what are some questions i should ask when buying a used car?

im looking for a used car to buy. first time buyer of any car. what are some things i should look out for and some questions i should ask? im planning on buying from an individual. dealers sell cars in bad conditions for too much money. i dont trust them. can i still get a carfax from an individual seller?

8 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    First pull a carfax like everyone has said and take that document with you.

    When you get their do the following:

    Walk around the car, ask the owner if it has ever been in any accidents. carry a magnet withyou and place it on any of the panels to see if it stays or falls off. If the car has been in an accident and there is alot of bondo then the maget will not stick.

    Open up the doors and look in the inbetween the door and panels to see any paint overspary or tape lines, another way to tell if a car has been painted.

    Pop the hood and put your hand on the top of the engine block to see if it is hot, warm or cold to the touch. Some people will run the car for a little bit before the buyer gets there if the car has trouble starting for the first time. If the engine is hot, ask why did they start it up. GO around back by the exhaust pipe and have another person start the car. look for any Black or Blue smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. A small amount initially isnt bad but a constant amount if the person revs the engine means their could be oil leaking between the seals.

    Look at the overall condition of the car, is it washed, is the interior clean, is the engine bay oil free. This tells you alot about the owner and how they take car of the car. Also, ask for any service history records to see if they did any or have kept any, dont just believe what they verbally tell you.

    Look under the hood and pull the oil cap off, shine a flasklight in there and look at the conditon of the inside. Look for any clump sludge looking substance, this means the oil hasnt been changed in a timely matter. Pull the oil dipstick and look at the color and texture of the oil to see if it has been kept up well. Ask the seller when they did the last oil change to see if they have an answer.

    From inside the car:

    Start the car up, listen to the idle and make sure it doesnt sputter or try to stall. Turn the steering wheel all the way left to all the way right, listen for any poping sounds. A slight hissing sound is normal (powersteering pump doing its job). Check all fo the electronics, especiall power windows/locks (roll all the way down/up each window).

    Turn on headlights, if near a wall look at the beam pattern (an off beam pattern could be indicative of a previous accident).

    Driving the car, press the brakes firmly when coming to a stop, listen for any grinding noises. A little sqeeking is okay, just dust between the pads and rotors. Listen when you make right or left turns for any noise from the fron wheel areas:

    - popping noise = CV joint issue

    - Grinding noise = Bearing issue

    - Rattle noise = Shock/Spring seating issue

    If you do find anything worng with the car that wasnt told to you and you still want to buy it, you can use those issues to get a lower price. The carfax document is good but is never 100% especially if the seller paid for the damage out of pocket and not through insurance. Make sure to look at the Odometer (mileage) reading on the carfax and verify what the miles are on the actual car to make sure their is no discreapcies between the two. I had viewed a 2003 auto with a clean carfax report (no accidents) but found paintng edge tape inbetween the door and panel. I also found a paint line after removing the piece of tape. So always do a visual check and dont just take carfax word for it. Carfax only has what is reported to it, if the owner paid for the work out of pocket and never filed a claim, carfax will never know. Good Luck...

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  • 1 decade ago

    Carfax reports are free from dealers most of the time. An individual will often have to pay for the report unless they have an account with Carfax. Obviously you should ask how many miles the used car has and how it was used, if they know. A person who drove to and from work is more preferable than a person who did a lot of cross country traveling in it. Check what you can from the exterior of the car, obvious dents, rust spots, holes in the body that can lead to rusting. Also you can somewhat see the condition of the brakes from the outside, check to see that most of the shoe is still good otherwise you're going to be replacing them shortly after you buy the car. Always ask if you can turn the car on and leave it in idle, listen for any odd noises or rumbling. Check and make sure the AC/heat works and no wiring has been changed by the previous owner.

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  • 1 decade ago

    You think you cant trust a dealer? Just wait til you start dealing with the general public. Dealers are required to ensure all safety items funciton properly (brakes, lights, airbags, etc) - private party isnt. Depending on the state you live in, the dealer may be required to get the car to pass smog or road tests, private parties aren't. Dealers are accountable to the state, the DMV and to a surety bond, private party isnt. And if you think dealers are pricy - wait til you try buying from an owner who owes more than his car is worth, trying to get out from under his loan!

    No matter where you buy - dealer or private sale - NEVER buy the car without taking it to a certified mechanic for a thorough inspection. It will cost you $75-100 to do this, but its the best insurance against buying a money pit. The mechanic can either spot potential problems that will be costly to fix, or tell you that you are buying a reliable, well kept car.

    Because once you sign on the dotted line, you own a car. There are no rights to return or unwind a car deal. After ink is on paper, you own the car and its problems.

    Good luck!

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  • 1 decade ago

    You can get the carfax yourself. It seems like a lot of money, but you can get unlimited carfax for 30 days, and when you look at the cars, write down the vin number on the drivers side of the windshield and run them through. Look for stuff like accidents, water damage and such. Also when test driving the car, ride with the windows down and listen for unusual noises. Make note on how the transmission shifts, if it bogs down when you press the gas or the rpms fluctuate, then the transmission is worn out and may go out later on. Also pop the hood and listed for noise in the engine, lots of people will put in thick oil to cover up bearing noise. To test that, find the throttle cable by the intake and slowly press that down, slowly going through the rpms and listen for knocking and tapping and look for smoke from the rear of the car. If you hear or see any of the above then the engine may need a overhaul later on. Hope this helped you.

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  • 1 decade ago

    If you are buying a used car, make sure they let you take it for a test drive, you can see how the car handles, if it has any play in the steering or if it overheats... An honest seller will not deny you this... and you can normaly take them with you.

    If you own an OBD scanner, you should be allowed to scan the car for faults, using the diagnostic port, if supported. This will give you the heads up if there is any systems faults, and if there is you can negotiate a new price, becuase its not fair if you have to put the problems right... You need an OBD scanner for this.

    Get the vehicle histroy, any reciepts that were used to but parts for the car or any work should be kept together and be freely availible, Dont trust sellers, who cannot provide this information.

    See if you can check the cars history, it could be stolen! best to be safe than sorry.

    Make sure it has a valid vehicle test and that it passed.

    look for rust, and try and negotiate a better price, if there are dents etc.

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  • 4 years ago

    Ask for service records, a Carfax report and have a mechanic check it out. A lot of mechanics charge abot $40 to do an inspection. Call ahead and make an appointment to have it inspected (and get an estimate to fix anything is wrong). If the seller is legit, they will not object to an inspection. If they do object, that is not a car for you.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Get a copy of the car's report. This is called a CarFax report.

    go to this site and get the information you need.


    And go to the NADA for used car data:


    There is a tips and advice section for buying used cars.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Ask them to take it on a test drive, and take it to a trusted mechanic that can put it on a lift and go over it with you.

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