Buying a used car from a private owner can be both cost-effective and terrifying. While avoiding the markup from the dealership, you also run the risk of getting a lemon without knowing it. Here are six questions to ask to make sure you’re protected:
Questions to ask on the phone beforehand
- How many miles are on the odometer? Use Edmunds.com to compare the number of miles to the actual value of the car.
- Why are you selling the car? You may or may not get a straight answer. If they’re selling it because of poor gas efficiency or another technical problem, you can use that to your advantage in bargaining.
- How would you best describe the car’s condition? If they say it’s “excellent” and it’s anything less than stellar when you actually look at it, walk away: they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes. If they describe the car as “fair,” they probably don’t know the car’s value and will be willing to bargain.
Questions to ask when looking at the car
- Where did you buy this car? Whether they got it from another private owner or a dealership, make sure to look up the CarFax and get any maintenance records, which should have been kept. The location will also tell you the kind of weather the car has been exposed to.
- What kind of oil do you use in the car? If they know immediately, they’ve done the oil changes themselves and it has been well-maintained. If they ask to look at their maintenance records, ask to look at them as well: if only one or none are available, it’s a bad sign. Either way, have your own Utah auto body expert check out the car.
- Are you willing to let me get this inspected independently? The only appropriate answer to this is, “No problem.” If they even hesitate, it’s a sign that you should walk away.