Ask about the car title.
Make sure that car has a valid title. We do not want the salvage title or the title with a lien on it. At least we don’t want to pay too much for salvage vehicles since they have significantly lower retail value.
Ask questions about the engine and transmission.
If a car has bad tires, you can get them changed cheaply and fast. But, if anything wrong with either engine or transmission, it will cost you a lot.
These are the example questions you may ask from the seller: “Does the engine run strong without any unusual noise”, “Is there any oil leak in either engine or transmission”, “Does transmission shift OK”, “Does the engine burn oil”, “Does the engine run at normal temperature (no overheating)”, “Is any unusual smoke coming out of exhaust”.
Ask questions about the interior and exterior conditions.
Although most sellers provide pictures of a vehicle in their online ads, it is still hard to notice every detail in the pictures. Some used cars look better in pictures, not in reality.
Therefore, I suggest asking the following questions: “Is there anything wrong in the interior or in the exterior of the vehicle”, “Has the car ever been in an accident before”, “does it have any rusty spots around the body”, “does it need a new paint job”, “Has it been smoked inside”.
Ask questions about a suspension.
The suspension includes car parts, such as cv joints, strut assemblies, ball joints, and everything else attached to the bottom of a vehicle. These parts are not as critical as the engine and transmission. However, they can be costly and time-consuming too, depending on the vehicle brand and model.
Here is the question, you may ask about suspension: “Does the car run smoothly?”, “Does the car need an alignment?”, “Is there any clicking noise on sharp turns”, etc…
Ask about maintenance records and CarFax reports.
Maintenance records show how well the car was maintained. Timely oil change, filter change, and tire change are always good signs. It means the previous owner took care of the vehicle without abusing the car.
I also recommend asking for the CarFax report, because it shows the history of that vehicle (as shown below).
You may not get a CarFax report from every individual seller since it cost them some money.
If a seller does not have a CarFax report, and you really want to see the vehicle history, you may ask them to send you a VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number).
VIN number is usually found on the title, bottom right corner of the windshield, and on the sticker attached to the driver side door. By getting the VIN number of a vehicle, you may purchase the report yourself (if you are willing to spend some money).
You can do the things described in the a, b, c, d, e sections in the comfort of your home by using a phone. Do this process with several used cars that you are really interested in. In the end, pick the ones that qualify for a test drive. Once again, through this process, you are eliminating the need for worthless trips.