When you purchase a vehicle secondhand, you want to ensure you're getting the best deal for your money.

Beyond visual inspections and online research, asking questions is ideal for getting the insight you need. From the car's history to the reason for selling, a few questions can clue you into all you need to know.

Here are fifteen of the questions you should ask when purchasing a used car.

What You Need To Know When Buying From A Private Seller

1. Why are you selling?

The number one question you should ask when buying a used car: why are you selling? While you can't guarantee a straight answer, more often than not, the response is simple.

In many cases, the person chooses to upgrade, or they don't need a car anymore. If you feel you aren't getting a straight answer, this is an excellent way to gauge whether you trust the seller or not.

Related Article: 7 Things To Check When Buying A Used Car

2. What is the car's history?

From the number of owners the car has had, to detailed service history, the more information, the better. Before you buy a car, it's invaluable to know where it's been and the kind of life it has had. A vehicle with dozens of owners is far more likely to show wear and tear than a vehicle that's had the same, careful owner for twenty or so years.

3. How long have you owned the vehicle?

This question is an effective way to gain information in two ways. If the vehicle has had the same owner for a long time, it tends to be a positive sign. Or has the seller only owned the car for a couple of months? This short timeframe could be a clear sign of a more significant issue you aren't seeing.

4. How old is the car?

Finding out the age of a car is relatively easy based on its make or model. Knowing the age of a vehicle can help you decide whether the price of a car is worth it.

For example, an older car model may be less cost-effective to run and more expensive to find parts for. If you want to get the best value for money, you need to know the worth of the car itself.

Related Reading: 7 Best Second-Hand Cars Australia

5. Is the car still under warranty?

Used cars with shorter lifespans may still be under a manufacturer warranty. It's well worth finding out if this is the case, as potential faults and issues are far easier to resolve with one in place.

If you're buying through a dealer for your used car, there may be an option to get a warranty directly through their company as part of your purchase agreement.

6. Have there been any recent repairs?

Recent repairs don't always indicate a problem. While lots of repairs can suggest a careless past owner, high-quality repairs can also display a vehicle that's been well cared for.

Be sure to enquire about any recent repairs, and ask for the reasons behind them if possible, to better understand the condition the car.

7. Is there damage to the exterior or interior?

If you've yet to see the vehicle in person, it's worth asking if there's any visible or notable damage to the interior or exterior.

While cosmetic damage isn't a deal-breaker, it can be an excellent way to tell if a car has been looked after. Faded paint, scratches and ripped upholstery indicates a poorer level of care overall.

8. Is there anything wrong with the car?

Why not be straightforward with your questions? Asking the owner directly if there's anything wrong with the car can help prevent nasty surprises and costly repair bills. While you won't always get a 100% honest answer, it's worth asking to reduce the risk of being left with a car that has numerous problems you weren't aware of.

Related: 20 Reliable Second Hand Cars In Australia

9. Has the car been in an accident?

With good-quality repairs, an accident doesn't have to be the end of the road for the average used car. But knowing if a car has been in an accident is a valuable piece of information.

If repairs weren't up to standard, this could mean a vehicle that's weaker or more likely to break down in the future. If repairs look of good quality, though, there's no reason that a used car that's been in an accident isn't suitable for you.

10. Can I see the paperwork for the car?

Confirming ownership and an entire service history should be one of your top priorities as a buyer. Ask directly for the paperwork and ownership details for any used car you consider. This ensures everything is legal and above board. No one wants to accidentally drive away in a stolen vehicle and deal with the headache of sorting out ownership in the future.

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11. Can I get the car inspected by a mechanic before I buy?

Used car dealers will often have their vehicles fully inspected before they are sold. But in the case of private sales, you may be able to enquire about getting a full health check before any money changes hands. It's always worth asking, and if you have a local mechanic you can trust, the checking process can be painless for everyone involved.

12. Do you own the car?

The person selling the vehicle to you should be the car owner, with very few exceptions. Is a friend or family member is acting as the salesperson? Then you should always ask about ownership and check with the owner before a sale is made. In the case of used car dealers, you should confirm the car is owned by the dealership currently before purchasing.

13. What is the mileage like?

The mileage on a car can tell you all kinds of things. Firstly, it can give you insight into how much they used a vehicle throughout its history. Knowing the mileage of a car you're considering purchasing is always a good place to start.

14. Can I take the car for a test drive?

Trying out a vehicle for yourself is the best way to know if it's the right choice for you. If a seller has a problem with you taking the car for a test drive – assuming you hold the necessary driving license – this may be a red flag for that used car sale. If you can't drive the car yourself, get someone you trust to do it for you to ensure the car runs smoothly with no issues or snags.

15. Was the car used by smokers or to transport animals?

What's that smell? Whether you're allergic to dogs or you can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke, asking about the past use of a vehicle is a worthwhile question to ask. In some cases, the seller may be able to get the car professionally cleaned to ensure it is allergy and smoke-free for you. If not, it's worth considering if that's something you want to take on yourself.

Keep these 15 questions in mind when buying your next used car and you could save yourself a lot of headaches. 

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Jordan Ballard

Jordan Ballard

Automotive Content Editor

Jordan is a car finance and automotive industry specialist at Only Cars. With over 20 years of experience with frontline and management roles in sales, finance and other areas, Jordan has an incredible understanding of the automotive industry. As Automotive Content Editor, Jordan loves sharing his passion for cars with the Only Cars audience.