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What are the most important questions to ask a private car owner before buying their car?

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Cherie Watters, President of Sales and Marketing at Hi Judith, Some important questions to ask someone about buying their car would be: has the car ever been in an accident. If yes, how much damage $$, to repair, Frame damage? Has the car been maintained? Are the service records available? On a scale from 1 to 10 how does the current owner rate the automobile? Interior, exterior, tires, brakes, paint. Any odors? I believe this is a good set of questions to ask. The test drive is very important, be sure to test drive the car. Having the vehicle inspected by a technician is highly recommended. Good Luck, keep us posted.

Georgia Brown, Director of Education at National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) When buying a car from an individual, ask for their maintenance record with receipts. Run a Carfax report and most important take it to your mechanic to check out.

Chris Walsh, Owner at Consolidated Automotive Services of indiana Hi Judith, 1. Do you have maintenance records or can you produce maintenance history. 2. Has the Vehicle ever been in an accident 3. Do you have a clear title and ask to see it. Make sure if it had a lien that the lien is signed off and that the name of the owner on the face of the title is in the name of the person you are buying it from. 4. Run a carfax yourself on the car and look at the owner history. It will tell you how many times the vehicle has transferred ownership.

Jessie L Thatcher, F&I and Sales Specialist at Reynolds and Reynolds Company  (Retired) Ask for: Service records, maintenance information, warranty information and get a signed statement that the vehicle has never experienced any major body damage, been in a flood, hail storm or any other act of nature damage. I repeat IN WRITING, signed and witnessed. It is important to know of any known mechanical issues and title status. Is it free and clear or is their a loan on the vehicle? Is it a vehicle that has been in "salvage" status? Have the vehicle checked out by a mechanic you trust before you sign on the dotted line or exchange any monies.

Amy Mattinat, Owner and Author at Auto Craftsmen Ltd Is the transmission automatic or manual? [If the transmission is wrong, stop and move on to the next car on your list.] Are you the original owner? [Most original owners tend to take better care of their cars.] If not, how long have you owned the car? What was the mileage when you bought the car? What is the mileage now? Did you purchase the vehicle from a dealer or a private owner? How often was the oil changed? (Every 3 thousand miles is the average for most drivers, and every 5 thousand miles is the average for cars that did a lot of highway miles.) What kind of driving did you do? Highway? Short trips? Can I see all the service records for all the work done to your car, including oil changes? (This will verify how well they took care of the vehicle) Why are you selling your car? Do you have your vehicle check over before putting it on the market to sell? Has the vehicle had any repairs recently (example: brakes, tires, exhaust) or service? If so, what garage performed the work? Has the vehicle been involved in any accidents? What is the condition of the vehicle's body? Is there any rust? When does the state inspection run out? (Each state has it's own rules regarding inspections) Can I take one of your cars to another mechanic to have it inspected before a price is offered? What price are you asking for the vehicle?

Barb Petrey, President - DBK Enterprises Inc at Jiffy Lube Service history, any accidents, Amy known current issues,when were brakes and tires last replaced. Drive it first to make sure your comfortable and handles well. Good luck.

Helaine Kurot, Owner/Technician at 360 Automotive Are they the original owner? Do they have ALL the maintenance records? On a 2000 honda, did they have the timing belt done? Get the car checked out by a qualified tech before you purchase the vehicle.

Maryann Croce, Owner at Croce’s Transmission Specialists Hello Judith, You can check the vehicle value on a site such as You would need to know the year make and model and mileage. Ask to see the maintenance and repair records. Road test the vehicle and see how it drives. Make sure everything is working. Lights, Wipers, Door and Window Buttons, Horn, Heat, A/C etc. Then if you are still interested in the vehicle ask if you have a pre purchase inspection done by a local shop of your choice. There will be a fee for this but is well worth it. The inspection will let you know the condition of the vehicle at this time, what maintenance is needed now, what can wait and if any repairs are needed. By getting an estimate on any needed maintenance or repairs you will have a tool to negotiate the asking price. TIP: If a private seller will not let you get the vehicle inspected, don't buy it.

Panel of  Automotive Women Speakers, Panel of  Automotive Women Speakers at, Inc. Judith-- 1. Does your vehicle have a salvaged title? (If so, it is usually not a good purchase decision) 2. When is the last time you had service done on your vehicle? 3. Have you kept up with the manufacturer's recommended service schedule? (Ask for service records.) 4. Has your vehicle been in any accidents? 5. What is your favorite part of this car? 6. What is your least favorite part of this car? 7. Have you had any mechanical or electrical problems with your vehicle? 8. Does your vehicle have any issues or problems that a service center has been unable to diagnose? 9. Is there any damage on your car that is not easily visible? 10. Has there been any frame or suspension damage? These are great questions to ask to get a good handle on what kind of situation you are getting yourself into when purchasing the car. Good luck!

Suzanne Grego, Technician at City of Philadelphia Fleet Management Actually, the most important thing to do when purchasing a vehicle is to have it checked out by a certified mechanic. An owner can tell you anything you want to hear and unless there is a written contract with specifications, the sale is considered 'as is'.

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