CarSite.co.uk Buying Advice
Questions to Ask the Seller
- Value Of Buying A Used Car
- Used Car Buying Scams
- Safe buying tips
- Making the most of your test drive
- Inspecting a Used Car
- Post Drive Inspection
- Questions to ask the seller
- Used Car Buyer's Checklist
Another way to describe this process would be "test-driving the seller". By that, we mean two things:
- Finding out as much as possible about the advertised vehicle before you go to see it.
- Getting an early read on the seller, whether it's an individual or a dealership, to try and reduce your chances of buying someone else's problems.
To test-drive a seller, you'll need to ask the following questions. If you're working from a classified advertisement, call the phone number listed, and - rather than asking if you can see the vehicle - ask these questions.
This interview accomplishes a few things. It helps you rule out certain vehicles without leaving your home. It gives you perspective on the vehicle before you see it, and reduces the chance of you getting distracted by some overwhelmingly positive or negative aspect of the vehicle (or the seller!). It also gives you a record of the seller's responses. If you subsequently decide to test-drive the vehicle and something conflicts with what the seller told you on the phone, it's a good sign that you shouldn’t do business with that person.
Note that most of these questions are valid for used-car dealers as well - the more documentation they have on the car, the better. You can ask for the phone number of the previous owner if the dealer doesn't have many details; their reaction to this request may be of great interest to you.
1. Why are you selling the vehicle?
If the seller answers, "Because it's a piece of junk!" then the interview is pretty much over (unless junk is your thing). But he or she might say something else so odd, or say it so nervously, that you can tell the seller thinks it's a piece of junk - and doesn't have the good sense to prepare an alternative answer ahead of time. This is unlikely to indicate a sound vehicle - is the seller likely to have the good sense to keep oil in the engine, or to roll up the windows when it rains?
2. How many miles are on the clock?
A used vehicle's mileage helps determine its value, and is an important factor to keep in mind during negotiations. Before meeting the seller, try to research car prices from other adverts, magazines and internet sites. Remember, if the speedometer reads significantly higher than you were led to believe (or appears to be stuck on a number) - it's time to leave.
3. What's the condition of the vehicle?
Note that the wording of the question is quite neutral; see how the seller responds. You know what kind of problems you can live with, and how they could affect your offer. Be sure to follow up by specifically asking about both its structural and mechanical condition, in case the seller didn't address either. Again, if you see the vehicle and find that the seller’s been creative with the truth, it’s a bad sign.
4. Does it have any special features?
How a vehicle is equipped can also affect its value. Are the seats upholstered in leather? Is there a CD player? Is it fitted with air conditioning?
5. Are you the original owner?
In general, single-owner vehicles are preferable. This is because it helps with the next few questions; if the seller isn't the original owner, he or she might not have the answers. The more you know about the vehicle, the more likely you are to make a purchase.
6. Was the vehicle ever involved in an accident?
A crucial question. Vehicles that have been in collisions are prone to further problems, and are worth less. If the seller says "no" to this question on the phone and then you determine that it's been damaged and repaired, you'll know that the seller is untrustworthy or, at best, not as familiar with the vehicle as you would hope. Whatever the reason, it may be time to walk away.
7. Do you have service records for it?
An owner who was meticulous enough to keep service records was probably meticulous enough to take good care of the vehicle.
8. How much are you asking for it?
Here the wording is especially important. It suggests that the price the seller quotes should be negotiable.
9. Take along the Used-Car-Buyer's Checklist.
This handy list includes things you need to know - but might forget to ask.