Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used vehicle enables you to get better value for your money. The car you purchase will depreciate at a much slower rate than a new car, so it won’t lose a lot of its value from one year to another. However, purchasing a pre-owned vehicle is riskier because you may end up getting a problem-plagued car that needs frequent repairs. 

So, how do you avoid buying a lemon car? Asking the car seller the following questions can help you get a great deal on a used vehicle.

1. Has this vehicle been in an accident?

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The owner of the used car may have a vehicle history report that shows whether it has been involved in an accident. If not, you can use the services of companies such as AutoCheck and CarFax to find out the accident history of the car. Ask the owner for information about the vehicle’s past.

If it isn’t accident-free, the car may have aftermarket parts that aren’t of the same quality as the original parts. You shouldn’t pass up a vehicle merely because of a fender bender, but you may want to think twice about buying one that has been in a major accident. When considering a vehicle with an accident history, you need to have a clear idea of the extent of the damages it sustained and the types of repairs it underwent.

2. What is the status of the vehicle’s title?

When you discuss the vehicle’s title with the owner, you have to look for a number of important things. First, the car should have a clear title instead of a damage or salvage title. Also, make sure the title is in the seller’s name, and it’s physically present and ready to be signed over to you immediately. You only want to purchase a used vehicle from a seller who doesn’t have a lien on it or isn’t telling you a story about the location of the title or the name in it.

If the vehicle has a salvage title, it means the insurance company has decided that the cost of repairing it is higher than its actual value. This is a big red flag that usually indicates the car was in a very bad accident that might have caused irreparable damage to the vehicle. For example, if the car’s frame was bent in a collision, it’s typically declared a salvage because this type of damage is often impossible to fix.

3. How many previous owners did this car have?

Older vehicles typically have a larger number of owners. However, you should try to look for a used vehicle with just a few previous owners. A car that has passed through many hands may have recurring mechanical problems that its owners didn’t want to deal with or costly upkeep needs. It’s also worth noting that a vehicle with many previous owners is more likely to have a spotty maintenance history and unaddressed issues.

4. Why are you selling the car?

This question may be simple, but it can go a long way in helping you decide whether you should proceed with the purchase. In this case, the most straightforward reason is often the best, such as the owner wanting to replace the car with something bigger, nicer, or cheaper. Be wary of complicated and long-winded explanations. Although such answers shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, you’ll have an easier time making a decision if the owner gives you a simple and honest answer.

5. Can you show me the maintenance records?

An owner who has taken good care of the vehicle should have a complete record of its maintenance history. The most common auto services include scheduled tune-ups, oil changes, filter replacements, tire rotations, brake pad replacements, and radiator flushes. A used vehicle that has been properly maintained is less likely to have mechanical problems, so there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. Additionally, it can last longer and make your investment more worthwhile.

6. When was the last time you replaced the timing belt?

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Every vehicle has a timing belt or timing chain. In most cases, the timing belt should be changed at an interval of 60,000 to 80,000 miles. While it can be expensive, this procedure is regarded as part of regular auto maintenance. If the timing belt isn’t replaced regularly, it can break and cause severe damage to the engine. Before you purchase a used car, make sure its timing belt has been changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Otherwise, be prepared to face frequent engine problems and expensive repairs.

7. Does this vehicle have any issues that need to be fixed?

Since the owner has been driving the vehicle for quite some time, they should be aware of any existing problems that require attention. These issues can be anything, such as a faulty blinker, a broken air conditioner, or an unusual noise. Be direct when you ask this question because the owner may feel hesitant to provide such information.

8. How many miles do you put on this car each day or week?

It’s important to know whether the vehicle has been traveling a reasonable distance at regular intervals. A regularly driven car tends to be in better condition than one that spends a lot of time sitting in the garage. However, you don’t want to buy a used car with overly high mileage. Also, you should find out if the vehicle is most frequently used in the city or on the highway. Generally, highway miles are easier on a car and its mechanical components than city driving, which involves going through stop-and-go traffic.

9. Can I take the vehicle to a professional mechanic for an inspection?

You should only ask this question when you’re ready to buy the vehicle. If the owner agrees, take the car to a mechanic you can trust. Make sure the mechanic is able to perform the pre-purchase inspection quickly because the owner may want to show the car to other buyers.  

If you’re looking for a reputable auto dealership in New Jersey’s tri-state area that offers great deals on high-quality used vehicles, don’t hesitate to get in touch with New Jersey State Auto Used Cars. Contact us today to schedule a viewing appointment.