When buying a new car, the key factor is to try and find out everything you can about the car. The best place to start is with a registration checker, which is a free service you can use from home, allowing you to access the correct vehicle details. No matter if you are buying from a dealership or a private seller, you still need to ask questions in person as well to ensure you know everything you need to before purchasing. Preparing with the information from the registration checker will give you the initial knowledge and confidence to ask relevant questions, and will also put you in a better position to negotiate a price.
The questions you should focus on asking are any that could highlight issues that could devalue the car. We have collated a list of 10 questions to ask before buying a car, some are specifically for asking a private seller, as it’s unlikely a major car dealership is going to illegally sell you a car.
- Are all the legal documents in order?
Any car you buy, used or new, will come with a V5C registration document, without this you won’t be able to tax it. When buying a used car, the dealer or seller should already have this, so ask to see this and check if the seller is the registered owner and make sure the details match. If you’re buying a new car from a dealership, the dealer will register you as the new owner of the vehicle, and your V5C will arrive via post in a couple of weeks. Always check the V5C document is authentic – look for a watermark, and any spelling mistakes will prove it not genuine.
- Does the car have a current MOT and service history?
You need to check the current MOT if the car is over three years old. This gives you an indication of how roadworthy the car is and any, or the most recent, repairs and issues with it. You can also check the car’s MOT validation by using the registration checker online.
- Can the car legally be sold?
This question is mainly aimed at a private seller, as it’s very rare a registered dealership would sell illegally, but always be cautious, it doesn’t hurt to ask. To ask this question without being so straightforward, you can ask if the car has been written off? Who the legal owner is? And does the car have outstanding finance on it?
- Why are you selling the car?
Another question aimed more at a private seller, ask them why they are selling it. It gives them a chance to explain personally why, and possibly put a spotlight on any issues with the car.
- How many previous owners has the car had?
The number of previous owners can affect the value of the car. The more owners, the more likely the car is to be older and have more mileage, therefore deteriorating the value.
- What’s the mileage on the car?
As said in the previous question, the mileage can affect the value of the car. It’s worth checking the mileage against the age of the vehicle to see how they compare. The average annual miles of a car in the UK is 12,000, so use this as a guide when calculating and comparing. Ask the seller how the car has been driven too, whether it’s been for shorter or longer journeys. The more the car has been used, the more wear and tear will be expected.
- Any signs of damage?
You don’t even have to ask, but you can have a look around the vehicle yourself to check for any signs of damage to the interior and exterior. Looking at the paintwork for an uneven surface could indicate that repairs have been made. Just ask the seller if he can explain them.
- Does everything work?
The most important question really, does everything work? You need to make sure everything is in good condition and does what it’s supposed to. Here’s a list of areas to check: wipers, air conditioning, windows, lights, tyres, locks, airbags, seatbelts, radio, car system, etc.
- Have you got the correct keys?
Aimed more at private sellers; look in the car’s handbook as it will tell you which keys were provided when the car was new – make sure you have all allocated to the car.
- Can I test drive it?
Last but definitely not least, ask if you can test drive it at that moment, if the seller won’t let you, then they most likely have something to hide about it and you shouldn’t consider buying it anymore. If they can let you test drive it, it gives you a feel for the car and how it works, and you can test the critical systems to make sure they’re working.
Before sealing the deal, make sure you have all your answers, don’t be afraid to ask questions twice if you still don’t know what you need to know or don’t understand.
Contact Us today and we can help put your mind at rest!