What To Ask When Buying A Used Car: Our Guide

Buying a used car is an exciting process. The sheer variety of different vehicles available means that anyone can find their perfect car. It does, however, require time. After hours spent either online or at various dealerships going through different makes, models, and mileages, you’ll likely still need to conduct an in-person inspection on the car and think a bit more about what to ask when buying a used car. 

It can be stressful knowing that asking the right question could be the difference between choosing the right or wrong car. Plus, all the mechanical jargon is enough to put anyone off.

Knowing what to ask when buying a used car is almost as important as putting in the time to research the vehicle. To prepare you for the final hurdle, this article will provide some of the most useful points to raise. 

By the end, you will know both what to ask a dealer when buying a used car. As well as what to ask when buying a used car privately. 

Check The Documentation

Before diving into more technical issues, it’s worth enquiring about the car’s documentation. 

For those who have never been through the process before, knowing what documents to ask for when buying a used car is perhaps the most important thing to understand. 

Financial Past

If a car has outstanding finance it can’t be legally sold. So make sure you first ask about its financial past. You can then follow this up by checking the vehicle’s history on Gov.UK. Doing so early can save you from getting into hot water in the future. 

If you’re buying from a dealer, the Consumer Rights Act states that any car sold must be roadworthy, match the description provided in the advertisement, and be of ‘satisfactory quality’. This means that any major accidents must be disclosed by the seller. As well as how many times the car may have been written off. 

When wondering what to ask when buying a used car, a suitable question might be, ‘Will it be easy for me to insure this car?’, or more broadly, ‘What condition is the car in?’. 

This will prompt the dealer to discuss the car’s record. And lead to them offering a window into previous accidents or mechanical alterations.

From there you can dive into some more searching questions. Asking how many owners the car has had may seem like a routine question. But if you learn that the car has had a surprisingly high number of owners, you should be suspicious.

It could mean that there is an unseen fault that the dealer hasn’t disclosed. In which case you should exercise extreme caution in purchasing it. 

MOT History

Similarly, asking to see the car’s MOT history is a good chance to gauge how trustworthy either the dealer or private seller is. You don’t need an MOT certificate if the car is under three years old. But if the seller can’t produce one for a car over that threshold this should be a red flag. 

You should also ask the owner if they can show you the car’s registration certificate, otherwise known as the V5C. This is a key document, so make sure you are able to see each part of it. 

If the seller is only able to produce part of the document, such as the ‘green slip’, it could be an indicator of nefarious activity. Ask the seller directly for the ‘new keeper supplement’. This is the part of the document that you can’t do without. As ultimately you will be hard-pressed to prove ownership without it. 

Questions About The Car Itself

Once you’re satisfied that all the car’s documentation is in order, you’ll probably want to ask a few questions about the vehicle.

First off, you should ask the seller about its mileage, before checking that against what was advertised. If the mileage is surprising (say, for example, it was owned by a car home resident yet it has clocked up over 100,000 miles), this could be a sign that the seller is not being entirely honest.  

Due to the growing popularity of third-party sites, it has become increasingly common for people to buy cars without having seen them. Sometimes, this can be a viable option if the car is located far away. In an ideal world though, it is a good rule of thumb to always try your best to check the car in person.

A test drive can be your best bet of getting an accurate display of what kind of condition the car is in. When talking with the seller, ask if it might be possible to take the car out for a test drive. The seller might have a legitimate reason for refusing. But you should exercise caution before buying a vehicle you haven’t personally driven. 

A test drive will allow you to find any faults to the driving experience or functionality of the car that doesn’t come across in the description. Sometimes, just asking for a test drive can tell you much of what you need to know.

Be Direct

The goal of asking these questions is to get to the bottom of the car’s history. Sellers can be tight-lipped when it comes to more searching questions, so bluntness can be your best weapon. 

When wondering what to ask when buying a used car, try to be specific and keep pressing if it sounds like the seller is trying to avoid mentioning something. If there is something wrong with the car, it is unlikely that it was listed in full detail in the advertisement. 

By being rigorous and accurate with your questions before you make the purchase, you could save yourself the pain of a serious mechanical fault, breakdown, or even legal action.

Buying a car is a serious purchase, and for many people, it can be stressful. 

Private sellers as well as larger entities have a vested interest in selling every car they have and knowing this can make it seem like the odds are stacked against you. 

Making the right decision means that you have to wring every last detail from talking to the seller until you feel comfortable making the purchase. 

Ask about the car’s history and its documentation, making particularly certain you’re able to get your hands on its V5C. Enquire about previous owners, the mileage, and ask if you can take the car on a test drive to see how everything handles. 

Don’t worry about asking too many questions. 

Knowing what to ask when buying a used car could prove invaluable in helping you spot potential problems and help you drive away happy. Safe in the knowledge you made the right choice. 

How FairSquare Can Help

If you’re after a used car and want a large selection of everyday vehicles, then FairSquare is your go-to.

At FairSquare, we have over 5,000 cars listed on our website, purchasable both via finance or upfront. It’s not difficult to find the car for you though, despite all your options, since FairSquare allows you to filter via all these criteria:

  • Finance option
  • New or used
  • Make
  • Model
  • Model variant
  • Body style
  • Fuel
  • Transmission
  • Doors
  • Colour
  • Age
  • Mileage

With FairSquare, finance options are also easier and more transparent.

We offer quotes for hire purchase, balloon hire purchase, conditional purchase, and fixed sum loan. Therefore, it’s easy to find a repayment plan that works for you.

Plus, FairSquare will provide a free credit check (with no reflection on your credit score). And, match you with lenders that suit your preferences.

Whilst you’re here, why not check out our guide on When Is The Best Time To Buy A Used Car? This article will provide you with some extra tips and tricks and help you on your way.

Good luck with making your purchase!

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Legal disclaimer: FairSquare Europe Limited is a company incorporated in England & Wales (Reg No: 08023305). and having its Registered office address at 3 Brindley Place, Birmingham, B1 2JB. FairSquare Europe Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for credit-related regulated activities, Firm Reference Number 715086

We act as a credit broker not a lender. Fairsquare shall act independently in sourcing credit from our panel of funders.

As a credit intermediary, we maintain a panel of Lenders who are reputable and experienced in the motor finance industry and consumer credit sector and offer products and services to suit a variety of credit strengths.

FairSquare is committed to ensuring that applications for credit to finance your car are placed with the most appropriate funder for a transaction. As we act as a credit broker, we will receive a fixed commission for introducing you to a finance provider, any such amount a lender pays us will not affect the interest rate you pay under your finance agreement, all of which are set by the lender concerned.

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