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Questions to Ask Prior to Buying a Vehicle

Buying and selling a vehicle can be a difficult process. Therefore, we have provided information and tips that will assist you in the process.

Do you have the title to the vehicle and is it in your name or the name of the dealership?

If the dealer or private seller does not have the title in his/her possession and name, do not purchase the vehicle. Also, check to ensure the vehicle is properly assigned on the back of the title (or the title reassignment sheet). The odometer reading should also be included on the back of the title (or the title reassignment sheet). A vehicle which is not properly titled cannot be registered at the DC DMV.

What is the brand on the title?

In the District, salvage titles from other jurisdictions must retain the salvage brand, even if the vehicle passes DC inspection and can be registered. Get more information related to salvage titles.

What is the vehicle's mileage?

If the mileage on the odometer seems too good to be true (i.e., 1997 vehicle with only 50,000 miles), it probably is. Also, if the odometer numbers are not aligned, there could be tampering with the odometer. Odometer fraud is a common occurrence. Each year approximately 3 million used cars have their odometers rolled back an average of 30,000 miles. Odometer disclosure statements should be available for vehicles less than 10 years old.

Is the vehicle a flood vehicle?

After Hurricane Katrina, many flood vehicles are being sold throughout the country.

What major repairs (i.e., including repairs associated with the vehicle being wrecked or mechanical failures) have been done on the vehicle and are the receipts available?

Prior vehicle repairs are difficult to obtain. However, if the seller has retained the receipts, you have a good idea the vehicle has been properly maintained.

Any necessary repairs need to be taken into consideration in the sale price of the vehicle.

Is their still a lien on the title?

A lien is a "loan" on the vehicle by someone such as a bank. Vehicles cannot be sold without the lien being cleared.

If the seller is a dealership, is the dealership licensed?

Don't be afraid to ask to see a copy of the business license if it is not visibly displayed. If the vehicle is not legally licensed when you purchase the vehicle, you will not be able to register the vehicle with DC DMV.

Does the vehicle come with a warranty, if purchased?