Buying a used car is tricky business, and it is important that you navigate through the process with the right questions:
1. Is there a pre-certification inspection from a mechanic?
Used cars go through thorough inspection before they can be certified. This inspection does not go undocumented and is always accompanied by official paperwork that indicates what has been fixed. Ask for a copy of the paperwork as it will come in handy should you experience problems in the future.
2. Where and from whom was the vehicle purchased?
If the dealership involved a trade-in, obtain a copy of the maintenance records. Offer them to black out the owner's name and address if the seller is uncomfortable with giving away this kind of information. If the car was auction-bought, make sure that it has been certified by a mechanic who specializes in inspecting second-hand cars.
3. What is the return policy on the dealership?
Consumer-friendly dealerships usually give you time to rethink the purchase and at least replace the car with one with equal value. However, don't expect any dealership to offer you cash back.
4. How much is the car?
Dealers earn from car dealerships through financing, but paying in cash should make you get a lower price for a purchase in any industry. Negotiate at least 5% off the price. Emphasize that it eliminates a lot of work on the dealer's end when you choose to pay the full amount in cash.
If the dealer won't make you a deal for cash, ask what kind of benefits you'll get by doing the financing through them. Also make sure that the rate they offer is than or at least equal to what your bank or credit union would offer.
5. How long can I take the car for a test drive?
Before deciding on anything, see if the dealer will allow you to take the car overnight for an extended test drive. Make an official written statement that you won't put more than 100 miles on the odometer, that you have car insurance that could cover for any damage, and that the car will be returned in tiptop shape and with a full tank.