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Tips on What Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

by Autobytel Staff
May 19, 2011

You are searching for a used car but are uncertain of what questions to ask when buying a used car.  Or you are in the market but are afraid to look in fear of being scammed. We’ve all heard the horror stories. A family member buys a used car. The vehicle has many flaws and mechanical problems they’ve now acquired and have no recourse to get their money back.  No one wants to be in this position or taken advantage of. With a little knowledge on what questions to ask when buying a used car you can avoid such disasters. 

For most of us the reason to purchase a used car over a new car is its financial benefits. Whether we feel a new car’s value is not worth the purchase price right off the lot or we are in need of something to fit our financial budget, our initial stress is hoping we don’t get scammed into paying more than the vehicle is worth.  Don’t take the sellers word for it. In other words, ask all pertinent used car questions that will assist you in knowing more about the car. 

Here are some used car questions to ask and the reasoning behind them.

What Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

  1. Where or who did the seller purchase the vehicle from?

    If there were several title holders, maybe there is a reason behind that. See if they know why. One previous owner would be favorable, but not a reason to walk away from the deal. You should continue with all these questions to ask when buying a used car before you can assess how important this factors in.

  2. Are there are any service records that were kept for the vehicle?

    Check whether the previous owner(s) kept any services records. See if the car was serviced per the requirements of the warranty. Are there any mechanic's repair receipts? Was there any recurring maintenance done that doesn’t fit into its regular maintenance? A few used car questions to ponder are the irregular maintenance and the long term costs that future repairs might cost. Think of the financial responsibility you could inherit if not carefully checked.

  3. Has the vehicle been in any accidents?

    Hopefully, if the seller knows, he or she will give you an honest answer to your used car questions. Vehicles that have been in previous accidents can bring down the value of the vehicle or cause future problems for you.

  4. Has a Vehicle History Report been done?

    When asking used car questions, don’t hesitate to inquire about free resources that may be available to you like a vehicle history report.  Sometimes the seller will have done a vehicle check to know more about the condition of the car. If they have a report, then ask them if you can see it or obtain a copy.  If they do not have a report, ask if they offer one for free.  If they do not, tell them you are going to run a report before going any further to find out as much information about the car as possible.  

  5. Is there a reason behind the sale of the car?

    This is one of those used car questions you can ask, but often overlooked. It’s especially important to ask when buying through private owner. If they seem nervous with their answer you may want to consider walking away from the purchase.  

  6. What is the odometer reading?

    Check the odometer reading in the vehicle. If it seems odd for the year of the car, extremely high or extremely low, ask why that is. It may be that the car was used excessively like a rental car. The higher the reading the lower the price should be. Compare other vehicles online with high mileage to see whether the selling price is reasonable.

  7. Is this a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

    A certified pre-owned vehicle can carry advantages. If it is certified it means that it has been through an extensive inspection and may come with a warranty. Ask to see the certified inspection before purchasing the car.  

  8.  Can I have my mechanic do an inspection?

    Another question to ask when buying a used car is if you can have a mechanic of your own do an inspection on the car. Especially if you have a mechanic you trust to let you know any unforeseen problems with the vehicle. This will be an out of pocket cost, although you might deem it worthy to have the comfort of knowing.

These tips will guide you in asking the right questions in your research to find out pertinent information you need.


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