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Questions to ask when buying a used car from a dealer

Updated April 17, 2017

A car is one of the most important purchases you will make. And if you are buying a used vehicle, there are many things to to consider. Ask the dealer how many miles the car has on it, where it came from, the overall condition of the vehicle and much more. Here are some tips for purchasing a used car from a dealership.

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How was the vehicle acquired?

As a potential buyer, you have a right to know how the dealership acquired the vehicle. The two most common ways are through a trade-in or by auction. Vehicles acquired by trade-in should have a maintenance record, and you can ask the dealer to provide you with a copy. If it was purchased by the dealer through an auction, try to have the vehicle inspected by your personal mechanic.

Can I see the Carfax Report?

The answer to this question will reveal what kind of dealer you are working with. Most reputable dealers will have no problem supplying you with a CarFax report. If the dealer gives you excuses and doesn't want to show you the Carfax report, beware.

While most dealers will supply you with a free CarFax report, you can obtain your own CarFax online for a fee. Every automobile built in 1981 and later has a report, but you will need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) number in order to obtain it. This report will show you everything you need to know about the vehicle's history. You will be able to see how many owners it has had, the title information, total loss accident history, service records, and accident indicators. The information in the Carfax can prevent you from buying a lemon.

Can I take an extended test drive?

If you are seriously interested in purchasing a vehicle, it is wise to have it inspected by your own mechanic. Be upfront with the dealer about your intention to have it inspected. Extended test drives also give you time to see how the vehicle really handles--during a regular test drive you don't have much time to see the vehicle's "true" nature. When you ask for an extended test drive, you should be prepared to give the dealer your driver's license and insurance information so they can make copies before you leave. You may also be asked to leave your vehicle at the dealership while you are gone. An extended test drive can be several hours or even overnight. Be clear about how much time you will need. Dealers are not required to give you an extended test drive; however, many see the benefits of allowing you to do this.

Is there a Warranty?

While many dealers do not offer warranties on used cars, it never hurts to ask. Occasionally a dealer will offer a limited warranty just to make the sale. Some dealers do offer warranties upfront for three, six, or nine months. A dealer may give you a warranty for as long as a year.

If the dealer does offer you a warranty, find out exactly what is covered. Many times only the engine and transmission are covered and nothing else.

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About the Author

C.J. Stanton has been a professional writer for over 10 years. She has written many articles for various websites, as well as for private clients. She attended the University of Alabama, where she majored in accounting and minored in English.

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