18 Questions To Ask When Buying a Pre-Owned Car

Are you thinking about buying a pre-owned car and want to make sure you're getting the most out of your investment? It's all about asking the right questions to create a detailed history and an understanding of what to expect. From the vehicle history to the interior, here are 18 questions to ask before buying a used vehicle.

1) What is the History of the Vehicle?

The history of the vehicle is the first thing you should ask when buying a pre-owned car or truck. The history sheds light on any accidents, previous owners, and what to expect. For example, if the vehicle was involved in five accidents over a few years, you can assume that the driver was extremely hard and perhaps reckless with the vehicle or drove it in intense traffic conditions. Regardless of why, a complicated vehicle history probably means you're going to have a complicated driving experience.

2) Do You Have Vehicle Service Records?

Service records show how well the driver maintained the vehicle, including a reliable history of oil changes, brake checks, air filter replacements, and more. Although it's not the norm, fastidious vehicle owners may also have service records for interior detailing or how often they applied PPF (paint protection film). A well-maintained vehicle also tells you the owner took pride in car ownership and cared about how it performed.

3) Was the Car Ever in an Accident?

Even if you have the vehicle history report, it's still wise to ask about any additional accidents. Not all minor fender benders and issues are reported to the insurance company and land on history reports. You should also ask about the extent of the damage, any changes in the performance or how well the vehicle drives, and what they did to repair it. 

4) Are There Any Recalls on the Vehicle? 

Staying on top of vehicle recalls, even minor ones, is an integral part of car ownership. Failing to fix recalled issues could lead to larger problems and may indicate the owner didn't take it seriously. Even if the owner tells you there are no recalls, it's a good idea to run the VIN through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

5) How many Previous Owners Has the Car Had?

Multiple vehicle ownership isn't necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to purchasing a high-quality pre-owned car. But in most cases, the fewer the owners, the better. Multiple sales in a short period of time may give hints to the vehicle driving poorly or costing too much to maintain.

6) Why Are You Selling the Car?

Vehicle owners may not be transparent about why they're selling the car in an ad. They may prefer new vehicles, more room, or something that handles better on country roads. Any information they share could prove insightful and give you peace of mind about buying the vehicle.

7) Did You Primarily Use the Vehicle for Personal Or Commercial Purposes?

There's no right or wrong answer to whether a vehicle was primarily used for personal or commercial purposes. A commercial vehicle could have a lot of miles on it but also have a pristine service record and an immaculate interior. The answer can give you more clues as to what to expect from the vehicle and whether you're comfortable with its history.

8) What is the Mileage On the Car?

The mileage on the car will directly impact the asking price. In an ideal situation, you want a sweet spot between reasonable mileage and an affordable price. Keep in mind that if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. It's possible the owner is desperate to off-load the vehicle due to a move or a big lifestyle change, but cheap cars with low mileage are rare.

9) Can I Have a Mechanic Inspect the Car?

A mechanic can look over the vehicle and alert you to issues that aren't always disclosed or on a history report. It's also a red flag if the owner of the car balks at the suggestion. They may have enough interested buyers to skip this step, but taking a half hour for a mechanic to look over a vehicle isn't a big ask.

10) Are There Recent Repairs or Replacements?

Repairs from an accident may be obvious from looking over the history report. But minor repairs, early timing belt replacements, or even just swapping out wipers isn't always disclosed. Ask about any and all repairs or replacements to get an idea of the true condition of the vehicle.

11) Is the Registration Up to Date?

Outdated registration can complicate or delay the sale of a used vehicle. There's no need to deal with the headaches. Ask if the car or truck's registration is up-to-date and if the new sticker is on the license plate. You can also look at the date of the sticker yourself to verify when the registration renewal is due. 

12) Can I Take the Vehicle for a Test Drive?

There are few buyers who will take a used vehicle off someone's hands without a test drive. The exception might be a dirt cheap price where the car isn't running and needs extensive repairs. Vehicle auctions also don't usually allow for a test drive. It's in your best interest to drive the vehicle and test the breaks, turns, and how it handles at high speeds. 

13) Are There Mechanical Issues or Any Service Lights On?

Some sellers want to get rid of their vehicles to avoid upcoming repairs, replacements, and mechanical issues. It's important to understand the full scope of what's going on. Ask about all mechanical issues, service lights, or impending problems that you should be aware of before you buy. 

14) When Were the Tires Last Replaced?

New tires improve the breaking, comfort, and fuel economy of a car. Owners may want to skip this step due to the investment or desire to keep the asking price low. However, if the price is low enough, it might be worth replacing the tires yourself. It's wise to look at the tire's condition to look for worn tread, bulges, or cracks.

15) Are There Any Signs of Rust or Body Damage?

Before you drive out to look at a vehicle, ask if there are any signs of rust or body damage. Asking for pictures can also help determine the extent of the damage. Even if the owner says there's no rust or body damage, a mechanic can alert you to any flaws before you make your purchase.

16) What Is the Interior of the Vehicle Like?

The interior of your vehicle can make or break your driving experience. If the previous owner smoked, had pets, or was prone to taking long road trips with kids, the interior may look and smell underwhelming at best. Rips and tears aren't always easy to fix, but odors and stains are manageable with a high-quality interior detailing service. Call the team at Sigma Kore to ask about our interior protection services and detailing to make the most of your used car investment.

17) Is there any Remaining Warranty On the Car?

Some buyers choose to upgrade to longer warranties. Ask if there are any remaining warranties on the car or upgrades. For example, a new sound system may have a separate warranty from another company. Ask if it will roll over if the seller needs to transfer it in your name.

18) What Payment Methods Do You Accept?

Payment methods are always an important part of any car purchase. Some owners want cash or a cashier's check. Others may accept partial payments or even find a way to let you use your credit card by running your purchase through PayPal.

However, it's crucial to stay vigilant against scams. Verify that the title is in the seller's name, ask a mechanic to look for odometer rollback scams, and never offer money upfront. You want to exchange the payment and title when you buy the vehicle. If anything feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Always trust your gut. 

Sigma Kore: Your Partner in Vehicle Protection

Ready to buy a used car and want to get it in pristine condition? The Sigma Kore team is committed to providing a sleek, flawless protective finish. Visit our shop or call us at 720-643-5185 to discuss your vehicle's requirements. We offer free estimates on various protection solutions and can schedule your service appointment. We complete most jobs within a day, but more extensive projects may take three to four days. 

For further details on our vehicle protection services
, contact Sigma Kore today!

Back to blog