So you’ve thought through the options and you’ve decided that a used car is right for you. Congratulations! You’re likely to get a lot more for your budget, but there are still a few things to keep in mind.

Top 5 Questions to Ask

Once you’ve found a vehicle and seller that looks promising, be sure to have a handy checklist of questions ready when you go to check it out. Don’t be shy about asking anything and everything you can about the car’s current state and past history. It’s a big investment and you don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse.

To get you started, here’s a quick list of important questions to have on deck:

5) Can I take a look at the title?

Chances are, if a seller isn’t able to show you a physical title for the car, you’re going to have trouble down the road. Don’t believe a seller who tells you he’s sure it’s at his mother’s house 3 towns over, and ever agree to let someone send it to you after the deal is made. The title could end up being in someone else’s name, if it even exists in the first place. Quite simply it’s just a risk you shouldn’t ever take, no matter how enticing the deal on the vehicle seems.

4) How about a test drive?

Like a lot of these questions, sometimes just gauging the sellers reaction is as valuable as actually following through. While actually taking test drive should definitely be essential in every circumstance, be sure to take note of how the seller is reacting when you ask for one. If they seem nervous or reluctant, it’s probably because there’s reason to be. Then again, maybe they just have somewhere to be, so don’t automatically walk away just because a seller agrees with a little reluctance. You’ll be able to tell soon enough if there’s cause for concern.

3) Carfax?

More and more resources for car-purchasing consumers pop up almost weekly. It can be hard to keep up with every new site for price comparison or vehicle history service promising the latest and greatest. That’s why it’s nice that one that’s been around for a while is still at the top of it’s game. Carfax has been compiling vehicle history reports since 1984, and while it’s brought additional services into the fold since, this remains its bread and butter.

While a free report is offered, this often fails to instill much confidence when on the verge of parting with a hefty chunk of change. We recommend springing for the more comprehensive paid report in the end. But who pays? Well, in most cases it makes sense to get the seller to pay. Chances are they could be showing this car to more than just one buyer, and will be able to reuse the report. On the other hand, if you buy it, what are you going to do with it if you decide no? Bottom line is that the onus of you feeling comfortable with the purchase is on them, not you.

2) Can I check the oil? Engine? Undercarriage?

Don’t be afraid to do some poking around, but ask first. If they have a problem with it, maybe there’s a reason why. Even better is if they have a lift and can raise it up for you to look underneath? Heavy rust or leaking fluids may not be readily apparent if you can see from underneath. A lot can be gained from seeing how well out-of-sight parts are taken care of.

1) Mind if my mechanic takes a look at this too?

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask if a qualified mechanic can give you a quick evaluation of it. Obviously this makes more sense if it’s one of your choosing and not just the seller’s buddy. As with a lot of these, reaction to the question is just as valuable, and someone who’s making excuses or outright refusing is likely hiding something about the vehicle. There might be a little bit of additional cost in this, since the seller is unlikely to agree to pay, but if you work it out with your mechanic beforehand—especially if looking at multiple vehicles within a certain timeframe—they can probably give you a deal on this.

Posted by Car Gazelle

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