Five questions to ask when buying a used car

This is the first time Grasshopper and I have bought a used car. Our parents have never bought a used car either so, to know what we needed to ask about a used car, I asked my uncle, who has bought several, often with good results. The first thing he recommended was that we go with some one with car knowledge. It turns out we don´t actually know anyone like that well enough to ask him to come along on such a tedious errand. So it was all up to us.

Buying a used car makes me a little nervous because we are spending a considerable amount of our   savings on it, and will spend more if it turns out to be a bad buy. But, as my uncle (or Forrest Gump) said, a used car is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get until you bite.

These are the five basic questions you need to ask a particular when buying a car. Where we live, when you buy from a car dealership, you get two years warranty, but you should still ask these questions.

  1. Why are you selling the car? Most people will sell their car because they are buying a new one, or have gotten too old to drive. However, others will have had an accident and are just trying to recoup some of their losses.
  2. How many miles does de odometer read? I will not consider any car with 100,000 miles on it, because, even though it may be well kept, most parts will be old or run down, causing not only mechanical problems but safety ones too.
  3. Can I see the car´s records? People who take good car of their cars will most likely keep good records of checkups, insurance claims and the like. Check on the internet if the car has been stolen, in a serious car crash or if it is about to be repossessed.
  4. Have you changed the timing belt? The timing belt is a key part of a car´s engine. It should be changed every 60,000 miles or so. You need to ask if it has been changed. If they say it has, ask for the ticket or to see the car´s record. If they can´t prove it has been changed or they say it hasn´t, bear in mind that it will cost over $1,000 to change the existing one and that, if it breaks, you can say goodbye to the entire engine, as it will cause serious damage and a dangerous situation.
  5. Would you mind if I took it to my mechanic for a checkup? If the car is in as good a condition as they say, they´ll have no problem proving it, as long as you pay for said check up. It they decline, it is a clear red/lemon flag.

As with anything else, you should also trust your gut instinct. If the seller seems dodgy, or the car/price is too good to be true, it probably is. As my grandma always said “a fool and his money are soon parted”.

So, have I missed any important questions? What is the best used car advice you have gotten?


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