A used car can be much more affordable than purchasing a new one, but it’s important to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon. Before saying yes to a used car, you’ll want to assess its condition to ensure you’re getting a reliable ride that will last for years to come. Here are five questions to ask before making an offer on a used car.
Do You Have the Title?
Only the title-holder of an automobile may sell it. If you’re buying from a dealership, the title should be in the dealership’s name. However, if you’re buying from a private seller it should be in his or her name. You’ll need to transfer the title and ownership over to your name, so make sure they have the title so you can easily do so.
How Was the Car Maintained?
Start by asking the owner if he or she regularly serviced the car. Ask to see any available service records so you can tell how often the car underwent basic checks or tune-ups. If the owner doesn’t have that information on hand, you might be able to find it on CARFAX.
Has the Car Been in Any Accidents?
Being in a fender bender or small accident isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it’s important to get a full picture of the car’s history. If you’re seriously considering a car, it’s worth it to buy a vehicle history report so you can see whether it’s been in any major accidents. However, because the vehicle history report might not be complete, it’s also worthwhile to ask the current owner if it was in any wrecks, and — if so — how much damage it sustained and how that was fixed.
Is There Anything That Needs to Be Repaired?
Vehicles naturally experience wear and tear over time, so chances are good that the car you’re considering might have a few problems. From a window that doesn’t roll up properly to exterior hail damage, ask the current owner if there’s anything that needs to be fixed. You might also want to take the car to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. If the mechanic discovers the need for repairs, you might be able to shave some money off the final purchase price. Just make sure it’s not a huge issue. For example, a broken CD player probably isn’t a big deal since you can easily buy a replacement, but evidence of recurring mechanical problems or a leak around the windshield should be a red flag.
Can I Test Drive It?
While a used car may look good from a distance, it’s vital to get behind the wheel and test it out for yourself. Before signing on the dotted line, ask the owner if you can take it for a test drive.
Once you’ve purchased a used car, you can easily spruce it up with a scented air freshener, a trash can and a car seat back organizer. You might also want to buy a tote bag to leave in the car so you always have it whenever you head to the farmers market or grocery store as well as a portable coffee mug that you can leave the car. (Pro tip: You can even buy one that comes with a car lighter plug). Happy driving!
Shop your car accessories:
- Car CD player
- Scented air freshener
- Car seat back organizer
- Trash can
- Tote bag
- Coffee mug with car lighter plug
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Rebekah Bell is a writer who lives in Los Angeles.