Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

October 30th, 2020 by

There’s a lot to consider when you’re purchasing a vehicle. While the make, model, mileage, and trim level are probably high on your list of considerations, there are other questions that you should ask as well. Make sure you’re taking note of all the essential aspects of your potential vehicle purchase so you can settle on a car that’s well-suited to your needs.

What Will it Cost?

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Image via Unsplash by connorlunsford

The overall cost of a car includes more than just the sticker price. There are both short-term and long-term expenses that you need to know about. Most immediately, you’ll need to pay the:

  • Agreed-upon price for the vehicle.
  • Vehicle registration fee.
  • Sales tax.
  • Fees charged by the dealership, such as the documentation fee, dealer fee, and advertising fee.

Long term, you will also need to consider other costs associated with the vehicle, such as:

  • Insurance.
  • Gas.
  • Maintenance.
  • Repairs.
  • Registration renewal.

Many of these expenses vary by car. A vehicle with better gas mileage will have lower fuel costs, while one that’s older will cost less to insure. It’s important to investigate these expenses carefully so you understand the total price you’ll pay to acquire and operate your car. This should total no more than 20% of your total take-home income, and in many cases, it should be even less.

Does it Include Aftermarket Equipment?

It’s important to review everything that’s included with the vehicle. Some used cars may have aftermarket upgrades such as a lift kit or trailer hitch. You may find these upgrades appealing if they’re additions that you would have selected on your own. However, you will also want to know if you’re paying more for upgrades that don’t appeal to you. In this case, it’s often better to find a comparable model without such equipment.

What Kind of Warranty is Available?

A vehicle that’s under warranty comes with added protection and guarantees. A dealer may offer a full or limited warranty on some of the vehicle’s components and systems. Warranty service is provided free of charge if the covered element of the vehicle fails. Always ensure that you get written documentation regarding any warranties that are provided with the vehicle.

Is the CarFax Report Available?

This report provides a wealth of information about the vehicle, which is especially useful when you’re buying from a dealership that doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of the car. The CarFax report will tell you about:

  • Previous ownership.
  • Accident and damage reports.
  • Services performed on the vehicle.
  • Whether the vehicle was driven for commercial or personal use.
  • When and where titles were issued.

In general, you will want to avoid cars that have been in a lot of accidents while you should gravitate toward those with a good history of regular maintenance. When you purchase a car directly from the previous owner, you may have access to additional information on the vehicle’s history that comes straight from the seller. However, a CarFax report is still a good idea to prove that the seller is being open and honest about the vehicle.

Where Did the Vehicle Come From?

If you’re purchasing from a dealership, ask where they got the vehicle. If it’s a trade-in, there may be maintenance records that are available. A car purchased at auction comes with less information, so you’ll need to be vigilant about having an experienced mechanic look over the vehicle.

How Recently Has the Vehicle Been Serviced?

Find out when the car was last serviced. If you’re buying from a dealership, ask how often they inspect their vehicles and how long this particular vehicle has been on the lot. You may also inquire about the number of test drives it’s been on, particularly if the car has been at the dealership for a long time.

If the car has been sitting on the lot neglected for a period of time, it may have developed problems that weren’t present when it first came to the dealership. Consider having a mechanic look at the vehicle again before you buy it.

In addition to routine services, you should also inquire about essential maintenance. Ask:

  • When were the tires last changed, and what’s their condition?
  • When were the brakes last changed, and what’s their current condition?
  • Has the vehicle been repainted?
  • Did the vehicle pass all emissions tests for your state, and when?

How Long of a Test Drive Can You Take?

A test drive is essential with any vehicle that you’re thinking about purchasing. The longer you can test the vehicle, the more likely you are to identify key features that will influence your decision to purchase or not purchase the car. Some dealerships, offer at-home test drives in the wake of COVID-19, so you can experience the vehicle in a more leisurely manner, which is ideal for getting to know a car.

What Type of Financing is Available?

If you don’t have your own financing pre-arranged, you may need to find a dealership that can assist with vehicle financing. Fortunately, many dealerships now have their own in-house financing that they can assist you with. You can even fill out an application online for many dealers.

As you’re discussing financing, it’s important to ask about:

  • The interest rate: The lower the interest rate, the less you’ll ultimately pay for the vehicle. Your credit score will likely impact the interest rate that you qualify for.
  • The length of the loan: The shorter a vehicle loan, the better. This is especially important if you’re purchasing an older vehicle. You don’t want your loan to outlast the car.
  • The monthly payment: Make sure you can afford your monthly payments for the vehicle. It’s best to do a detailed personal budget at home before you begin shopping for a car so you know what you can afford.
  • Do they offer leasing on used vehicles?

If you’re ready to start exploring your options for a new vehicle in the Youngstown, Ohio area, visit Sweeney Cars. You can check out our selection of vehicles online now and schedule a visit or at-home test drive to get a closer look at your top picks.

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