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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2016 > Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

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Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Buying a car is a major purchase. Asking a few key questions can help you avoid problems.
Before buying a used car, ask yourself:
Am I choosing a reputable dealer?  Is the car in acceptable operating condition? 
  • Carefully and completely inspect the car’s exterior and interior.
  • Take the car on an extended test drive on highways, in stop-and-go traffic, and in other conditions.
  • Have an independent mechanic of your choosing inspect the car.
Do I know the car’s history?
  • Use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to research who owns the car, the last odometer reading, and other facts at, and to check on issues such as flood damage through the National Insurance Crime Bureau at
  • Review all available service records, including work the dealer performed since buying the car, and obtain copies for your records.
  • Research safety recalls through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (
Am I getting a fair price?
  • Research the price using guides such as the National Automobile Dealers Association (, Edmunds (, and Kelley Blue Book ( 
  • Consider the total price of the car, not just your monthly payments.
  • Understand how interest is being calculated on your car loan. (Dealers offering little or no interest often charge much more than the car is worth). 
  • Know when monthly payments are due and understand all late fees.
  • If trading in a car, confirm with the lender that any lien will be paid within two weeks after the trade-in.
Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance after the purchase?
  • Know whether the car is being sold “as is,” in which case you are generally responsible for repairs once you buy it and drive it off the lot.
  • If purchasing an extended service contract, read its terms and conditions. (A service contract is an agreement to repair, replace, or maintain a car for a specific period. It is different from a warranty, which is generally offered by the manufacturer and included in the purchase price.)
Have I reviewed and received the written contract and any other necessary documents?
  • Confirm that all verbal promises and representations about the car and its condition are in the written agreement.
  • Make sure there are no blank spaces on the written agreement.
  • Obtain a copy of the written agreement.
  • Obtain the title from the dealer within 30 days of the purchase.
If you experience problems buying a used car or receiving your title, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or