Buying cheap used cars can save you significant money, and asking the right questions can help save even more money. The key to asking questions is to be very specific as this reduces room for misinterpretation and tests the knowledge of the seller at the same time. Write down questions that are important. This will insure that appropriate questions are asked, and being side-tracked by conversation will not be as easy. Here are some yes or no questions to get started, along with an explanation why they should be asked.
Are You the Original Owner?
Unless you are at a used car dealership, this should be the first question asked. This will establish a history for the vehicle. Should the answer be “yes,” ask follow-up questions about satisfaction, major repairs or concerns. As the original owner of the vehicle, the seller can offer insight as to the car’s past performance and any upcoming maintenance issues.
Are the Vehicle Maintenance Records Available?
If they are, ask to see them. This establishes the track record of the used car’s maintenance and adds credibility to the sale. Significant gaps in the record may indicate major repairs or intermittent maintenance. If the records aren’t available, look for signs of recent maintenance such as stickers and new (shiny) parts, and a clean engine compartment.
Was Maintenance Performed by You?
Sometimes owners have maintenance performed by mechanics, but don’t keep the records. Ask for the name of the mechanic. A reputable mechanic will have complete records of any services performed. Services like AutoCheck will list any records associated with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Do You Have the Title?
If “yes,” ask to see it and compare the numbers to the Vehicle Identification Number and record it. This can be used to verify facts and history of the vehicle. If no title is available, be aware that additional costs and time may be necessary to acquire the title. Lack of a title may indicate that a lien holder is involved, and must be paid off before the title can be issued. A title is a legally binding document for reporting odometer mileage for cars up to 10 years old.
May I Test Drive the Vehicle?
Test driving a cheap used car is one of the best ways to find issues. Check the brakes, acceleration and handling. Listen for unexpected or strange noises. Check for smooth transmission shifting.
May I have My Mechanic Inspect the Vehicle?
Ask this question even if a mechanic’s inspection is not going to take place. If the answer is “yes,” the owner is establishing a position of confidence in the vehicle. Owners that think highly of a used car will typically allow a mechanic to take a look at the vehicle before purchase. In some instances a purchase can be made contingent on the outcome of the inspection.
Are There Any Warranties?
Warranties can cover more than just the vehicle. New parts or tires often come with limited warranties that may not expire with the transfer of title. Ask the owner to check. Some dealerships offer warranties on used cars.
These are just a few of the questions to ask when buying. Whether looking for a cheap Volkswagen sedan or a used BMW coupe, an informed purchase can save money now and in the future.