Purchasing Your First Used Car: 10 Questions You Should Be Asking

Purchasing a used car can be a very wise decision. Most cars will lose a lot of value quickly after being purchased new, despite being in near-perfect condition. This makes used cars a great choice for anyone looking to gain the same functionality without having to spend too much money. Unfortunately, it's also a very risky choice.

Most first-time buyers will know to check the specifications, year of purchase, and mileage to make sure they're buying the right car, along with the functionality of all electronic features and equipment of the car. However, this article will deal in some of the lesser known ways to gauge the quality and condition of the used car that will save you a lot of time and money. So, if you're set on buying a car second-hand, these tips will help you get the best deal possible. Good luck!

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10 Can I See The Car Title?

Before any further steps, buyers need to make sure the seller is the legal owner of the car. Also known as the pink slip, a car title should contain the seller's name and the model of the car in question. Make sure the car's VIN number matches the one stated in the car title. In case the car is purchased on a loan, the lender (a business or a person) will be stated on the car title as the lienholder. This is important if you are purchasing the car from the dealership, in which case the car title will be in the dealership's name.

9 Why Are You Selling The Car?

Since sellers will usually have an answer ready, you should rely on your instinct and logic and take their answer with a grain of salt. Making excuses or having trouble answering this question is an early indicator you may be better off walking away from the deal.

There are a few answers that are most common. If the seller says they're selling the car because they need fast cash this is usually a good sign meaning they can come down on the price quite a bit if necessary. On the other hand, if they say they are interested in getting a good deal, it usually means they're selling a quality car but are not willing to negotiate much for it. Other examples include needing a bigger car for family purposes, or having to sell the car due to high maintenance costs.

8 Can I Take The Car To A Mechanic For An Inspection?

Asking this question early in your conversation with the seller is important and will reveal their confidence in the vehicle they're selling. A detailed mechanical inspection will reveal any possible modifications that have been made to the car as well as whether it has sustained any damage that may have been overlooked or hushed-up. Feel free to also ask the mechanic to check for simple issues such as oil leaks under the car, engine belt wears, and state of the tires.

Any sort of push-back or hesitance from the seller's side is a bad sign that indicates there is likely something wrong with the car. In this case, it is highly recommended to walk away from the deal.

7 Can I See The Car On A Lift?

This is a quick method of determining the state of the car without having to take it to a mechanic, as lifts will usually be available at the dealership. This is done to quickly check for things such as the state of the transmission, oil or coolant leaks, and rust on the exhaust system. As in the previous case, any hesitation on the seller's side is a strong indicator you should walk away from the deal.

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In case there is no possibility to put the car on a lift, rust, and oil leaks can be found by checking the underside of the car with a flashlight. It is particularly important to be able to see the spare tire compartment from the underside of the car. The spare tire compartment is most commonly situated under the rear, and any signs of welds, cracks, or malformation strongly indicate the car had been in an accident.

6 Are There Any Additional Dealer Fees Or Expenses?

This question might save you a fortune, yet it's one many first-time buyers forget to ask at a used car dealership. Keep in mind, every car dealer will have some sort of a processing charge that may range from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. If you're still set on purchasing your first used car from a dealer, being aware of these fees will allow you to mitigate a lot of them.

Buying used cars at a dealership allows for a lot of negotiation, and so do the fees. Beware, the dealer will tell you these fees are not negotiable, but if you make them a counter offer and they easily budge, you are more than likely to have overpaid for the car. Car dealers might try to trick you by including various additional fees such as advertising or delivery fees on top of the price you pay for your car. Lastly, try to steer clear from any services offered at dealerships such as paint or fabric protection, as they're often unnecessary and you're most likely to highly overpay for them.

5 When Were The Tires Last Replaced?

Having to buy a whole new set of tires shortly after purchasing your car can be a significant expense that is best avoided. A good way to check the wear of the tires for yourself is to take a small object such as a penny and place it inside the groove of each tire. Deeper grooves indicate that the tires are likely new. Additionally, you can use your thumb to press into the sides of each tire to see if they are firm enough. While tires that are too firm are not a concern, if your thumb sinks in too much, it may indicate a problem.

When it comes to tires, always remember to check if all four wheels have the same tires and rims. Different tires and rims on wheels may indicate the car has been in an accident, which poses additional concerns.

4 Can I Take It On A Test Drive?

This one is crucial when making a decision of buying the car. A test drive will tell you everything from how the engine performs to how it sounds, how comfortable the car is, and if all the gauges and electronics function correctly.

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Keep in mind, confident sellers will usually allow for longer test drives, and the seller's objection to a test drive request should always be met with "thank you and goodbye." Asking the seller further questions such as "Is there any reason I wouldn't be able to take my family on a coast-to-coast road trip in this car tomorrow?" will allow you to gauge the seller's confidence in the car's condition.

3 Does The Car Have Original Paint?

A clever question to ask, checking for original paint will let you know if the vehicle was involved in any serious accidents, visually modified, maintained well. There are several simple ways to check if the car has been repainted. A repainted car will have an uneven texture caused by uneven spraying and small air bubbles that can be spotted by running your fingers over the edges of the car. Any sign of uneven paint distribution, or discoloration, or air bubbles is a strong indicator the car was repainted at a body shop. In some cases, the door panels or bumpers may be a different color altogether, suggesting they have been replaced, likely due to an accident.

2 Has This Car Been In Any Accidents?

This question should be asked by everyone interested in purchasing a used car. Accident history can drastically reduce the car's driveability and safety, along with its overall value.

Aside from a thorough visual inspection for cracks or dents, you can see whether the car has been in an accident based on its color. As mentioned, the color of the parts that have been involved in an accident will be slightly different than the rest of the body. This indicates that this part needed to be replaced and has been manually repainted.

1 How Did You Arrive At The Price?

This applies to both purchasing the car from the dealership and a private individual. When it comes to dealerships, it is important to get a clear explanation as to how they came up with this price. You can use a pricing guide to assess whether they are asking too much. Dealerships tend to introduce many additional fees such as processing and advertising fees into the price of the car, so make sure you are not charged for such fees twice in the final invoice.

Private owners, on the other hand, can be inexperienced and may also ask too much for the car (rarely too little), so it is prudent to talk to them and discuss why they think their price is fair.

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