Buying a car is nerve-wracking, but when you’re planning to buy a used car, it’s even worse. We’ve all heard the horror stories of someone buying a lemon and getting stuck with a car that won’t run. The good news is that it doesn’t have to happen to you. If you know the right questions to ask when buying a used car, you can increase your chances of getting a quality car.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why Asking Questions Is So Important
When you purchase a home, and the seller knows something is wrong with it, they have to give you a seller’s disclosure document that outlines all of its defects. But when buying a used car, the law doesn’t require sellers to disclose problems. That’s why knowing which questions to ask when buying a used car is so important.
And if when asking these questions, the seller makes a statement to you about the condition of the car, be sure to get it in writing. That’s because if the seller willingly tells you about the car’s condition and puts it in writing, you may have recourse in case the statement was false.
How to Set Your Budget
Before you begin your hunt for the perfect used car, it makes sense to decide how much you want to spend. It’s one of the most important questions to ask when buying a used car. When buying the car, you can use the money in your savings account and pay cash for it, or you can take out a car loan.
If you decide to take out a loan and make monthly payments on your car, you will need about a 10 percent down payment. If possible, try not to exceed more than three years on your car loan. That’s because the longer the loan term, the higher the interest rate you’ll pay.
Also, if you drag out your loan payoff for six or seven years, the car may not be worth enough at that point to get a decent trade-in amount for it.
But considering that your monthly payments shouldn’t be more than 20 percent of your income, you may need a longer loan term to bring the payments down.
Where to Find a Used Car
Where to find a used car is another one of the questions to ask when buying a used car that you’ll have to figure out. Luckily, you can buy used cars in a few places. Here are some of the places you can buy a used car.
Each of your options has pros and cons. For instance, when you buy from a new car dealer, you can rest assured that the car is in great condition, but you will pay more for that peace of mind. On the other hand, you’ll find better prices when you buy a used car from a privately owned car lot, but you need to do your homework when selecting who you do business with.
Should you buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car (CPO)?
One of the questions to ask when buying a used car is whether or not you should buy a CPO. The manufacturers of these cars thoroughly inspect them and perform any refurbishment necessary. This option allows you to purchase a used car with the benefit of a manufacturer-backed warranty.
Some dealerships allow their staff to drive cars from the lot, or they loan cars to customers who have their automobiles in the dealership’s shop. Once the cars reach a certain mileage, they inspect them and sell them as CPOs.
You will likely pay a higher price for a CPO, so you will have to determine if the higher price is worth a car that won’t have as many repairs.
Get Your Financing in Order
Before you go shopping for a used car, you should have your financing in order. If you’re going to pay cash, take along a check so you can pay for the car and drive it off the lot.
But if you’re going to finance the car, you’ll need to take some steps to ensure you get the best loan. Here are some things you can do to make the process smoother.
Know your score
Anytime you apply for a car loan, the lender will check your credit score. And if you know what it is ahead of time, you can take steps to improve it if necessary. For instance, you may find false information on your credit report that you can dispute and have removed.
You can check your credit scores from all three credit reporting agencies for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Make your choice
Another one of the questions to ask when buying a used car is where to find the money to pay for it. You have a few options when it comes to getting a loan for a used car. Here are some of the types of places that make these types of loans:
If you have a good credit score, think about getting pre-approved for a car loan before you begin shopping. Doing this helps in two ways. First, the amount of your pre-approved loan gives you some price boundaries when shopping for a car.
Also, when a seller or car dealer knows you have a pre-approval, they will work harder to make a deal with you.
6 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car
Once you have the basics taken care of it, it’s time to think about the questions to ask when buying a used car. You already know how important it is to do your due diligence to ensure that you buy the best car you can. Now it’s time to get down to business and talk about the specific questions to ask when buying a used car.
Here are six of them.
1. Do a background check
Of all the questions to ask when buying a used car, inquiring about the car’s background is one of the most important. Most sellers won’t readily give you this information, so you will have to dig a little. For instance, here are some of the questions that help you put together background information about the car.
As you receive the answers to these questions, you will form a picture of the car’s history. And that should give you some valuable insight. For instance, if the car has been in a wreck, ask to see the affected area.
Even if you’re not able to decide about whether or not it’s a problem, this valuable information will come in handy on a future step.
And the length of time the seller owned the car can speak volumes. For example, if they bought the car a couple of months ago, chances are they discovered a problem that they don’t want to mess with.
And of course, any information you glean about recent repair work will provide clues as to the mechanical fitness of the car.
2. Is it really yours?
The car title is in the name of the person who owns the car. For instance, if you buy from a private seller, the car title should have their name on it. If it doesn’t, they don’t have the right to sell you the car and you should not give them any money for it.
The only exception is if they owe money to their lender for the car. In that case, the bank’s name is on the title.
And if you purchase a car from a dealership, the car title should have the dealership’s name listed as the titleholder.
If a dealership or private lender won’t show you the title or has a story about why their name is not on the title, you’re better off finding another car. Lots of people run scams where they attempt to sell cars that they don’t own. And checking the ownership of the title is a great way to avoid becoming a victim in one of these scams.
3. Prove that you loved the car
Another one of the best questions to ask when buying a used car is having the seller to provide you with the service records for it. People who take care of cars keep careful records of oil changes and other routine maintenance done on the car. And you want to buy a car from someone who took care of it.
Keep in mind that the seller may have taken care of the car but not kept good records. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the car, but it might be wise to look at it a bit closer.
4. Can I go vroom?
If you’re considering buying the car, another one of the questions to ask when buying a used car is, can I take it for a test drive? When looking at a car at dealerships, the salespeople will always expect this question, but it may throw a private seller off.
But you won’t know if it’s the right car for you unless you drive it.
When test driving the car, check for these things:
5. Can I get a second opinion?
If you drive the car and like it, it’s time for another one of the questions to ask when buying a car. You need a second set of eyes to look at the car to ensure it’s in top mechanical shape. After all, it doesn’t matter how much you like the car. If it doesn’t run or has major issues, it’s not a good deal.
A third-party inspector will look at the car with neutral eyes and inform you of its true condition. Be aware that some dealerships have in-house inspectors. But this shouldn’t replace a third-party inspector who doesn’t have any skin in the game.
And if the private seller is worried about you taking the car, you have two choices. You can offer to drive to the inspector’s business together. Or you can call a mobile inspection service. They will meet you at the seller’s home or office and inspect the car there.
And if a dealership or private won’t allow you to take the car to a third-party inspector? You should probably walk away and find another car.
6. Will you make this right?
The last one of the questions to ask when buying a used car we want to talk about is what happens when the inspection turns up a problem.
For instance, the inspector may tell you that the brake pads are on the verge of going bad. Or they may say a fan belt is about to break. If this happens, ask the seller if they will make the repairs before you buy the car. You’d be surprised at how many sellers will say yes so they don’t lose the sale.
That Concludes Our Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car
Did you find the answer you’re looking for? Buying a used car is a big step. And you need all the ammunition you can get to make the right decision. Don’t be shy — ask the seller all of these questions to ensure that you get the best car for you.
Do you have any other questions to ask when buying a used car? If so, we would love to hear about them. Please leave us the details in the comment section below. Who knows? Maybe your questions will cause someone to find the perfect used car for them!