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Top 10 Questions To Ask When Buying A Car From A Private Seller

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On: Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 7:04PM | By: Clay Ritchings

Top 10 Questions To Ask When Buying A Car From A Private Seller

Buying a privately owned used car? Do you know what questions you should ask before you buy? Buying a used car from a private seller can be an unnerving experience, but there’s a lot you can do to make sure you get a good deal. Here are 10 key questions to get you started on the right path. Some can be asked before seeing the car; others should be asked while you are looking at the car.

1. How many miles are on the odometer? (Best asked in advance.) This can help you to determine the value of the car before even seeing it. You can visit sites like kbb.com or Edmunds.com to determine the car’s value.

2. Why are you selling the car? (Best asked in advance.) There are too many possible responses to list them all, but here are a few that are going to work in your favor:

a. “I just bought a new car.” This is good because the seller is inspired to sell quickly.
b. “It was my mom’s (or dad’s).” This answer will also work in your advantage because few people want to hold on to a car in this situation. They need to sell it for the cash.
c. “It’s a gas guzzler.” Some sellers are going to be honest. While a gas guzzler may be an issue for the seller it may not be an issue for you. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the situation.
d. “It was my son’s car & he relocated/entered the service/bought his own car.” This could be a tough seller to negotiate with because there is no urgency for selling the car. This type of seller tends to stick with the original price.

3. How would you describe your used car’s condition? (Best asked in advance.) There are three answers that should appeal to you:

a. Excellent – this should appeal to you because the car will either be in excellent condition, which is always a good thing, or, if it’s not that, means you are dealing with a dishonest seller. Walk away from any car described as excellent when it obviously isn’t.
b. Good – this should appeal to you for basically the same reason as described above. Plus, an honest seller is not going to try to over-hype a used car.
c. Fair – indicates that the seller might not know the value of his or her car. This could also be a seller willing to bargain.

4. Who was this vehicle bought from? (Asked when looking at the car.) The best possible answer is the seller is the original owner. If the seller is the original owner they will be able to provide and entire history of the car. Also they will be able to provide you with all the maintenance records for the vehicle. Also, generally you won’t have to worry about salvage titles from original owners. Even if the seller is the original owner always get a CarFax report.

5. Where was this car bought? (Asked when looking at the car.) This is a crucial fact to know – not just if it was bought from a dealer, but also in what state was the purchase made. Some states differentiate about what defines a salvage title. Also you will know what kind of weather conditions the car was exposed to, such as cold winters in North Dakota or the hot, baking sun in Arizona.

6. What kind of oil do you use in the car? (Asked when looking at the car.) The answer to this question is a key indicator to how the vehicle was maintained. A private seller is going to answer this question in one of three ways:

a. Immediately off the top of his or her head, which indicates they probably performed the oil changes themselves and the vehicle is well maintained.
b. After a slight pause, ask if they can check their records. This also would indicate the car has probably been well maintained. However, ask to look at the oil change records. If only one is available, be leery.
c. Answers either, “I don’t know” or gives an incorrect answer. Make sure your mechanic checks the engine out closely.

7. What are you willing to sell the car for? (Asked when looking at the car.) This will let the seller know you are not going to pay the asking price. Dependent upon how long the seller has been trying to sell the car they may come back with a lower price.

8. How long of a test drive can I take? (Asked when looking at the car.) You never ever buy a used car without taking it for a test drive. You’ll want to be able to determine how it handles and if it has any rattles, which could be signs of a prior accident. No reputable seller will deny you a test drive. Most will want you to limit it to 30 minutes or less because anything longer than that makes a private seller nervous.

9. Are you willing to let me get this inspected independently? (Asked after test driving the car.) Any hesitation on the part of the seller should set off warning bells. Don’t let the seller try to hard sell you or be swayed if they say no.

10. What’s the last used car you sold? (Asked after test driving the car.) You might be shocked by the number of people who sell used cars as a hobby. They buy cheap, fix them up, and turn a profit. Beware though of backyard car dealerships. They are unregulated, which offers you no protection if something goes wrong. You can also try to locate the seller on sites such as eBay Motors and see what kind of feedback they have received from previous buyers.


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