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10 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

A lot of personal finance writers advocate the purchase of used cars over new ones. The reason of course is that new cars depreciate in value quicker than any other asset you can think of, making used cars somewhat of a bargain. I have bought a few used cars over the years, and in most cases, ended up selling them at a good price. Based on my experience, and those of others, here are a few questions you should ask if you intend to buy a used car.

Buying a Used Car: Key Questions

Who owns the car? 

The first thing you want to do is ask who owns the car. This might seem quite rudimentary but I have seen occasions where the perceived owner is not actually the legal owner. What does this mean? The legal owner is the person or entity whose name is on the Proof of Ownership. If it is not the same as the person who is selling then I suggest you do not buy.

Why are they selling?

People sell their cars for different reasons. It could be that they are broke and can’t maintain one or they simply are just tired of it. It could also be that they sell cars after it attains a certain mileage, or that the car is in such a bad condition they want to cut their losses and sell. Whatever the case is, always ask questions. Some answers can be dishonest but at least you get a response that you can draw a conclusion on. Try asking the question more than once to check for consistency.

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Ask about the vehicle details

You should also ask about the vehicle’s insurance, car particulars, warranties if any, service history etc. Vehicle owners with up-to-date details such as these are more likely to be selling fairly good cars because of their adherence to being meticulous. It is also an indication of how they maintain their automobile.

What is the accident history?

You also want to inquire about the accident history of the vehicle you are buying. Whilst this is difficult when buying a used auto, experienced panel beaters and mechanics can identify an accidented one. A careful look at the chassis, bumper and front body of the vehicle can reveal a lot.

Did the owner buy it used?

It is also important to identify the ownership history of a used car. A road machine that has been resold several times over the years should have a lower resale value than one that is being resold for the first time. However, a lot still depends on the condition of the car that you are buying. You’d expect a car being resold for the first time to be of better condition than one being resold more than once.

What is the mileage on the car?

The mileage of an automobile is how many kilometres or miles it has run up over the years. Car mileage is also an indication of the likely wear and tear on a car. You’d expect a vehicle with a mileage of less than 50km to have been used for at least two years, and above 50km mileage on another one that has been used for just a year indicates the latter has been put under a lot of use. People often value cars with lower mileage-per-use higher.

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Does it have mechanical or electrical issues?

It is also very important to verify the condition of the used car. You must be able to independently verify the mechanical and electrical condition of the car that you are being offered to buy, to determine what the issues are, and if any access, how much you need to fix it if you still have the intent to purchase it.  Apart from independently verifying, you can also ask questions about the condition of the car from the seller. Questions like if the car has recurring mechanical or electrical issues should be asked.

Can you test drive it?

Ask if you can take the car on a test drive for a few hours and not just drive in around the corner. Drive it yourself (accompanied by the seller or representative) for at least an hour to get a comprehensive feel of the car. A car is one non-living thing that connects well with humans, so driving a car yourself gives you an experience nothing else can replace or even simulate. If the initial feeling is horrid, then there is every likelihood you won’t buy.

Are you buying for personal or commercial use?

You must also ask yourself if you are buying the car for personal use or for a commercial one. A car that you want to buy for commercial reasons should at least be able to produce a positive return on investment. If the car is too old to perform the everyday demands of commercial use then buying it may just be counterproductive. Cars bought for personal use must also give you a level of comfort that you are satisfied with. Cars may look like assets, but in reality, they are a liability… You should, therefore, not make the experience an added burden to you.

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What is the fuel consumption rate?

Cars need energy to run, and in this part of the world, fuel is what we use. Fuel guzzlers mean you have to spend more money on fuel per mileage. Whilst some cars are mechanically made to consume fuel due to their engine power, some cars attain fuel-guzzling status due to over usage, wear and tear and mechanical faults. Understanding the consumption rate of a car is critical to determining the value of the car. A test drive of the car can give you an idea of what the car’s fuel consumption is like.

Culled from Nairametrics

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