Once you find the used car of your dreams, you may be tempted to sign the papers and hit the road — and who can blame you, especially if you’ve been on a lengthy hunt to find a car or truck that’s just right.
But first, slow down a little. There are a few things you should ask the seller — whether a private party or a dealer — about before you whip out your blue pen and provide your John Hancock. Here’s a look at four things you should make sure your next used car includes.
1. Extra keys
It’s been a long time since you could simply take a car key to a locksmith or even to a big box hardware store and expect to walk out with a duplicate for only a couple of bucks. Even the most basic new car keys contain chips that must be programmed by either a dealer or a specialist. More complicated proximity key systems — the kind that allow you to leave your key in your pocket — feature chunky key fobs that can cost hundreds to replace.
It’s absolutely worth asking the seller if they have both of the keys the car came with. Most dealers will be eager to give you all the keys they have on hand, while private parties may have to dig through drawers to find extra keys.
2. Owner’s manuals
Pop open the glove box, look in the seat back pockets and root around the spare tire well. If the owner’s manual — and any related documentation — is nowhere to be found, ask if the car comes with those items. Newer cars are complex, and even the most tech-savvy of us will probably find a reason or two to flip through the owner’s manual.
Digital versions of owner’s manuals are offered by most automakers on their websites, but there’s no substitute for a manual you can pull out in a hurry. Replacing the print manual can cost as much as a couple hundred dollars for some cars. Additionally, an owner who keeps manuals intact is probably more fastidious than one who tossed them in the trash.
3. Service records
Most dealers cite privacy laws and shred service records. However, some will cut out a previous owner’s private information and hand you a stack. Private party sellers are far more likely to provide you with records, too.
Service records provide the best glimpse into how well kept a car was by its previous owner. If there’s a big stack of records that address major problems or maintenance areas, they’re worth their weight in gold as they may reduce your costs down the road. A car with no service history is far more of a gamble, especially since you don’t know what preventive maintenance has been done.
4. Any accessories
Just like owner’s manuals and spare keys, accessories may get pulled out of a car and stored in a garage. If you don’t see items like the floor mats, roof rack bars, auxiliary cables or cargo compartment covers, it’s worth asking both dealers and owners if they have those parts. Some dealers may have pulled out the floor mats to clean them and then forgot to put them back in, while private parties may have tossed them on a shelf in the garage and forgotten about them.
These accessories are often items you’ll want anyway, and they may save you a ton of money.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.