Buying a Used Car Checklist: Questions to Ask,
What to Bring & More

Relax, we've got you covered when it's time to shop for and buy your next vehicle. We've been doing this a long time - here's some practical tips for you to follow.

Remember, Your Financing is Approved with New Roads Auto Loans. There is no need for the Dealer to re-run your credit.

1. Test Driving the Vehicle

  • Drive the vehicle with the radio off, listen for squeaks, rattles, thunks.
  • Look at the gauges to make sure they are all working. Are the "service lights" all off?
  • Accelerate quickly, brake hard. Does the vehicle feel stable and under control?
  • When accelerating, does the transmission shift smoothly from gear to gear?
  • Let the vehicle track "hands off" - does the vehicle run straight or pull one way or the other?
  • Test all vehicle systems...does the AC work, power windows, door locks, window washers, all lights functional?
  • Look down the side of the vehicle, is the paint even and smooth and color matching on all panels? If a panel is discolored or uneven this can be a sign the vehicle was in an accident.
  • After the test drive, look under the vehicle for any fluid leaks. Pop the hood, look for leaks.
  • Does the tire tread look good, do the tires have at least 75% of their original tread?

2. Questions to ask the Dealer

  • Was the vehicle inspected? When and by whom?
  • What did the inspection report say the vehicle needed?
  • When was the car last serviced--does the dealer know? (ask for the vehicle to be serviced)
  • What reconditioning has been done to the vehicle? Is this documented?
  • Is the vehicle being sold "as is" or is there any kind of a warranty (1,000 miles 50/50 warranty is typical)

3. Negotiating the Best Price

  • Most dealers will negotiate the price of the vehicle.
  • Use the book value as a pricing guide (dealers usually pay less than the book value)
  • Make sure the price of the vehicle and all fees fit into your approved loan amount.
  • Dealers typically can take at least $500 to $1,000 off the asking price of their vehicle to make a sale-ask for a discount if needed to get the vehicle you want to fit your loan terms.
  • Be reasonable, asking for $3,000 off the price of a used vehicle is a big number.

Buying a car can be difficult, especially if you're new to the process. Let's look at a few questions you should think about if you're planning to purchase a vehicle so you can make sure you get it at a fair, affordable price.

What Is the Car's Condition?

Before you buy a car, you need to see its condition to determine if it's worth the selling price. Do a quick walk around the vehicle to ensure it's in good shape. Look under the hood and check the ground for any possible leaks. Take is for a test drive and test all the windows, air conditioner, radio to ensure that they are operating correctly. Make sure the tires have good tread on them. Many states require that your car will pass emissions testing and a safety inspection, so this is the most important first step.

Does It Have a Carfax Report?

When it comes to used vehicles, you can usually get the Carfax for them. A Carfax vehicle history report will include the previous owner(s), service records, warranty status, open recalls, and past accidents. If the seller can't access the Carfax, you should see if you can get the information yourself. If not, you should hold off on purchasing it.

What's Your Budget?

Money will always play a major role when you need to purchase a used car. If you're visiting a dealership, you should let them know your budget so you can stay within that range. Doing so will make the selling process easier for both of you since you will know exactly the price you want to aim for.

Are You Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

A certified pre-owned car is when a dealership verifies that the car is in good condition and has met the stringent inspection that will classify the vehicle as certified. If you can find a certified used car, then you have proof that the dealership performed a check on the vehicle. This can give you much-needed peace of mind when purchasing a vehicle.

Are You Buying From a Private Seller?

While private sellers can offer some good prices, you should always verify their credibility before you make a purchase. After all, if you purchase a car from a random person, you can't verify that the car is in good condition. On top of this, you need to research the car to make sure the private seller is asking for a fair price compared to vehicles in the same model year that a dealership would have.

Have You Consulted a Mechanic?

A licensed mechanic will know more about vehicles than you do, so it doesn't hurt to get an opinion from one. If possible, have the mechanic look at the vehicle with you so they can look it over and pinpoint any potential issues. This way, the mechanic can check the condition of the car so you can see if it will meet your needs.

What Do You Need to Bring When Purchasing a Vehicle?

If you plan to purchase a vehicle, you should bring proof of insurance, a valid driver license, proof of residency, and proof of income. This is needed if you've had credit hiccups in the past.

What's the Car's Mileage?

When you buy a used car, you need to check the mileage for yourself in case it has changed since the listing was posted. Even if a car looks good on the outside or performs well during the test drive, its mileage could greatly impact its longevity.

Can You Test Drive the Vehicle?

You must always test drive the vehicle. When you drive it, you will be able to notice problems that won't be apparent until you get behind the wheel. If they won't allow you to drive the car, then you might assume that the vehicle may have an issue that the owner wants to hide.

Will You Need to Take Out an Auto Loan?

Depending on your financial situation, you may have to take out a loan if you need a car and you can't afford a lump sum. This means you must get your credit score checked, and you may need to look into some of the financing options available. If you need an auto loan and you have a bad credit score, you have filed for bankruptcy, or you're looking to avoid a down payment, New Roads Auto Loans has many options for you!

Did You Look at Online Reviews First?

Before you get your credit checked, you should look at some reviews for your specific financial institution and the dealership. If you notice that the financial institution or the dealership has many negative reviews, then you should look into a different financial company or dealership. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing money, buying a lemon, or getting roped into expensive extended warranties.