Buying a used vehicle puts you into the role of an automotive detective. While purchasing from a reputable dealership is an excellent starting point, it's not the end of your journey. Finding the best car for your needs and budget will require some additional investigation, and that often requires you to ask some smart questions to the dealer before you make your final decision.

If you've got your eyes on a few used cars, ask the dealership these three insightful questions to learn as much as you can about your potential purchase.

1. Did You Perform a Safety Inspection?

Many dealerships perform a multi-point safety inspection before selling any vehicles on their lot. It's critical to understand what these inspections are and what they are not. A safety inspection typically doesn't involve mechanical checks but instead looks at critical safety items such as brakes, tires, windshield condition, etc.

If the dealership does perform a safety inspection, you can request to see a list of the items they inspect and a report for the vehicle you're considering. Most dealerships will address any outstanding safety issues, so make sure you ask if you have any concerns. This report may also provide some information to help you determine if you'll need to perform any maintenance soon.

2. Do You Have Service Records?

Service records are a valuable tool in determining the condition of a used vehicle. Note that service records are not the same as a vehicle history report. You can obtain history reports from many services (and dealerships will often provide them for their cars), and these reports will alert you to significant incidents in the vehicle's past.

On the other hand, service records are maintenance and repair documents kept by prior owners. These records can take many forms, from well-organized binders to disorganized stacks of receipts. Dealerships sometimes receive these records with trade-ins or auction purchases. If the dealership has service records for the car, make sure to examine them closely before making your purchase.

3. Did You Address Any Issues?

Many dealerships will address critical safety or drivability issues on their vehicles before selling them, ensuring that the car is road-ready when you take it from the lot. Don't hesitate to ask the dealership which (if any) issues their service department may have fixed. This information can provide peace of mind while also giving you an idea of the car's previous condition.

While it's critical to examine and test drive any used vehicle, the additional information you can gather by asking a few questions will provide even more crucial information. By carefully investigating your potential purchases, you'll have the best shot of finding a used car that will provide you with years of trouble-free driving.