Car History Questions to ask car seller
1. Why are you selling the car?
If the seller answers, “Because it’s junk!”
the interview may be over . But the seller may say something
else, or say it so nervously, that you can tell he or she
thinks it’s a piece of junk and are trying not to say
so, or doesn’t have the good sense to make up an alternate
reason head of time. If the person doesn’t have the
sense to do that, he or she probably doesn’t have the
sense to keep oil in the engine or to roll the windows up
when it rained.
2. How many miles are on the odometer?
A used car’s mileage helps to determine its value, which
will be important during negotiations. You can research values
in our Model Reports guide before meeting the seller. Also,
if you eventually see the vehicle, and the odometer reads
significantly higher (or appears to be stuck on a number when
you drive it), it’s time to leave.
3. What’s the condition of the car?
Note that the wording of the question is neutral. See how
the seller responds. You know what kind of problems you can
live with and how they 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
one. Again, if you see the vehicle and find that the seller
could have been more honest about its condition, take it as
4. Does it have any special features?
How a vehicle is equipped also affects its value. Are the
seats leather? Is there a CD player? Is it equipped with air
5. Are you the original owner?
In general, single-owner vehicles are preferred. This also
helps with the next few questions. If the seller is not the
original owner, he or she might not have the answers. The
more you know about the vehicle, the higher your comfort level
6. Was the vehicle ever involved in an accident?
A crucial question. Vehicles that have been in collisions
are prone to more problems and are worth less. We give some
tips on how to tell if a vehicle has been in an accident in
Test-Driving a Car. If the seller says “no” to
this question on the phone and then you determine that it
has 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 their reason for getting
it wrong, 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
— and fortunately, you can find out.
8. How much are you asking for it?
Again, the wording is important. It suggests that the price
the seller quotes should be negotiable.
9. Get a Free Car History
10. Take along the Used Car Shopper’s
Checklist. This handy list of questions includes things you
want to know but might forget to ask.
Used Car Shopper’s Checklist
- Decide which make and model is sought
- Research asking price with Black Book
- Find out how much it would cost to finance vehicle
- Find out how much it would cost to insure vehicle
- Research prospective vehicle history using online and
- Interview prospective sellers before meeting them in
- Set daytime appointment
- Before test drive, check undercarriage, engine and body
for rust or damage
- Check interior for cleanliness, comfort and size
- Inspect tires for wear
- Check oil for proper level and color
- Check coolant and radiator for leaks or corrosion
- Drive on highway to gauge acceleration and handling
- Test brakes
- Test steering and alignment
- Practice parking for maneuverability and sight lines
- After test drive, inspect engine for leaks, odors or
- Request and review service records, receipts and title
- Have specialist or mechanic inspect your vehicle selection
- Get a used car history