questions to ask when buying a used car

You’ve scoured the web, perused the local newspaper, and researched your options. Now for the big moment. The time has finally come:

You’re going to buy a new car.

Or, rather, you’re going to buy a new used car! And you’re not the only one. 40 million second-hand vehicles exchange hands every year in the United States.

That’s a whole lot of people driving home each day with a new set of wheels. If you’re planning on doing the same thing, though, it’s important to know the questions to ask when buying a used car.

Indeed, for all the incentives involved (cost-effectiveness, wider selection, a lower rate of depreciation, and so on), there’s always a risk as well. The last thing you want is to buy a vehicle that’s hiding some nasty surprises under the hood.

Want to avoid that fate? Keep reading to learn 6 key questions to ask the seller that should ensure you drive home happy.

1. Why’s the Car Being Sold?

This is a key question to start with whenever you’re buying a used car from a private seller. Finding out why they want to sell their car can indicate whether or not you should buy it!

Be wary if the seller hesitates, stutters, backtracks, or can’t provide an adequate answer.

It’s never a good sign. They might be trying to flog the car because of an underlying issue they can’t/don’t want to fix. But they’re not going to tell you that.

Conversely, you can feel slightly more confident if you get an easy, reasonable answer. Maybe they want an upgrade, no longer need a second vehicle, or are moving to a home with a smaller driveway. Those kinds of simple reasons are more likely to be the honest ones!  

2. What’s Its Story?

Or, in other words, what’s the history of the vehicle?

Find out how many people have owned it, how far it’s been driven, and what repairs/replacements have been done over the years.

Obviously, you’re hoping for low numbers to all of the above! Fewer owners, miles, and accidents mean the car’s far more likely to be safe, road-worthy, and free from mechanical surprises.

It’s important to check about the title here too.

All second-hand cars should come with title papers that prove the seller owns it. But the best second-hand cars have what’s called a ‘clear title’ that demonstrates an absence of accidents.

If the title isn’t clear, then it might be ‘salvaged’ or ‘damaged’ instead. In essence, the car’s been through the wringer in the past! Now, that isn’t necessarily an automatic reason to look elsewhere. But you do need to check how damaged it was and what repairs were done at the time.

3. Is There a Full Record of Past Maintenance?

It’s one thing to be told about a car’s past history and maintenance work. It’s another to have actual proof of the situation!

Responsible car owners do two things:

First, they get their vehicles maintained regularly in order to keep them in good, safe, working order. Second, they hold onto the records of any work that’s been done. And that’s good news as far as you, the buyer, are concerned.

You can see with your own eyes what work has been done and when it was completed. The result? You know where you stand and what you’re buying. The chance of nasty surprises goes down as a result.

4. Has the Timing Belt Been Changed Recently?

Always ask about the timing belt too. Every car has one, and it plays a crucial role in the engine.

That’s why it’s so important to change the belt every 70,000 miles or so (give or take 10,000 miles). Don’t, and it can suffer enough wear and tear to break, causing havoc in the process.

Unfortunately, replacing the timing belt is as expensive as it is essential, which leads many car owners to delay doing it!

For your peace of mind, we suggest asking whether or not the belt’s been changed recently. If it hasn’t, then you know where you stand and can proceed accordingly. If it has, then you can feel more confident that the belt won’t let you down and lead to further expense.

5. Is There a Spare Tire?

Most car owners can expect to get a flat tire every once in a while.

We recommend making sure that the used vehicles you look at have a spare (and all the tools required to put it on), just in case it happens to you. The last thing you want is to find out when it’s too late and you’re already in a spot of bother.

Ask to see the tire and tools with your own eyes though! That way, you’ll know for sure that they’re there if/whenever you need them.

6. Would You Accept…?

Let’s fast forward and imagine that you’ve checked the car over and got all the information you need. The time’s come to talk about money. Our top advice?

Don’t accept the asking price outright!

It’s always worth negotiating with the seller to see if they can give you a discount. Ask about the lowest price they’d accept, negotiate effectively, and even professional dealers may knock something off the RRP. You walk away with a new used car and extra cash in your pocket.

Remember These Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Huge numbers of people buy second-hand cars in America every year.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s always straight-forward! All too many people rush the process, forget the necessary questions to ask when buying a used car, and end up disappointed as a result.

Hopefully, the information in this post will help you avoid that fate! Keep the questions in mind, do your due diligence, and you should drive away more than happy.

Looking for the best place to buy used cars in south Florida? We’ve got everything you need and more! Contact us today to find out how we can be of service.