Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used vehicle is a great way to get into the car of your dreams without breaking the bank — and sometimes the best cars have a few miles under the hood! But because it’s had a few trips around the block, there are some things you should know before you buy.

Knowing what questions to ask when buying a used car can make all the difference in being able to tell a quality vehicle from a car that’s past its prime. Whether you’re talking to the seller on the phone or in person, keep these tips in mind.

On the Phone

Once you’ve found a used car you’re interested in, give the owner or dealer a call and ask these questions. The answers could save you a trip.

Why are you selling? This is a great question for a private seller. If the answer seems vague, it could mean there’s something they don’t want you to know. This question can be a bargaining tool, too. If you find out the seller wants to sell as soon as possible, you could get a better deal!

What’s the overall condition? This question ties into the last one — and if they didn’t have a logical reason why they’re selling the car, it might be the most important question, too. Keep it broad and let the seller take it from there. They might bring up something you wouldn’t have thought to ask about.

Any accidents? A vehicle history report and the car’s title should be able to tell you the whole truth, but it’s still a good idea to ask. If the answer is yes, ask about the extent of the damage and the shop that did the repairs.

How many owners? You can get a good idea of any recurring problems by finding out how many owners a used car has had. While asking these questions can give you a great idea how the current owner has taken care of their vehicle, it’s much harder to gauge how its prior owners treated it. More than two owners might be too many.

How many miles? There are a couple reasons why a used car’s total mileage is important — most importantly, it’s a good indicator for how it’s been driven. For example, if the miles are high because the owner had a long commute, that’s usually better than miles piled up on short, stop-and-go trips. And, knowing total mileage will help when researching car insurance quotes.


If you’re standing next to the car, face-to-face with the seller, it must mean this one was worth a closer look. These four questions should come in handy at this point in the process.

Can I see maintenance records? A car that’s been taken care of will take care of you. Ask for receipts for any muffler, brakes, tires and other hardworking parts that’ve been replaced. If the seller can’t produce the paperwork, you might want to think twice.

Can I have my mechanic look at it? It’s always a good idea to have a licensed mechanic give the car a good once-over before you seal the deal. If everything is in working order, the seller should have no problem having an expert take a look.

Can I take it for a test drive? This is a biggie. The only way to truly tell if this is the car for you is to take it for a spin. If the seller is hesitant to let you drive it, you can bet there’s something they’re not telling you. And while you’re on that drive, know what to look for and make sure you’re covered in the event of the unexpected.

Ask for a better price. Did you get the answers you wanted? Did the test drive feel just right? Did you research similar vehicles and their prices? Then it’s time to talk numbers. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

A little preparation, confidence and know-how can pay off big time when buying your first used car. And even if you’ve done it before, brushing up on the basics is a good idea, too. Once you’ve bought a vehicle and need to add to or change your car insurance policy, your American Family Insurance agent can help you take all the right steps on your road to finding the right coverage.

Related Topics: On The Road , Car Buying , Safe Driving , Teen Drivers