Buying a Used Car? Remember to Ask These Questions

Buying a Used Car? Remember to Ask These Questions

Are you considering getting a used car? By going to your used car lot, you can avoid signing up for years of payments and hundreds of dollars lost in interest fees. Besides, as soon as you drive off your new car, it loses 11% in value, and within three years its value is down almost 50%.  

When buying a used car from a dealer, you won’t have the benefit of much information. The dealer either took the car as a trade-in or bought it at an auction. In these cases, running a vehicle history report and having a mechanic inspect it is probably the best you can do.

With that said, used cars can come with expensive problems and lots of mileage, so make sure you ask these questions when buying one:

Who Is the Original Owner?

Original owners will have maintenance records and give you specific details about their car. If someone claims to be an original owner but avoids getting into details, be careful.

 Has the Car Ever Been in a Crash?

It’s common for people to repair wrecked cars and sell them for a large profit. You should know, though that these cars should be priced lower. Also, even if they look good, they could have severe or expensive issues hiding behind the hood. Don’t take the sellers word for it and make sure you check with a mechanic before purchase. Moreover, write down the vehicle identification number (VIN) and use CarFax or VinFreeCheck to see if a car has a crash in its history.

How was the Car Maintained and Does the Car Have Maintenance Records?

Find out if it was serviced at a dealership, by an independent mechanic or a ‘shade tree’ mechanic – one not affiliated with a garage. Also, ask if the maintenance is up-to-date. Some sellers will even suggest you speak to the mechanic who worked on the car.

A well-maintained used car will have fewer problems and should have papers to prove it. Moreover, check whether there are warranties that require proof of purchase as this could end up saving you lots of money.

What features don’t work the way they’re supposed to?

Older used cars nearly always have something wrong with them. It might not be a deal breaker – for example, if it’s a malfunctioning CD player. But other defects can come as annoying surprises, such as weak air conditioning, blown speakers or missing pixels in displays.

Can I Open up the Hood?

Checking out a car without opening up the hood is not advised. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, bring someone who does, and ask for an inspection before purchase at a trustworthy mechanic shop. Don’t write off fresh oil changes, strange smells, and noises.

Is the Pain Original?

A repainted car could have untreated rust underneath. Often vehicles with flood damage get sold as incredible deals that have engine and rust issues.

Why Do You Want to Sell the Car?

It’s not rare that people put a car up for sale because they don’t want to pay for significant issues, or that they try to cover the issues up. Always ask and always check with a mechanic if they’re telling the truth. 

Have There Been Any Issues with the Transmission?

A transmission can be as expensive to fix as an engine, so make sure it’s working right. Sometimes you might come across sales that try cheap tricks like sawdust that make the transmission work for as long as it takes you to pay and drive a couple of miles.

How did you arrive at this price? 

If you’ve asked all the above questions, and you’re getting serious about buying the car, find out how the seller priced it. Many people simply pick a figure out of the air. If the seller says he or she used a pricing guide, you can double check to see if the price is accurate.

Could I Get a Test Drive?

Test driving a used car is the best way to find out whether there are any issues with it. And while you’re on the road, take it to a trusted mechanic and never to one that your seller recommends.


Buying a used car is a great chance to save a lot of money, but you have to make sure you’re getting it as advertised. To do that, go through our list of questions, and always check with a mechanic. Otherwise, a used car can end up being more expensive than a used one. 

[1] “Car depreciation: how much have you lost?” Trusted Choice, Greg Lewerer, 14 may, 2018.
[2] “10 questions to ask when buying a used car,” Nerd Wallet, Philip Reed, 15 September, 2017.
[3] “Buying used American cars?” CARFAX.
[4] “Research any vehicle by VIN number for free,” VIN Check.