If you’re looking to buy a used car, these 10 questions should definitely be on your list of things to ask the seller.
Here are 10 questions you need to ask a vehicle seller before making any move.
Why are you selling the car?
Are you the original owner?
Where's the car from?
How many kilometres are on the car?
Has the car been in any accidents?
Has the car been serviced regularly?
What sort of mileage do you get with it?
Can I take it for a test drive?
Is there any money owing on the car?
What's your bottom-line price?
Finding out why a seller’s getting rid of a car can tell you something about it (“It’s a gas guzzler”) or let you know you how eager he is to get rid of it—if he wants it gone in a hurry, you can probably talk the price down. If he gives you a funny reason, a red flag should go up in your head: it could be a scam.
If the seller’s also the car’s only owner, she’ll be your primary source of information about the car. A one-owner car also has a better chance of having been treated well.
You can find this out via CarFax, but a car’s original province-of-sale (or state-of-sale) will tell you what kind of weather it may have seen. A northern Ontario car, for example, will likely have seen some well-salted winter roads, while a car from the southern U.S. may have been exposed to baking-hot temperatures.
The mileage gives you an indication as to how well-used the car is. Also, if the number the seller gives you doesn’t match the reading on the odometer, watch out: you may be the butt of a scam.
It seems like an obvious question, but if a car looks good-as-new, some people might not think to ask it. The owner will, hopefully, be honest about the car’s history, but a CarProof or CarFax report will let you know if he’s lying.
You want a car with complete maintenance records, the original owner’s manual and any notices of recalled-and-repaired defects if applicable. A car backed up with the proper documentation likely has an owner that treated it well.
Fuel economy figures are very important if you want to better estimate how much you’ll be paying to gas up the car. Don’t just let the seller just hand you the EPA rating—if possible, ask her what sort of litres-per-kilometre she actually gets in real-world conditions.
A private seller may be reluctant to let you take a car out for long, especially if it’s still their daily driver, but if they outright refuse you a turn behind the wheel, drop the deal quick.
If the seller still has payments (liens) to make on the car and lets you buy it anyway, the lender who’s still out his cash could legally repossess the car from you.
Ask this and let the seller know you’re not looking to pay the stated price: you want to haggle. Most sellers work some wiggle room into the price anyway. Tip: if the ad said “obo” (“or best offer”) you can afford to throw him a lowball price, but an advertised “firm” price may indicate a seller who’s not willing to budge.