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What to Ask When Buying A Used Car

By Kathleen Burgess


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Buying used cars can feel like a gamble. If you don’t know a lot about cars, the experience can be really intimidating. And without the right strategies, you can easily end up regretting your decision.  So, before you start scouting for a car you really like, consider doing a bit of research first. Here’s a list of questions to ask:

What to Ask When Buying a Used Car

  • Do you have its title?

    There are several reasons why the existing owner may not have the car’s title in hand. It could be that he’s misplaced it or he has an outstanding loan from his bank. Whatever the reason is, you should be clear about the status of the title. Knowing its availability will help you decide if the vehicle will be worth your time and effort.

  • Why is the car put on sale?

    This question can be a bit tricky. Since most sellers will probably have a story ready, you need to trust your instinct in deciding whether to believe the seller or not.

  • Can you share some of its recent repair and maintenance?

    Every used car has its history so it’s likely to have some repair or maintenance done over the years. Finding a seller who’s open to telling you every kind of repair and maintenance the car received is essential to getting a clear picture of the car’s condition.

    If a seller claims that his 12-year old car required nothing but routine oil changes, you should probably leave the car and look for other options.

    In addition to asking the seller, you should also consider pulling the history report of the car. That way, you’ll have documents you can use to double check the seller’s claims.

  • What features aren’t working anymore?

    In most cases, older used cars will have something wrong with them. From a malfunctioning music player to weak air conditioning, you need to be as thorough as possible when getting answers to this question. The answers you’ll get will give you an estimate on how much work is required to get the car back in top shape.

  • Can I have my mechanic check the car?

    You don’t necessarily have to trust everything the seller says. For a more precise answer, consider asking him if you can have your mechanic check the car for you. Reputable sellers won’t think twice about responding positively to this request. If you see a hint of hesitation, consider that as a warning sign.

    Now, be sure to have the seller present while the car is being checked. That way, you’ll be able to ask him or her about any malfunctioning parts or features that are no longer working.

  • Has it been in accidents?

    While the vehicle history report can give you an idea of how many accidents the car has been in, don’t assume that it can present everything. Ask the owner about the accidents the car has been involved in and determine the extent of the damage. You should also ask how the car was fixed.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying A Used Car

The seller isn’t the only person you should be asking questions to. As a buyer, you need to assess yourself first if you are ready to make the purchase or if a used car is really for you.

Here are some of the things you need to ask yourself before buying a second-hand car:

  • How much money am I willing to spend?

    Used cars are generally cheaper than brand new cars. However, considering that they have been used for quite some time, you need to be sure that you’re prepared for the extra cost of having the car checked, repaired, and restored. Those things can easily skyrocket a used car’s price.

    In addition to that, you should also be prepared for the monthly cost of financing the car. Consider its insurance cost and maintenance. Assess your finances before you start looking for a car to buy.

  • How can I finance the purchase?

    It’s a good idea to finance your purchase way before you actually go looking for a car to buy, particularly if you’re planning on taking an auto loan. That way, you’ll have the same capacity and confidence to negotiate with the seller as a cash buyer. You won’t have to feel stuck with the terms the seller or dealer offers you.

    Now, in finding the right loan, you should take the time to shop around. Go and see credit unions and banks to determine the best terms and rates. Do this way ahead of your car purchase so you won’t feel rushed to make a decision. Also, don’t forget to read the fine prints and make sure that you understand every word written on the contract. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. The last thing you want to happen is to be bound to a contract that will cost you more money, time, stress.

  • How much work can I commit to get a good deal?

    Buying a used car is not something you do in a rush. You have to spend enough time talking to reputable dealers and sellers to get the best price possible. If you really want to get the best deals, you may even have to broaden your search and look into nearby cities as well.

    This makes it important that you know where your time and finances stand. If you know that you’re not capable of spending huge chunks of money on a used car, then you may need to be more patience in finding a good deal.


Buying a used car is not an entirely bad thing. Once you know the right strategies and questions to ask yourself and the potential seller, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. That, however, requires time and patience. You need to be prepared to do more work to get the best deals and you need to be extra cautious when talking to sellers. Most of them are out to sell faulty cars that may end up costing you more money in the long run.

About Kathleen Burgess

Kathleen started her career in journalism writing about cars during her Journalism degree at CUNY and even though she didn't like it at first, she quickly became an ace, writing news, reviews and comparisons like one of the best car writers out there. Today she writes content focusing on the latest trends in the car industry, looking at sales, policies and green alternatives. Learn more about GCB's Editorial Process.

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