves on the road and if it is right for you and your family.

During the test drive, pay close attention while changing gears, applying breaks, accelerating, how seats feel, whether there are any blind spots, engine noises, and more. If you find blind spots and are concerned about them, look for cars with blind spot cameras exclusively.

17. Can I get a pre-purchase inspection?

To ensure that a vehicle has any issues, whether it is related to the exterior, interior, mechanical parts, or more, you should ask for a pre-purchase inspection. You can have the car you want inspected by a trusted mechanic. It will cost you between $100 to $200 but will ensure you if a car is worth buying.

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If a seller denies a pre-purchase inspection, step away from them immediately and look for a new seller. Also, do not settle for the seller’s mechanic to do the inspection. It should be someone you know and can trust completely.

18. Is the car returnable?

The final question on our list of questions to ask when buying a used car is if the vehicle is returnable. Many used car dealerships have a buyer’s remorse clause in their contract. If you change your mind, this clause allows you to return the vehicle within a certain time or miles limit.

Go through the contract terms to know the conditions to do so. This feature is something that a private seller does not offer. However, there is no harm in asking.

Conclusion

Cracking a good deal is the main goal of any car buyer. However, to make a successful purchase, you must know the crucial questions to ask when buying a used car.

Used cars are flawed in comparison to new ones. So, you need to be careful and strategic. With a list of 18 questions every used car buyer should know, this guide will help you immensely with your purchase.

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