Image: morguefile.comIt seems as if you’ve been surfing the web and newspaper ads forever in search of the right used car to buy. And then, suddenly, one day it happens—the used car of your dreams.

You call the private seller up and say you’re definitely interested and you make arrangements to see it and take it for a test drive.

When you show up, the car doesn’t look as good as it did in the photo. There are all sorts of dings and dents on the other side of the car—the side that was facing away from the camera. So what should you have asked before showing up?

Asking the Right Questions on the Phone

Nobody wants to waste time looking at used cars that don’t meet up to what was advertised. Sometimes potential buyers are a bit intimidated in asking questions of the seller.

But not asking the right questions can cost you money at worse, or eat up a few hours of your time at best. The following questions are some that you definitely can ask because it will give you a good idea of whether the used car is the one you want or not.

Question #1: What is the condition of the car?

Listen very carefully to how the seller answers this question. If he/she is nebulous and says something like, “It’s in pretty good shape, as far as I know,” you should probably pass.

Sellers who really take care of their cars will tell you directly that the car is in great or excellent condition and prove this by saying they have maintenance records.

If the car isn’t in excellent condition and the seller honestly tells you what’s wrong with it, if it’s worth it to you to fix these problems, you may be able to get a better price on the car.

Question #2: Have you owned this car since it was new?

You may be buying a used, used car if you don’t ask this question. The seller may have bought it used from someone else, and now is selling it again. Buying cars like these can be risky as you don’t have any idea how the car was treated by the original owner.

Question #3: Is there any current outstanding recall work on the vehicle?

In some cases cars that are recalled for service aren’t taken in because it takes time out of the day and usually isn’t very convenient for the owner of the car. If there are service calls still outstanding, you’ll have to do the legwork and bring the car in, which may be a hassle, something that you should consider.

Question #4: How many miles are on the odometer?

Knowing how many miles the car has driven can be an indicator of what you may need to do in the future, as far as car maintenance and replacing worn out parts.

Question #5: Why Are You Selling the Car?
No one is going to tell you they’re selling the car because it is a headache or a lemon, so you’ll have to use your intuition when you hear the answer.

A common answer to this question will be that the seller is going to buy another car. You can follow up to his answer by asking if he has already tried to trade in the car, and if it was refused by the dealer.

If you notice that the person is touchy or irritated with this question, you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere for your used car purchase.

Source: Consumer Reports

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