5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car
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Searching for a new-to-you vehicle has led you to what looks like just what you've been looking for.
After perusing ad after ad, both print and online, what appears to be the make and model you want in excellent condition is for sale from a private party.
But before you write a check, shouldn't you know the car's detailed history? After all, though a particular vehicle may look nice in photos, it could be hiding things like past accidents, multiple owners, or an odometer rollback.
Knowing what questions to ask the previous owner helps keep you protected and ensures you purchase a quality car.
What are the right questions to ask when buying a used car? Let's look at what to ask before buying a used car, so you end up with a suitable vehicle.
The advantages of buying a used car
Today, with build quality improving year after year, more vehicles stay on the road longer, with the average age of a car in 2021 at more than 12 years.
Because of this excellent fit and finish, you may mistake a used car that's well taken care of for a new one as it cruises down the street. And since depreciation drastically reduces the value of new vehicles as the miles go by, used cars present a great way to save money.
Although new cars come with a factory warranty, used ones offer similar protection when purchasing a vehicle service contract. With a vehicle service contract, not only are essential components covered, but you also receive perks like roadside assistance or rental car reimbursement.
Though purchasing a used car comes with several benefits, who can you trust when it's time to buy? Even if an advertisement looks excellent, how can you know if it's legitimate? With Shift's expertise and experience selling used vehicles, you can rest assured your used car purchase will be good to go from the moment you take delivery. Shift offers fair, no-haggle prices driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. And at Shift, certified mechanics perform 150-point inspections on every vehicle sold, and you get a free Carfax report for the ultimate in transparency. You can buy any of Shift's cars directly online from the comfort of your home, know it has no hidden issues (from our 150-point inspection) and get a fair, up-front price.
Questions to ask about cars
1. Service records
Although today's vehicles feature robust mechanical components, they still need proper maintenance to keep running strong.
Whether it's regular services like oil changes or wear-and-tear items like brake pads and tires, cars need regular upkeep to perform as designed.
That's why asking a seller for maintenance records is essential. A complete service history illustrates a particular vehicle's good to go for many more miles and not in need of expensive repairs. Knowing this information gives you the peace of mind to proceed with your purchase.
2. Past accidents
Vehicle accidents range in severity and can be anything from a basic fender bender to those resulting in a totaled vehicle.
Knowing whether or not the used car you may buy has suffered damage, whether minor or severe, puts you in the best position to make a wise decision.
Vehicle history reports like Carfax or Autocheck usually note past accidents and repairs but might not catch everything. The possibility exists of a hidden salvage title on a totaled vehicle, causing you to pay top dollar for something in less than ideal condition.
When it's time for a new-to-you vehicle, you'll probably want to sell your old one, and that can be a time-consuming hassle. But Shift makes it easy to sell your current car. All you'll have to do is enter the make, model, year, and mileage on Shift's easy-to-use website, and you'll instantly receive a purchase offer that's valid for seven days. You can get a fair offer, better than at the dealership, driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. With Shift, there is no need to spend the extra time waxing and washing the car. A little dirt will not affect the quote, and we fully detail the cars ourselves anyway before listing them for sale.
3. Ownership history
Knowing where a vehicle has been can give you a clearer picture of its past.
One end of the car ownership spectrum would be a single-owner vehicle meticulously maintained for many years. On the other end would be a vehicle with multiple owners throughout the country, with a checkered service and maintenance history.
While a used car of a specific make and model may catch your fancy, finding one that's been adequately cared for by a trustworthy person helps you make a sound purchase.
And once you know a vehicle's ownership history, a pre-purchase inspection can further detail its mechanical condition.
4. Does the seller have the title in hand?
Since a car title denotes the vehicle’s valid owner, the seller needs to have it on hand. The state DMV issues a car title, which establishes someone's legal claim of ownership.
If a seller doesn't have a vehicle's title available for inspection, it could raise a red flag. Not only do you not know if they're the legal owner of the car, but the possibility exists that the vehicle was a total loss or rebuilt. Or, if the seller still has outstanding loan payments to make, the title may be held by a financial institution.
That's why it's good to look for ads that denote a vehicle has a clear title in hand, ensuring you buy something without hidden issues.
5. Pre-purchase inspection
Asking a seller whether or not you can take a car for an independent inspection can reveal if they're possibly attempting to hide something about its condition.
While trustworthy sellers won't hesitate to make this accommodation, those who do may not want you to know the vehicle's actual status under the hood.
If you're like most used car buyers, you probably want to finance your purchase. But although buying a used car can be fun, financing can feel like a hassle. But Shift makes it easy. Shift works with a network of trusted lenders who compete for your business, so you get the best deal on financing. Applying for financing with Shift is quick and simple, with no hidden costs or obligations. Most customers who apply for financing with Shift receive approval within minutes instead of days. Financing with Shift is so convenient that nine out of 10 customers choose us when they need a loan.
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All prices are based on vehicle availability and pricing as of
April 15, 2022
Pricing shown is not guaranteed and does not include taxes or other product fees.