Here are some strategic negotiating questions that will help auto buyers learn more about autos being sold in private sales. This list was compiled from

The Insider’s Guide to Buying A New or Used Car by Burke Leon and Stephanie Leon.

  • Why are you selling the car? (You may or may not get a real answer, but you won’t get anything if you don’t ask.)
  • Are you the original owner?
  • What is wrong with the car? (Never ask what condition the car is in. Everybody always says “excellent.”)
  • Is the price negotiable? (Almost everyone will say yes — especially to someone he perceives as a serious buyer.)
  • What is the bottom-line price?

  • How is the body condition? Has the car been in any accidents? Is there any rust?
  • How new are the tires? Do you still have the receipts and warranty?
  • How long has the car been on the market? (The longer it has been for sale, the more likely the price is negotiable.)
  • Has the car had any recent repairs? Do you still have the service records?
  • (Ask again) What price do you need for the car? Would you consider $___ below that price?
  • Do you own the car outright, or is there still money owed on it? (This is a key question. If there is money owed on the car, it may be difficult to get the lien removed.)
  • Are you in a hurry to sell the car? (If he has to sell the car fast, he may accept less money.)
  • Have you had a mechanic look at your car since you put it on the market? Is it a problem if I have my mechanic look it over? (See if the seller will take the car to your mechanic. See if the seller will end up paying for the inspection if you end up buying the car.)
  • How good is the paint?
  • What is the Kelley Blue Book retail and wholesale for the car? (Even if you know, ask.)
  • When was the last tune-up? If it has been a while, ask: Will you pay for a tune-up? If not, will you pay half the cost of a tune-up?

— Posted: Nov. 15, 2000

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