Buying a used car can be a stressful activity, especially if you don't know what you're getting into. To help make sure that you're getting a reasonable deal on a decent vehicle here are a few questions to ask when buying a used car.
Some questions can be asked over the phone before ever seeing the car in person, including things like the asking price and mileage. You can also ask the seller to describe the condition of the car. When you later see the vehicle you can compare this description with its actual state in order to help judge the seller's honesty.
Questions to ask when you're looking at a used car should include asking if it has ever been in an accident or had any bodywork performed on it. Cars that have been repaired after a collision can be prone to electrical and mechanical problems and bodywork that has not been done well can lead to paint and rust issues. Ask if anything on the car has been repaired recently and if there are any repairs or expensive maintenance items that will need to be done in the future. Cars are often sold because something expensive is about to need replacement. Ask if the service records are available to confirm that regular maintenance has been performed.
If the vehicle is being sold by a private seller ask them how long they have had the car and why they are selling it. If they have just recently obtained it you might wonder why they are selling it so soon. Are they the first owner, or if not how many owners have there been? A car with a high number of owners may have been abused or have hidden problems.
You should also ask if there is a vehicle history report available. The report should allow you to confirm any (reported) accidents, the number of previous owners, and the mileage at various different points in the cars life.
If the car seems to be in good shape and is what you're looking for, ask to take it for a test drive. This will allow you to make sure that the car performs as expected, shifts through all the gears, doesn't make any odd noises, etc.. If you are serious about the vehicle, consider taking it to a trusted mechanic to have them do an inspection. When you take the car back ask the seller what their lowest or best price is and use this to start negotiations.