9 Questions to ask
Before You Buy a Used Car
You may be wondering why this blog post is on how to buy a used vehicle. Well, here at Killer Papers, we pride ourselves in our ability to help students improve their writing, figure out how to live on a budget, determine which movies to watch on Netflix, navigate friendships, and better their health. Basically, we try to help you navigate the unchartered waters in high school and college. Sometimes, it’s an effort to help you learn from our mistakes, and other times it’s just sharing cool information because we like our customers.
If you’re filthy rich and would rather die than to drive a secondhand car, exit out of here immediately. This post is for the other 99%.
It’s scary to take on someone else’s potential problems when it comes to used cars. It isn’t just risky to buy a vehicle on Craigslist or NextDoor, either. It’s just as likely you get a lemon when buying from a dealership or other auto sales outfit, because when it comes to used vehicles, it’s hard to get the truth about their history.
Here are 9 questions to ask when buying a used vehicle…
1. WHAT IS THE MILEAGE? In general, if you’re buying a car with low mileage, it will have less wear and tear. However, this isn’t always the case. If the person didn’t drive the car much but jammed on the brakes a lot, never had the oil changed, and accelerated hard, the vehicle might be worse off than the mileage reflects. Something to take note of, is that some makes and models are known for going the distance. For example, Toyota, Honda, and GMC have reputations for lasting at least 200,000 miles, in many cases much longer.
2. HOW OLD IS THE CAR? Because of depreciation, most new cars lose 60% of their value after five years. You can use the car's age—and how that particular make and model loses value over time—to help you negotiate a better price.
3. HOW MANY OWNERS? One-owner vehicles are without a doubt the best option. If you can’t get that, your next best option is the fewest possible owners. Why? Well, vehicles that have one owner typically have a consistent maintenance and driving history. If a person gets a new car and drives it for ten years or so, they most likely treated it to a certain level of care that’s been consistent throughout it’s life. If it’s had multiple owners, a car might have been subjected to all sorts of levels of care, a wide range of driving styles, etc. which affects it’s dependability.
4. IS THERE A WARRANTY? If you buy a car from a private seller, most of the time it means you’re buying it “as is.” This means there is no warranty. Not a big deal, but it just means that once you pay for it and drive away, anything that happens to the car is your problem. Some used cars are still under the manufacturer’s warranty, though, so if that’s the case (such as with dealers or certain private sellers/owners) then the manufacturer or dealer will still cover certain repairs and replacement parts.
5. ARE THERE ANY MECHANICAL PROBLEMS? The most expensive problems with vehicles are generally the transmission and engine. There are other costly issues, too, but for sure you want to take a look under the hood. It should look clean, no leaking fluids, and nothing that stands out. If you don’t know much about cars, or even if you do, refer to number 6, which is just good, sound advice. Trust me.
6. CAN I TAKE THE CAR TO MY MECHANIC TO CHECK IT OUT BEFORE I BUY? Anyone who says no to this question is hiding something. Turn and run! In all the research I’ve done, and in the many, many vehicles I’ve purchased over the years, every single person I’ve ever asked this question to says yes! A mechanic will check the car out for you and tell you if there is anything crazy in the way of the engine, transmission, suspension, wheels, and electrical systems. Additionally, they’ll check the structural integrity of the vehicle's body and its state of maintenance.
7. DO THEY HAVE THE TITLE IN-HAND? Regardless of whether you are buying from a dealership or a private seller, never drive off or pay for the vehicle without the title in hand. Never. Ever. Zero exceptions. Sellers who took out a loan on the car won’t have the title, but the bank will. You can have the bank transfer the title to you if you buy the car. Make sure you take a close look at the title before purchasing the car. It will show if the car has been in an accident and declared a total loss. This is a “salvage” vehicle. If that’s what you’re dealing with, ask for a price that will reflect that.
8. HOW WOULD THIS CAR AFFECT MY INSURANCE? If you’re upgrading cars, oftentimes that means a higher insurance payment. You can contact an independent insurance agent for an estimate so you have a head’s up on what you’re looking at. This is a big one. Many people don’t even think about how getting a new (used, but new to you) car can raise your insurance payment tens or hundreds per month.
9. WHY ARE YOU SELLING THE CAR? Realizing everyone won’t answer this question honestly, you should still ask. Check the person’s body language when they answer you. Are they sweating? Shifting uncomfortably on their feet? Trying to change the subject? Because the answer should be pretty relatable. “We had another baby and need a bigger car,” for example.
Not everyone can afford a brand-new car. There’s no shame in buying used. In fact, a lot of people say it’s the smarter of the two choices. New cars, after all, lose 15-20% of their value the first year. You will also pay less insurance and sales tax on a used car. It has been estimated that less than 24% of millionaires drive the current year’s model. Think on that when contemplating your next set of wheels!