Questions you should ask before buying a used car

Young couple buying a used car

When you’re shopping for a car, there are a few things to consider. How much do you want to spend? What type of vehicle will fit your lifestyle? Do you need to have the newest model with all the latest features? Purchasing a used car can be a wise financial decision, but there are a few key questions you should ask to make sure you’re making a smart purchase.

What to ask when buying a used car from a private seller

Buying a used car from a private seller can be a great way to avoid additional fees charged by dealerships (like government levies, freight delivery fees, and emissions testing charges) and inflated prices. But there are a few risks you could face with a private seller. Unlike a dealership, private sellers aren’t required to provide the complete vehicle history, share previous damage, or disclose costly mechanical issues. So, when viewing cars with a private seller, always ask these questions:

  1. Why are you selling the car? If buying a used car from a previous owner, asking this question may reveal whether the car was previously in an accident, has a major mechanical issue, or will soon need an expensive repair.
  2. Can you provide all previous maintenance or service records? A responsible car owner should be able to provide past service records to prove the car has been recently serviced and is in good condition.
  3. Can I take the vehicle to a mechanic for an independent inspection? Before agreeing to buy the car, have an unbiased third-party mechanic inspect the vehicle to detect issues that aren’t obvious, such as faulty or failing parts and rust issues.
  4. Have you modified the vehicle? Certain modifications (like window tint or a larger spoiler) may be easy to spot, but others (like a modified exhaust or engine) can be harder to detect and might affect your car insurance rates, as well as your ability to get insured. Other extreme or illegal modifications may make it impossible to get insurance at all.
  5. Will you complete a safety inspection? Depending on the used car laws in your province or territory, a safety inspection may be required before the car can change ownership. Having the seller complete the safety inspection will prove the vehicle is in good condition and the seller is being honest.

Whether you choose to buy a used car from a private seller or a dealership, there are questions you need to ask to secure the best price and avoid issues down the road.

What to ask when buying a used car from a dealership

Always look for Certified Pre-Owned vehicles when buying from a dealership. These vehicles are generally well maintained, come with a complete accident history, and go through a rigorous inspection before going up for sale. Before you buy a used car from a dealership, be sure to ask these questions:

  1. Is the manufacturer’s warranty still valid? If you purchase a Certified Pre-Owned car, the manufacturer’s warranty may still be valid, depending on the car’s age. This could save you some money if warrantied mechanical repairs are required later.
  2. Can you include winter tires with the sale of the car? Buying a used car from a dealership means you may be able to negotiate and explore package deals with your purchase, including new winter tires. A fresh set of winter tires can also save you money on car insurance!
  3. Can I have the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and vehicle history report? Always ask the dealership for the VIN and complete vehicle history so you can do your own research and see if there are any previous accidents on record.
  4. Can I review the service history? Exploring the complete service history will show you the age and condition of certain parts, like the brakes, tires, or windshield wipers.
  5. Does the car have any current issues? If so, can they be repaired before I buy the vehicle? Asking the dealership outright about any existing problems can give you an additional bargaining chip when it’s time to discuss the selling price.

The price of used cars continues to increase. When it’s time to buy a “new” used car, come prepared with the right questions to make sure you’re making a smart purchase.

Before you make a purchase, it’s a good idea to reach out to a licensed car insurance broker to clear up any questions you might have, such as how to insure your used car and what proactive measures could get you a discount on car insurance.

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