Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Author: Stat

Secondhand automobiles have indeed become a lot costlier during the past several years. But before you start thinking about giving up vehicles entirely and getting everywhere on foot, hear us out.

Not every used automobile will cost you an arm and a leg. You can still find lots of fantastic bargains on used automobiles out there — you just have to do your research, know where to go, understand what you’re looking for, and keep to your budget.

On top of all that, it’s even more vital to ask the correct questions these days — questions that offer you the knowledge you need to determine whether you’re getting a decent bargain, or if you should run for the hills. But what to ask when buying a used car? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

No matter where you're purchasing a used automobile, make sure you obtain answers to these questions.

Key Considerations When Buying a Used Car

Whether you're purchasing from a dealer or a private person, these questions to ask when buying a used car may help you ensure the automobile is in excellent condition and worth the price.

Vehicle History and Maintenance

When purchasing a secondhand automobile, check its vehicle history record first. These reports might reveal a car's history. produces the most popular vehicle history reports, which include accident history, title information, prior owners, maintenance and service history, and more. 

Most dealers provide complimentary Carfax or AutoTrader car history reports. Buying from a private seller? Buy a report from a reliable source. 

Even from reliable sources, car history records might include inaccuracies or missing information. Even after obtaining a vehicle history report, you should still ask questions about a car's history and condition before purchasing.

Can I review the vehicle history report?

This is an important one among the other questions to ask about used cars. You can judge how reliable a car can be on the road by how it has been operated. For example, if the automobile was previously used for ridesharing, it may have greater wear and tear than a personal vehicle.

In addition, inquire whether the present owner is the first. If not, does the vendor know how many people had it before? How long did the seller possess the vehicle? A short time might signify problems. When looking for a vehicle, try using keywords like “original owner”, “service records” or even “garaged” to identify automobiles without a checkered background.

How was the car maintained and serviced?

Find out whether it was worked on at a dealership, by a self-employed mechanic, or by a "shadetree" mechanic — one who is not associated with a garage. Ask about the current maintenance as well. Even talking to the technician who worked on the car is something some dealers could suggest.

Inquire more about the seller and whether service records are available. As stated before, this information is provided by certain historical records, but not all, and unreported services are not recorded. The vendor probably kept the vehicle well maintained if they had the service documents easily available.

Was the car involved in any accidents?

You shouldn't believe that just because an accident is shown on a car history record it covers every possible incident. If the automobile was in an accident, discover exactly how it was damaged and how it was repaired. 

An automobile that was in an accident but not fixed adequately can cause some undesirable difficulties down the road for future owners, and it might even be hazardous to drive.

What is the car’s ownership history?

An automobile's history could tell you a lot about its dependability on the road. For instance, compared to a private vehicle, the car's condition can be worse if it had formerly utilized for ridesharing. 

Also, make sure you find out whether the present owner is the first. If not, does the vendor have any idea about the item's previous owners? What was the seller's ownership period of the vehicle? Problems may arise after a little interval. To locate vehicles free of a troubled history, try searching for "original owner," "service records," or even "garaged" in your vehicle search.

Car Condition and Test Drive

The next most important and necessary questions when buying a used car are questions about the condition of the car and the possibility of conducting a test drive. 

What is the car's overall condition?

The general state of the vehicle must be known. Inquire about the car's condition in great detail from the vendor. Everything from obvious wear and tear to recognized problems falls under this category. Not all faults are obvious at first glance, but a comprehensive examination may help find them.

Can I inspect both the interior and exterior?

Some of the features in older secondhand automobiles may not function properly. In the case of a broken CD player, for instance, it may not be catastrophic. However, other problems, like ineffective air conditioning, blown speakers, or missing pixels on screens, might come as unpleasant and costly shocks. 

Minor dings, scratches, and other signs of wear and tear are also possible on used automobiles. If the automobile has major external damage such as dents, scratches, rust patches, paint chips, or uneven panels, it may have been in an accident and not fixed correctly.  

Also, be sure to open and shut the car's doors, hood, and trunk; inspect the tires for any apparent issues; and look under the carpets for signs of leaks, which might indicate water damage.

Can I take it for a test drive?

A test drive is the best method for a car shopper to experience the vehicle's handling and performance. This is especially important when buying a secondhand automobile, since it might reveal issues the seller could be hiding. 

When you take a test drive, be sure to pay attention to details like the car's handling in varied conditions (such as on the highway), the comfort of the seats, the sound of the engine, the responsiveness of the brakes, and any blind spots.

Are there any mechanical issues?

Make sure the vehicle is in good working order before you put your pen to paper and give over a tonne of cash (and remember, you shouldn't take out loans to buy a car). Worst case scenario: you discover the engine is leaking fluid a week later than expected.

You may take a peek beneath the hood and see what's going on. However, you should likely hire an expert unless you are an extreme automotive geek. It will save your nerves and money. 

To ensure everything is in order, you should inquire with the vendor or dealer about the possibility of a private examination by a technician. You should immediately start to suspect foul play if they say no.

Pricing and Ownership Details

Among the other used car questions, price and ownership questions are not insignificant. After all, if the price of the car is too high or low for unknown reasons, it can be a red flag. 

How did you determine the asking price?

Finding out the car's true value should be your first order of business. If you don't know how much a used automobile is worth, how can you possibly negotiate a fair price for it?

Fortunately, it's not hard at all to determine how much an automobile you're interested in is worth. Check a reliable resource, such as Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book, for the information you need.

You shouldn't bolt from the agreement the second you realize the dealer or seller is asking too much for the vehicle. You should instead attempt to negotiate a lower price with them. If they refuse to bend, then there's no harm in trying somewhere else.

Is the car still under warranty?

Having a more robust warranty plan isn't crucial, and it's never a smart idea to get an extended warranty from a dealer that deals in old cars. However, before purchasing an automobile, it is wise to inquire about its warranty condition.

When you buy a car from a private party or a dealership without a guarantee, the buyer is responsible for correcting any problems with the vehicle after they've driven it off the lot.

We have some good news for you: a lot of used automobiles are still under warranty. This means that the dealer or manufacturer is still partially responsible for any repairs or replacement components your car may need.

Additional Questions for Private Sellers

It is essential to inquire about the vehicle's history and condition in more detail when purchasing from a private seller. Asking the vendor these questions might provide you insight into their intentions, the car's history, and any hidden problems. Making a better choice and having a less stressful shopping experience are both possible outcomes of asking the correct questions.

Why are you selling the car?

Asking the vendor this inquiry and then taking a step back might sometimes be the most effective course of action. You may get a feel for the place, meet the seller, and learn about their motivations for selling the automobile in this way.

Consider it a win-win: they're getting rid of their two-door coupe because they need an SUV now that they're a family of four. However, warning signs should begin to dangle in your mind if they suddenly start sweating or shift the topic. If the vehicle has been causing the owner problems, they may be attempting to sell it off.

Do you possess the title?

Vehicles listed as having a "salvage title" should be avoided by most purchasers due to the possibility of underlying issues. For this reason, you should inquire about the vehicle's title details from the owner. You can often discover information on a car's title on its vehicle history record, but a long-term owner could not be aware of its whereabouts or the seller might not own it due to an outstanding bank loan. 

Find out where the car's title stands before you spend any further time and energy on the transaction.

How long have you owned the car?

One possible indicator of a car's reliability is how long its owner has been using it without major issues. However, it's safe to assume that the current owner isn't satisfied with the vehicle if they're attempting to sell it after only a year or fewer of ownership.

That isn't always the case, but you should still do your due diligence to ensure the vendor isn't attempting to sell you a junker.


When acquiring a used automobile, asking the correct questions may help you make an educated choice and avoid possible problems. Be diligent in your inquiry, and don't hesitate to walk away if the vendor cannot give suitable answers or documents. A well-informed buyer is more likely to discover a dependable car that suits their demands and budget.