Believe me, its not easy task when it comes to knowing all the right questions to ask about the vehicle you are thinking about purchasing. To help you out, let's go through some questions you can ask the seller and some things to keep in mind.
Questions to ask before scheduling an in-person meeting. Once you have found a vehicle you may like to buy, there are some preliminary questions you can ask over the phone or through email that will help you decide if it is worth it to even go and look at it.
- "Do you have the keys and title?"
- "Is the title in your name?"
- "Is the vehicle driveable? Will it make it to where I live? Or will it need to be towed?"
- If the vehicle is not driveable, "What would it take to get the vehicle running again?"
- "Does it leak any fluids? Oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid?"
- "Do all the lights and turn signals work properly?"
- "Are there any major mechanical issues that you know of?"
- "When will the vehicle be available for sale?"
These questions will help you assess the worth of going out to see it and help you decide which questions to ask next. It is also useful to know what fluids the vehicle may leak, so that you can bring some with you to get it home.
In-person questions to start with. If you have decided that you want to continue the trip out to see the new vehicle, then move on with me to another set of questions that will help you get to know your future road machine.
Alot of these questions will work off of the questions you asked over the phone, as well as lead into other questions you might want to ask next.
- "How old is the battery?" A battery more than 3 years old needs to be replaced, and sometimes even younger batteries should be replaced if they have been jump-started more than 5 times.
- "How old is the starter? How old is the alternator?" These are two very important parts of your starting system, and go hand in hand with the battery. Make sure you know if they need to be replaced either now, or soon. This will save you the time of buying a vehicle that runs now, but might not run after you get it home.
- "When is the last time any maintenance or tune-up repairs have been made?" This may include things like spark plugs, timing belts, serpentine belts, oil changes, transmission filter changes, fuel filter changes, thermostats, brakes and things of that nature. When asked this questions, generally a seller will tell you what the most recent work is that has been done. If they don't list a lot of these things, you can either mark them down as 'needs changing soon' or you can ask for specifics. Most sellers will not know if they did not have something changed while they have owned the vehicle.
- If it leaks any fluids, "How often to you have to refill the fluid?" and "When is the last time it had an oil and filter change?"
- "How is the transmission? Does is shift smoothly? When is the last time it was serviced? Has it ever been rebuilt or replaced? Any problems with the transmission that you know of?" This is a REALLY REALLY important question to ask. You could spend all day finding out the engine is fine, but down the road the transmission gives out (or falls out) and you are left with no money and a junk car. Ask about the tranny!
- "Would you allow me to take a test drive?" It is also very important to take the car for a short test drive. This is more than acceptable at a dealership, but private party sellers might not be expecting it. If they are honest or they really don't know it has any major issues, they will let you test drive it. If they are hiding that the front suspension is loose and might fall apart down the road, or they know the transmission has been having problems, they most likely will avoid letting you take that test drive.
- "Do you have a receipts fromm recent repairs or maintenance?" This is useful so that you not only have evidence of repairs, but also so that you can have the phone number to contact the mechanic who last worked on the vehicle and ask them their opinion of it, or just to be able to call them in case of future problems.
- "Would you allow me to bring a mechanic to do a pre-buy inspection?" This can almost scare the seller sometimes, so try to only use it when you think they might be covering up a major mechanical issue.
- "Whats the best deal I can get to take this vehicle off your hands right now?" This statement not only emphasizes the fact that you are doing THEM a favor, but it will also get that low price out of them. Just make sure you have cash on you!
Final detailed questions. Now that you have gone over some preliminary questions to ask and talked about some questions to ask while you are looking at your future vehicle, let's consider some detailed questions you can ask to make sure you're getting value out of your dollar.
- "How old are the tires?" Even if they don't really know, or you forget to ask, you can always check with a penny. Good tread should cover at least half of the penny on a small car, and cover most of the penny on anything bigger.
- "Are you the first owner of the vehicle?" This will tell you how many times this vehicle has been passed around.
- "How many miles are on the vehicle?" This is one that is good to ask, but won't hurt anyone if you check yourself while your looking at it. A high milage vehicle can mean more maintenance more often, and sometimes it can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e if it hasn't been properly taken care of through its years.
- "Can I see the trunk?" This question matters to some, while others don't really care about the trunk. It is always wise to check it to make sure they aren't selling you a car with their crap in the back, and also to see if the trunk leaks at all, or any wiring needs to be changed. This will also tell you if it has the trunk space you need or want.
- "Are you willing to trade for anything?" This can include partial trades for cash and a certain item. This is an extra question for those of us looking to save a few more bucks and to maybe get rid of something we don't use for something we need. It's also just nice to know.
Well, get out there and get to asking! All it takes is confidence and a good-natured attitude. Don't go into the situation expecting a lemon, but don't buy it thinking you're getting gold either. Be polite and most buyers will answer any and all questions you have.
The Magick Green Fairy....