Auto advice for Newcomers to Canada:Buying a Used Vehicle in Canada By Veeno Dewan    

For many, buying a good used vehicle may often be a necessity depending on your lifestyle, work commuting and family transportation needs.  Good used vehicles are in demand, but at the same time, there unscrupulous sellers that have no hesitation selling poor quality cars to unsuspecting buyers. However with some good basic research and a cautious, knowledgeable approach you can find a decent vehicle to fit your needs at a price within your budget.

Images with Used cars

Find the right Vehicle
Firstly; ensure you are buying the right vehicle for your needs. A good second vehicle can offer years of service at an affordable price to help transition into Canadian society at a time when finances may be tight. Think affordability, unless you have a generous budget and weight up precisely what kind of vehicle you need.   Remember that the type of vehicle you buy can affect your insurance costs.

For example, a small car will suit a single person or couple.  If you have a growing family think about a mid-size car with a more significant back seat and a more substantial trunk. Mini-vans are ideal if you have a couple of children or an extended family comprised of adults. Mini-vans offer multiple seats from seven to eight and a correspondingly larger cargo area.

SUVs are a lifestyle choice for some who like the styling and four-wheel drivability. If you have moved to a region of Canada with harsh, snowy winters, or live in a rural area with hills and rough roads, an SUV maybe ideal. Bear in mind, small four-cylinder cars with a manual transmission that many immigrants new to Canada are used to are still the most fuel efficient, and cheap to buy and maintain. Bigger V6 engine vehicles with automatic transmission and V8 powered vehicles cost more considerably more to operate and own.

Do the Research

Before you go out looking, ensure you are armed with as much information and knowledge on the specific type or make of vehicle that interests you.  Tools such as Canadian automotive websites and the Canadian Black Book list the value for used vehicles of different types according to age and condition. Look up vehicles you are interested in and check for manufacturer recalls in the past and common problems that need fixing. Research will reveal which car is good or bad second-hand buys and could end up saving you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the future.

Where to buy?

Once you have done your research, there are some options in buying a used vehicle.  Second-hand car dealer lots or new car dealerships are the traditionally the first place buyers visit. They have a large selection of all kinds of vehicles on site, and although prices can be higher than private buyers, there should usually be warrantees and guarantees on any vehicle you buy. The dealer should also be members of a registered trade organization and so have liabilities and consumer protection in place.

Local and national newspapers also have auto classified sections, and there are dedicated trade papers that also specialize in new and used cars.There are also online on websites such as Craigslist where sellers advertise cars for sale.

Things to be aware of 

Always question a deal that seems too good to be true – especially on the internet. That big, luxury car going for the price of a small compact car may have serious flaws, be flood damaged, stolen or is being sold under pretenses.  Avoid any deal if you get suspicious about the seller or vehicle. Be wary of cars that come from out of Province or from the US─No matter how good the deal.

Buying on the Internet

Avoid doing business with a seller who won’t meet face-to-face and insists only on dealing with you via phone or email. The vehicle being sold may not be what it is claimed to be and the chances of fraud high.

Also, do not pay up front for a vehicle until you see on it and be suspicious if the seller demands cash only. If the seller insists on using a third-party on-line service to handle payment— investigate to make sure it’s legitimate and secure.

Used Car Lot — Image by © Owaki/Kulla/Corbis

Beware of Curbsiders and Street Sellers
Exercise caution and be alert when dealing with a private seller who has numerous cars listed for sale at the same telephone number or web address. These “curbsiders” could be unlicensed individuals, who sell multiple vehicles from the street illegally. They are usually hard to track down and deal with if there is a major problem later with the vehicle. One way to filter these curbsiders is to call them and say “I am calling about the car.” If the seller asks you, “Which one?” you know they are probably an unlicensed dealer with some cars. Most legitimate auto dealers belong to professional organizations and are accountable to rules and regulations which offer buyers some protection if there is a dispute.

Doing an Inspection 

When inspecting a vehicle, always carry out the procedure in daylight so that everything is apparent. Inside—worn interior seats, door trim and foot pedals indicate a hard used life.

Severely worn out front and rear seats may indicate a very high mileage of an ex-taxi cab. Check the odometer for signs of tampering and that all the interior electronic features work—as they are expensive to replace.

Examine the exterior closely. Poorly fitting panels, misaligned bumpers, missing trim and paint overspray could mean a recently done bodywork, while ripple or waves on the body could signal the vehicle has been in an accident.  Check for oil, brake and hydraulic fluid leaks under the vehicle and sagging suspension- it could be another indication that the car was an ex-taxi cab.

Open up the hood for signs of engine oil and fluid leaks. Lift up the floor mats, trunk liners and spare tire to check the trunk for rust, rot and water leaks. You can usually see stains, marks or smell mold or damp from water leaks.

Take a Test Drive

On the test drive, insist on trying the vehicle out on different road surfaces and at various speeds to check steering, engine noise, vibrations, transmission problems, brakes, shock absorbers and front-end alignment. Do a few emergency stops and listen intently for transmission, engine and suspension noises that could indicate trouble ahead. If the vehicle pulls to one side and the steering does not center itself this could spell alignment or tracking issues caused by a previous accident.

Get a Mechanics Report

If you are still feeling positive about the vehicle—have it taken to a mechanic you trust or a diagnostic center for a thorough inspection before buying. Do not let the seller recommend a garage or mechanic he or she knows. It is not unknown for garages and seller to work together to dupe unknowing buyers. A good mechanic will do a thorough check of the car and highlight any flaws and recommend if any work is needed doing to keep the car safe and reliable. Get a written report on the vehicle.

Accident and Registration Report

In the meantime get the car checked out using your provincial driver services provider or an independent service such as CarProof who, for a fee will give a registration report on if the vehicle has ever been in an accident. They should also check the car has not been stolen or has any outstanding liens, fines or tickets applied to it. If the report does reveal a previous accident or damage, check to make sure the vehicle has been adequately fixed when having its mechanical inspection done.

Negotiating to Buy

If the vehicle meets all your criteria: has passed it mechanical inspection and you want to buy the car, you can start negotiating with the seller about a price for the vehicle.

Consider the precise value of the vehicle from official trade journals such the Canadian Black book taking into account: Age, mileage, general condition, upgrades or extra features- minus any defects, or mechanical issues, you see, and the mechanic’s written report finds out.

Use any flaws in the vehicle as a bargaining tool if need be to reach a price both you and the seller are comfortable. Remember to be calm and rational and not be let emotion enter into the decision, no matter how much you like the car. You do not want to overpay for it.

Evaluate any counteroffer by the seller, but be prepared to walk away if need be, unless you feel inherently the car is worth the money the seller is asking.

If you do not buy the vehicle, be philosophical about it. The used car business is many times bigger than the new car business, and there are plenty of other good used vehicles out there for you.