Questions to Ask Your Dealer When Buying a Car

Questions to Ask Your Dealer When Buying a Car

Written by Chrissy Kapralos
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated December 9, 2021

When buying a car, whether it’s a used or new car, there are many considerations you need to take into account. You may not have all the answers, so it’s important to know exactly which questions you need to ask your dealer or the individual who is selling the vehicle privately. Some of these questions are specific to those purchasing a vehicle from a dealership, but in general, everyone, regardless of the type of car they want to buy, can benefit from considering these questions.

Thinking of buying a used car? Watch out for a lemon car

Questions To Ask Yourself When Buying a New Car

What type of car do you need?

How do you plan to use this car? Are you driving solo most of the time, or do you need to drive around a family of 6? For example, if you have a big family, you will need to purchase a car with more seats. Maybe you plan to use this car every day, so you might want to go for a practical model instead of a sports car. Regardless of your reasons for using the car, it’s important to consider those reasons when you pick out a model. 

What’s your budget?

This question has a few layers. You need to consider not only the purchase price but also how you plan to buy (upfront or financed), as well as how much you can afford for your monthly payments. You also need to consider all of the extra fees that aren’t as obvious when you look at the purchase price. For example, sales tax, administration fees, gas, car insurance, and more. 

How much gas does the car use?

Some cars use up more gas than others. If you have a long commute to work every morning, you might want to consider buying a car that’s better on gas. However, if you don’t plan to use the car frequently, you can be more lax in picking a car that’s gas-efficient. 

New vs. Used Cars

Questions to Ask Your Dealer 

Here are some questions that you should always ask a car dealer before purchasing a vehicle. 


What does my warranty cover, and when does it start?

Make sure to research the warranty and find out what it covers and what it doesn’t cover. Evaluate all of your warranty options before making a purchasing decision. You might find more comfort in paying for an extended warranty; or, you might be satisfied with the basics. This is also a good opportunity to find out when exactly the warranty starts. 

What maintenance costs do I have outside the warranty?

Ask what maintenance costs you need to cover outside of your warranty so you can plan accordingly. You might decide that it’s worth paying for an extended warranty if you feel the car will have more maintenance costs than usual. 


Does the dealer offer in-house financing?

To budget for your new car, it’s important to find out exactly what the terms are for financing. Maybe the dealer offers financing or maybe you need to secure it from another lender. 

What are the terms for financing the vehicle?

Make sure to find out the length of the loan term, the interest rate, and what your monthly payments will be. This will help you make a realistic budget for yourself and assess whether or not you can afford the car. 

Need to finance your car? Check out the best car loans in Canada

Car Features

What extra or new features does the car have?

Cars have a variety of features, whether they are for function, comfort, convenience, or safety. For example, does the car have power outlets to charge multiple phones? Do the seats heat up for cold seasons, and does the radio connect to Bluetooth? Make sure to ask about the car features to get a better idea of what the car can offer you, and don’t forget to always ask about what kinds of safety features the car has as well.

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Are there any special offers or promotions?

Some dealers offer special promotions at certain times of the year. You might want to research multiple dealers to find a better price for the car you want. 

Can you negotiate the price?

Sometimes, dealers will be willing to go lower on the price to make a sale. When buying a car from a dealership, it’s always worth trying to negotiate the price. If you never ask, you’ll never know. 

Are you buying a new car? Do you know what the MSRP is?

Questions to Ask About a Used Car

The questions above are more suitable for a new car. When buying a used car, however, there are other things to consider. Here are some questions you can ask whoever is selling you a used car. 

Why are you selling the car?

If you are buying from an independent person (not a dealer), there could be a variety of reasons that they could have for selling the car. Assuming they will be honest in their answer, you might want to reconsider buying a car if it has posed serious problems for the previous owner. For example, maybe it wasn’t gas-efficient, or the brakes were faulty. However, some of the issues a previous owner has had might not be an issue for you. 

How many owners has the car had and what is the mileage?

If many people have owned the car beforehand, the mileage on it could be high, and the car could have more wear and tear than the average car. This would be a good opportunity to ask what the mileage is on the car as well. 

Has the car been in an accident? 

Minor car accidents might not impede future use of the car; however, more serious accidents or poor repairs could cost you money down the line, as well as pose safety issues. Remember that used-car dealers are required by law to tell you about any accidents in the vehicle’s history. You could request a vehicle history report to see any accidents the car has been in that were reported to the insurance company. 

Is the vehicle certified? 

Before being sold, most cars need to be certified, or “safetied” by a technician. The technician will conduct an inspection to provide assurance that the vehicle is relatively safe, or has met the minimum standard of mechanical fitness. Sometimes, however, vehicles might still be up for sale without having already had this inspection. You might need to pay for the inspection, keeping in mind that if any issues are made known during the inspection, you will have more costs to deal with. It’s important to ask whether or not the vehicle is certified upon purchasing it. You might be able to negotiate the price depending on the answer. 

Has the car been serviced? 

When buying a used car, you should always ask about the vehicle’s repair history. Usually, the seller can provide full-service records to note the repairs and maintenance on the vehicle. If the car has had a history of recurring issues like faulty brakes, airbag issues, or engine problems, you might want to take that into consideration before purchasing. Please note also that not all sellers will have these records, making purchasing the vehicle a bit riskier. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, purchasing a car is a big decision that requires careful thought and consideration. Asking the right questions can help you determine if you’re comfortable purchasing a specific vehicle, whether from a dealership or a private seller. 

Auto Glossary


Any features or services that are applied on top of the base price of a car are considered add-ons. These can include things such as tinted windows, heated seats, leather seats, alarms, and wheel locks, to name a few.

Base Price

The base price of a car is the cost of the vehicle without any upgrades or added features that can be added after the car is ordered from a dealership. Only standard equipment and the manufacturer’s warranty are included in the base price, but any other fees will be added afterward.

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO)

CPO cars refer to used cars that have been certified, either by the dealership selling the car or the manufacturer of the vehicle. This gives consumers confidence knowing they are buying a used vehicle that is in good condition. When a used car is obtained by a dealership, it is inspected by a certified mechanic. The car is then repaired if it meets the required standards and is then ready to be sold as a CPO vehicle.

Clear Title

A clear title means that the owner of the car has a free and clear title and no longer carries a balance owing on a car loan. There are no liens of the title or levies from creditors.


Auto dealerships are businesses that are authorized to sell new or used automobiles to consumers and serve as a direct dealer for automakers

Dealership Financing

Consumers can obtain dealer financing to help fund the purchase of a vehicle. A contract is signed with a dealership that requires a consumer to pay for a specific amount plus interest and funding fees over a certain period of time. Dealers will send the details of the consumer’s financials to various lenders to find one that will approve the loan.


Depreciation refers to the decline in the value of a vehicle. Immediately after purchase, a vehicle will become less valuable as soon as it is used. Put another way, depreciation is the rate at which an automobile loses its value over time

Extended Warranty

Vehicles come with a manufacturer’s warranty when purchased, but buyers can choose to purchase an extended warranty. This serves as a form of insurance policy on the vehicle to cover the cost of potential repairs in the future. An extended warranty is usually good for a certain period of time and/or mileage.


A contract that allows an individual the right to use or occupy a property for a specified period of time in exchange for a monthly payment. Leases are common for a property like apartments and vehicles. The individual on the lease does not own the asset at the end of the lease’s term, it is strictly for rental purposes.

MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price)

Car manufacturers will offer recommendations on how much a car should be priced at the retail level, known as the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP. The purpose of the MSRP is to standardize pricing in the automobile industry so that there is not a lot of fluctuation in price from one dealership to another.

Title Loan

A title loan uses the vehicle title as a form of collateral to secure a loan. Borrowers must own their vehicles free and clear and no longer owe any amount on a car loan. A lender will place a lien on the car title in exchange for funds. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can take possession of the vehicle and sell it to cover any losses.

Trade-in Allowance

A trade-in allowance is the amount that a car dealer will reduce the cost of a new car purchase by after the consumer’s old vehicle has been traded in. It is somewhat like being given credit from the sale of an existing vehicle that is then applied to the purchase of a new vehicle.

Trade-in Value

A trade-in value is the amount that dealerships offer consumers for their vehicle and is typically applied toward the purchase price of another vehicle. Dealerships will assess the value of the vehicle and will base the amount that can be applied to a new car purchase. The consumer will then trade in the old vehicle and the assessed value amount will be deducted from the price of another vehicle. Trade-in value is often different than what the vehicle may be worth when sold in the open market.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Every vehicle will have its own unique vehicle identification number, which is used to identify a specific vehicle. No two vehicles will have the same VIN, making them easily identifiable with this unique 17-character code.

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Chrissy is a Toronto-based communications advisor. With an English degree from the University of Toronto and editing courses under her belt from Ryerson University, she has continued her lifelong passion for writing and editing. In addition to working for Loans Canada on a variety of financial topics, Chrissy has a few years of resume writing and editing under her belt, and takes great pleasure in helping people find work that fits with their experience and passions. When she isn't working, you can find her practicing yoga, hanging out with her dog, reading up on financial and real estate news, or planning her next trip abroad.

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