Monday, November 06, 2006

Questions To Ask When Buying A Used Car - Part 3

by: Mike Willis

We are back with part three of the series, Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car. In part two, we covered the questions about the drive train, service history, and accident history. In this part we are getting right down into the finer details of what questions to ask when you are interviewing used car sellers over the phone before you travel out to see their car for sale.

It's worthwhile to ask the seller how much rust their car has. Let's talk about rust. Even a car that is only a few years old can have a little rusty spot or two. An older automobile that is for example 10 or 15 years old can potentially have anywhere between no rust at all and a serious cancer condition. No one likes a rusty car, but it's obvious that the less there is the better.

It is always interesting to ask about rust over the phone with a used car because everyone has a different perception about how much rust their car has. It is difficult to quantify, and it's all relative. Some people have told me that their car is very rusty, and when I went to see it I found that it had almost no rust at all by my standards! The opposite scenario is more typical.

The answers to the rust question are often misleading, but ask anyway and write down their responses. If you do go out to look at the car later, you can learn more about the seller by referring to your notes. Speaking of notes, it's a really good idea to take careful notes when car shopping over the phone. It is possible to gather so much information in a relatively short period of time, that if you don't record what you've learned in a systematic way, you will end up with confusing, incomplete, or just downright incorrect data.

I like to take a blank sheet of paper and begin each entry with the year, make, model, price, and phone number from the ad while I am dialing. That means I am writing about that vehicle before I even have the person on the line. From there I just add the details and then make a line across and call another one. After several calls have been made, it's easy to look back and see which ones look the best. Take your notes with you on your actual visit and compare what the seller has told you with your sheet to see if they were being straight with you over the phone.

Ask the sellers if there are any problems that they are aware of with their car? Again make notes on their answers. It's okay to spend a little time on this one. You can subtly remind them that it's important to be truthful here by telling them what you want the car for and why you are concerned about its future reliability. Ask them if this car needs anything in order to be safe to drive right now, in the near future, and in the distant future.

You should always ask them what they have done in terms of maintenance or repairs to the car lately, and if they have the receipts to prove the work. If they have no receipts, then be very skeptical of the maintenance history. No service records usually mean incomplete maintenance which spells trouble for any used vehicle later in life.

That wraps up part three. In part four, I'll cover some more specifics including expensive-to-replace critical-car-components! Thanks for reading.

About The Author

Mike Willis is an author and car buying expert. If you would like more information on what questions to ask when buying a used car, visit him on the web at and


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