Questions to ask when buying a car

ByRichard C. Sloan

Jan 26, 2022

The key to being happy with your vehicle purchase is doing some homework beforehand and learning the right questions to ask. Buying a car can feel overwhelming with dealerships having their own ideas about prices and motives to entice you into signing a deal. To feel confident in standing up for your wallet and your needs, come prepared with the tough questions – and be ready to walk away if you can’t get satisfactory answers.

Questions to ask all car dealerships

Whether you decide to buy new or used, there are three general questions to ask the dealership before you shake hands.

Can I test drive the car?

You won’t really know if a vehicle is right for you unless you adjust the seat and get a feel for the handling capabilities. Pay close attention to the feel of the brakes and whether you can see the vehicle meeting all of your needs and daily routines.

What is the warranty on the vehicle, if any?

Warranties may cover certain damage to the vehicle and wear and tear. For new cars, and even some newer used cars, if there’s still a manufacturer’s warranty, you could save a lot on future repairs, depending on how big it is.

What additional costs come with the purchase of this vehicle?

No matter which vehicle you decide to buy, you should be prepared to pay additional costs. It depends on what state you live in with the dealership, but knowing ahead of time can help you work that number into the sticker price you see.

Questions to Ask When Buying a New Car

Even if you feel like a seasoned veteran when it comes to car negotiation and purchase there are still a few key points to cover. Make sure the dealer can answer these questions before signing a new vehicle.

What financing terms are available?

Check the best rates available for your credit history with external lenders. It’s likely that if you have good to excellent credit, you’ll be able to get a better deal from a bank, credit union, or online lender. Be sure to compare all prequalification offers to what the dealership might offer.

Are there any discounts or incentives available?

In most cases, you will qualify for some sort of discount or incentive when buying a new vehicle. These range from offerings at certain times of the year to those available for certain groups like veterans or students.

How much are the application fees for this vehicle?

Unlike some fees that accompany the purchase of a new vehicle, documentation fees cannot be negotiated. It can cost you up to $400, and depending on your state, each dealer can set their own prices.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Buying used has its advantages, but it can be more risky if you don’t know the vehicle’s history. If you intend to buy a second hand there are some questions you can ask to make sure you get a vehicle in good condition.

Has this vehicle had any accidents?

Not all vehicle accidents can be found in a vehicle history report, so ask directly if your potential car has been involved in any accidents and how it was subsequently repaired. Ask how long ago the accident happened and if there were any subsequent repairs related to it.

How many owners has this vehicle had?

Ideally you want a used car that has had one or two happy owners rather than a car that has been passed on to multiple drivers. A car with a long ownership history can be a major red flag that the vehicle has outstanding issues.

Can I have the vehicle inspected by my mechanic?

This is a great final step in your interrogation process, but be sure to only ask if you are sure you want the vehicle while you wait for the results of the inspection. This can be a great way to determine the dealer’s confidence in the vehicle and having a trusted eye to check out the vehicle can ensure that you are getting what you pay for.

The bottom line

Along with doing your research on the type of vehicle you want and your financing, it’s important to know what questions to ask ahead of time. Go to the dealership with a concrete plan and a full understanding of the points you need to hit to ensure you get the best deal available.