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Buying a second-hand car in Spain: 9 key questions you have to ask in Spanish

Buying a second-hand car in Spain: 9 key questions you have to ask in Spanish
Photo: Tumisu/Pixabay
If you’re buying a second hand vehicle in Spain from a private seller, there’s a big chance you’ll have to do the hard bargaining and scrutinising in Spanish, so here are nine questions to help you with the process. 

1. ¿Cuántos kilómetros tiene el coche? What’s the vehicle’s mileage or how many kilometres does the vehicle have?

Knowing the vehicle’s kilometraje (mileage) is one of the most objective ways of agreeing on a price.

If you’re not sure if the seller is telling the truth or if they’ve fiddled with the odometer reading, there are websites that allow you to get an estimate of a vehicle’s mileage based on its registration date. 

What constitutes an acceptable mileage is up for interpretation, but generally cars with more than 150,000km will have seen better days.

2.¿En qué estado está el coche usado? What’s the state or condition of the used car?

Here’s where they should say que va mal (what’s wrong) with the car, if at all and if they’re honest. If the seller says the car’s condition is excelente or bueno (excellent or good) then it’s obviously a good sign.  If they say it’s in un estado normal (normal condition) they may not know the true value of the car they’re selling. 

3.¿A quién le compraste este vehículo? Who did you buy this vehicle from?

The fewer the owners the better, so if the seller is the primer propietario (first owner) the better the chances of it having been badly treated by more people.

They may say they bought it from a concesionario (car showroom), and if it was nuevo (new) or de segunda mano (second hand).  

This may also be a good time to ask ¿dónde has vivido mientras has sido dueño de este coche? (where have you lived while owning this car?) to know if the vehicle has had to endure bitter cold winters or scorching hot summers, or if it’s been driven in a coastal area where it may have picked up rust (óxido).

You can also request a record of the vehicle’s history from the DGT to make doubly sure they’re telling the truth.

Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

4.¿Podría ver el historial de mantenimiento? Could I see the car’s service history?

This is one of the surest ways to find out if the car has been in an accidente (accident) and suffered daños (damage) that could creep up on you when driving the vehicle in future. 

You should ask to see el libro de revisiones (the car’s service log book) where a responsible driver should have written down any issues the car may have had. It’ll be much harder for a seller to miss out certain shortcomings if they show you written proof of the vehicle’s service history, oil change receipts and other documents showing why it’s been taken to the garage or that it’s passed the ITV (Spain’s roadworthiness test).

A new service called Carfax which allows you to check all this is starting to gain popularity in Spain.

5.¿Qué tipo de aceite utilizas en el coche? What type of oil do you use in the car?

This is in fact a good way of finding out how much TLC the vehicle has received from its previous owner; the more they know the greater the possibility that they’ve taken good care of the car.

6.¿Te importaría si inspecciona el coche mi mecánico? Would you mind if my mechanic checked the vehicle?

Even if you don’t have a mechanic, this is sure way of quickly ascertaining whether the seller is not giving you the full picture. Obviously if they’re more than willing it’s a good sign and if come up with some sort of excuse it’s a reason to stop inquiring about the car.

If you’re not a car expert, it may actually be worth getting a mechanic to check the car inside out. Otherwise, look for obvious signs of repaired damage, study all four tires carefully, look under the hood, and start the engine but keep it idling so you can check for any smoke, strange noises, leaks etc. 

7.¿Cuál es el último coche usado que has vendido? Which is the last used car you’ve sold?

This may seem irrelevant but there are many people in Spain just as there are in other countries who make a living from buying old bangers, doing them up and selling them at a premium. That’s not to say that none of them can be trusted, but they will obviously understand the used car market better than you and may well know how to camouflage some of the vehicle’s shortcomings.

A vendedor particular (private seller) who isn’t selling cars on a regular basis is more likely to not know all the tricks of the trade. 

Photo: Kay Pilger/Unsplash

8.¿Por cuánto estás dispuesto a vender el coche? How much are you willing to sell the car for?

This tells the seller that you’re not willing to meet their price. If the ad they’ve posted is old, they’re also likely to be more open to negotiation, or as they say in Spain regatear (haggle). 

You should use a tasador de coches usados (second-hand car valuation) website beforehand, in which you’ll have to input la marca (the brand), el modelo (the model), combustible (fuel), kilometraje (mileage) año de fabricación (manufacturing date) and more to know in advance what it’s really worth.

Offering to pay al contado (up front) rather than con financiación (financing through monthly installments should also help you to negotiate the price down slightly. 

9.¿Podría probar el coche? Can I test drive the car?

It seems obvious but you should never buy a car without having driven it first, and any seller who denies you this option is best avoided. Agreeing to a 30-minute drive with him or her with you in a car is a fair compromise. 

Listen out for unusual noises and pay careful attention to how the gearbox feels when changing gears (or changing the transmission if it is automatic), ask yourself how the steering and brakes feel. 

If you’re not sure you’ll be able to pick up on everything, ask a friend or pay a mechanic if you’re not 100 percent sure you can do a thorough enough evaluation.

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