12 questions to ask when buying a Used Car


What is one question to ask when buying a used car?

To help you buy a used car, we asked business leaders and sales professionals this question for their best insights. From “What Are Your Used Car Financing Options?” to “How Many Previous Owners?”, there are several questions you should ask to get the best deal out of buying a used car.

Here are 12 questions to ask when buying a used car: 

  • What Are Your Used Car Financing Options?
  • Do the Heat and Air Conditioning Work?
  • Can I See the Carfax?
  • What is this Used Vehicle’s Service History?
  • Will the Car Need a Fluid Change Soon?
  • Clean Or Salvage Title? Don’t Buy Someone Else’s Lemon
  • Can I Inspect and Test Drive the Car?
  • Can it Drive Coast-to-Coast Tomorrow?
  • What’s the Mileage?
  • How Are the Safety Features?
  • Why Are You Selling the Car?
  • How Many Previous Owners?

What are your Used Car Financing Options?

The focus with vehicle and equipment financing is almost always on new, but used car buyers also have many options. You should never be afraid to ask about used car financing options. Your dealer wants to make the sale, and will do whatever they can to get it. Ask them to explain your options, and what they think is best for you and your situation. This would help to build a relationship with your dealer, especially if you go a month or two in advance of making the actual purchase. While getting financing options from your dealer is great, it’s even better to find a lender or lending institution in advance to get financing options with them first to have an amount that you can negotiate for as good a deal as possible. — Carey Wilbur, Charter Capital

Do the Heat and Air Conditioning Work?

One mistake people make is to check the temperature control based on the season in which they’re buying the car. If buying the car in the summer, they’ll check the air conditioning or they’ll check the heat if making the purchase during the winter. Make sure to ask about, and check, both. Otherwise, when the seasons change in a few months you may be surprised and disappointed. — Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Can I see the Carfax?

As nice as it would be to take people at their word that the vehicle you’re looking at hasn’t been in an accident and has been regularly serviced, you really can’t trust anyone today. Especially in a redhot used car market like we’ve been seeing. So one of the first things you need to ask is: can I see the Carfax? The Carfax is a simple vehicle history report that will show when the car has been serviced, if it’s been smogged, and most importantly, if it’s been involved in any accidents. And this isn’t an unreasonable ask. Carfax reports are cheap to obtain and almost a standard report in the used car world today. I personally wouldn’t buy any used car without confirmation that it’s got a clean title and history report. — John Ross, Test Prep Insight

What is this Used Vehicle’s Service History?

Always ask for the service history of a used car. To best understand how the vehicle may function or disfunction after purchase, you need to collect a copy of the car’s service history detailing its breakdowns, issues, and part history.

The last thing you want post-purchase is breaking down on your drive home. Many different car manufacturers are notorious for having issues specific to their brand or in particular models they carry.

Check the service history to ensure the car you buy doesn’t have defects common to that model prior to purchase. You don’t want to buy a used car to find out it has serious electrical problems, or whatever else. — Zach Goldstein, Public Rec

Will the Car need a Fluid Change soon?

How close is the car to 50k, 75k, or 100k miles? Many cars require fluid changes at these key milestones, and your used car is close, this can often add a few hundred dollars to your purchase price even if the car isn’t in need of any repairs. It’s important to factor in all additional expenses when purchasing a used car–and upcoming, expected maintenance fees should be included in your assessment of the car’s total cost. — Rob Bartlett, WTFast

Clean or Salvage Title? Don’t buy someone else’s Lemon

Ensure the used vehicle has a clean title. Having a rebuilt or salvage title impacts the value and sales price, as well as additional steps potentially needed in some states such as regular vehicle inspections.

Insurance companies may also have different guidelines to cover salvage titles, so it’s important to understand the vehicle’s history and title status before finalizing the sale. While there are benefits to purchasing a used vehicle, looking into the title status can help you avoid costly or surprise expenses later. — Russell Lieberman, Altan Insights

Can I Inspect and Test Drive the Car?

One great question that everyone should ask when buying a used car from any dealership or person is, “can I inspect and test drive the car?” You can usually tell how, “used”, a car is from first glance of the exterior and interior. However, some used cars will look almost brand new and won’t have a scratch, dent, electrical, or cosmetic issue but the seller may be lying about, or is unaware of, an issue with the car that may get worse in the near future. You should always be cautious and ask the seller if you can properly inspect it and drive it around a bit first to see if there are any problems with the engine, steering, brakes, and other important, and expensive, aspects of the vehicle before you even consider buying it. — Bill Lyons, Griffin Funding

Can it Drive Coast-to-Coast Tomorrow?

One amazing question to ask when buying a used car is, “can it drive coast-to-coast tomorrow?” The grandiose nature of an otherwise simple reliability question is a big ask for any seller and their reaction can speak volumes. A bad liar will not be ready for the randomness of the question and might stumble or might flat-out not know what to say. Meanwhile, someone telling the truth will probably laugh and answer directly to the car’s ability. — Kevin Callahan, Flatline Van Co.

What’s the Mileage?

The longer a vehicle has been on the road, the more wear and tear it has experienced. You can generally find this information in the advertisement, but you can also inquire about how much time the seller spent driving on the highway versus in the city: highway driving puts less stress on a car’s brakes and suspension. — Ayman Zaidi, GreatPeopleSearch

How are the Safety Features?

How well have the brake parts held up? Do the pads wear down easily? Look at every part of the brake system and make sure they’re still as good as they were when they came off the line. The same goes for the airbags. When there’s a recall of a particular make and model vehicle, it often involves the airbags. Find out whether that model car has been recalled and whether the airbags have been replaced or tampered with. Safety features are always considered when buying a new car. They should never be overlooked when buying a used one. — Trevor Ford, Yotta

Why are you selling the Car?

People don’t sell cars for no reason. Some expect a baby and need to buy a new, family one. Others move abroad and won’t need a vehicle anymore. The answer to that question should be simple and convincing. Be careful with complicated, multi-threaded stories behind selling the car. If the owner can’t briefly answer so easy a question, it can be a sign of hidden reasons behind this decision. — Michal Jonca, PhotoAiD

How many previous Owners?

How many previous owners did the car have? A car with a large number of previous owners is a significant red flag, as no one wants to hold on to a car that’s requiring a lot of unexpected repairs. Ideally, you want to look for used cars that have had only one or two previous owners–any more begins to look suspicious. — Alex Wang, Ember Fund

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