Researching the answers to these five questions will ensure you make an informed decision when buying a previously owned car.

When you’re thinking about buying a previously owned car, there are many factors that should be considered. Whether buying a particular vehicle is a sound use of your money depends on the details of the car’s condition and history. Ask these five questions to get the essential information to make your decision.

1. Is the Car in Good Condition?

A car that’s in poor condition will cost you more in repairs and upkeep. Plus, you’ll have a harder time selling it to someone else if you decide to get a different car in the future. Don’t just take the previous owner’s word for it. Get the car inspected by a mechanic to make sure there are no hidden problems.

2. What Is the Car’s History?

Be sure to find out the number of miles the car has been driven, whether it’s been in any accidents, and if it’s ever been recalled for safety reasons. Heavy wear, a serious crash, or a history of safety issues could hint at potential problems.

3. Are There Any Red Flags?

Watch out for discrepancies between the car’s condition and the seller’s answers. For example, if the mechanic finds signs of heavy wear but the previous owner shows you an odometer with only a couple of thousand miles on it, the odometer might have been tampered with. Another warning sign is if the name on the title doesn’t match the owner’s name, or if the seller refuses to show you the title. You might be looking at a stolen car. Even if you don’t spot any discrepancies, you should still get a vehicle history report to check if a previously owned car has been reported stolen, if there are any liens placed on it, and if there are any other red flags.

4. What Will It Cost to Own the Car?

Find out the gas mileage for the car, and calculate how much you’ll have to spend on fuel to cover the number of miles you typically drive in a month. Ask an auto insurance agent for a quote on the specific car you’re considering so you have a good idea of insurance costs.

5. What Do Comparable Cars Sell For?

Check pricing guides and online databases for estimates of the car’s worth. Make sure you take into account factors like mileage, condition, and age of the car. Also, read local ads to see what other sellers are asking. You want to agree to a price that is close to the estimates you find in your research and to the prices of similar cars for sale in your city.

Researching the answers to these five questions will ensure you make an informed decision when buying a previously owned car.

Sarah Brodsky

About the AuthorSarah Brodsky

Sarah Brodsky writes about economics, personal finance, religion, and culture. She covers credit counseling, debt, and personal finance for Investopedia and the CESI Financial blog and has contributed work on Judaism and culture to the Jewish Daily Forward's Sisterhood blog. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Free Beacon, the St. Louis Business Journal, Info Tech & Telecom News, the Springfield News-Leader,, School Reform News, and other publications. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Chicago.