The Most Important Questions You Need to Ask When Buying a Used Car

CarsArrive |

Imagine it: You see an ad for the used car you’ve been dreaming about for years. Right year, right color, looks pristine. But what you need to remember is that unlike new cars, which come directly from the factory with long warranties if anything goes wrong, shopping for the right used car can be like navigating a minefield.

A car is an important purchase, so you want to make sure you’re asking the right questions while you’re shopping around, especially when you’re looking at used cars.

Used car dealership

If you’re buying from a used car dealership, there’s not a whole lot of information they can provide you in terms of history and care. If this is the case, the first things you need to do (if the dealer hasn’t already done it) is run the VIN to get a vehicle history report and have a trusted mechanic take if for a short test drive and do a thorough inspection.

Buying a car from a private seller

If, however, you’re buying a car from a private seller, there may be a lot more information that can be gained. Either way, you'll still want to run the VIN to get the vehicle history report and have the car inspected if you're serious about purchasing it.

But first, before you open up your wallet and bust out the Benjamins for what could be an expensive lawn ornament, there are some important questions you need to ask the seller about the car’s ownership history and its current condition.

Question #1: How was the car maintained?

Find out who performed the maintenance on the car. Did the owner take it to a dealership? Licensed independent mechanic? Did they perform any maintenance themselves or pay a friend of a friend to do it? Obviously, you want to hear that all maintenance was performed by a professional auto mechanic, but any answer to these questions can help you decide if the vehicle was well cared for.

Q2: Has the vehicle been in any accidents?

If an accident is reported it should end up on the vehicle history report — but it’s optimistic at best to assume these reports catch everything. If the seller says the car was in an accident, find out the extent of the damage and ask who fixed it.

Q3: Are any features not working the way they're supposed to? 

An older used can that has no issues is a unicorn – i.e., it doesn’t exist. So if there’s something that doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, but it should be factored into your decision whether or not to purchase the vehicle.

Q4: How many owners has the car had?

Ideally, you want a car that’s only have a few previous owners, depending on how old it is. If it’s had many owners – especially if the current seller hasn’t owned it for a long time – that might mean it has chronic mechanical issues. It also means you’re not likely to get good maintenance records or a detailed history.

Q5: Can I take the car to a mechanic for an inspection?

This is an important step for any auto purchase, and simply asking can tell you how serious and honest the seller is about selling the vehicle. Sellers who are on the up-and-up won’t hesitate to let you get the car checked out by a mechanic. So if there’s any hesitation or they flat out tell you that you can’t get it inspected, take that as a flashing warning sign.

Q6: How did you arrive at the price?

If you’ve asked all the other questions in the list and you think you’re interested in purchasing the vehicle, take a little time to find out how the seller came up with the asking price. Some people do a lot of research to offer a competitive price, while others just pull a number out of the air.

If you feel like it’s the latter, you may be in for a difficult negotiation. If the seller says they used a reputable pricing guide, take a little time to check whether they chose an accurate price or not.

Getting the car to your driveway

Remember that after you purchase the vehicle, you still must get it home. And while many think the best and cheapest way to do that is to go there and drive the car home themselves, that’s not always the case. Road trips are more expensive than most people think and driving a car you know little about for even a couple hundred miles could be a recipe for disaster if something is actually wrong with the vehicle.

Your best bet for to quickly, easily and reliably get that new old car home is to use a reputable auto shipping company like CarsArrive Auto Relocation to get it from wherever it is to wherever it needs to go. Get your online quote today or call 855.736.7429 to learn more about shipping your vehicle.

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