7 smart tips for buying a used car

July 28, 2015

Buying nearly new is the easiest way to pay less for your car, but you need to make a careful selection. Here are seven smart ways to buy a used car for less, and get exactly what you're looking for.

7 smart tips for buying a used car

1. Consider buying from a dealer

Buying from a dealer may, at first glance, appear more expensive than buying privately, but will provide more recourse in case of problems.

2. Franchised dealerships

Dealerships that sell new and used cars tend to carry used cars that are only a couple of years old. Since many new models can lose up to half their value in the first two years, buying a two-year-old car gets you a half-price bargain that is still in good shape and unlikely to incur high repair bills.

  • The full warranty may still be current on the car, or they may offer some sort of limited warranty, though there is no legal requirement for this.
  • A good used car has been checked by the dealership and it should be able to provide some limited assurance of condition.

3. Used-car lots

You will find older and cheaper cars on these lots.

  • Most provinces require used-car dealers to be registered and to follow minimum requirements for conducting their business.
  • Make sure the lot you are buying from is registered with the government, or you may find yourself buying an inferior vehicle and having no recourse against the vendor.
  • Check to see if there is a provincial association for used-car dealers and consider buying from a member of the association.
  • For example, The Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario (www.ucda.org) has a code of ethics that governs its members and has a dealers' alert that notifies members of stolen and odometer-tampered cars. It also offers a free informal mediation facility to consumers and dealers.

4. Know the vehicle history

Use the Internet to look up the history of the vehicle you are considering by doing a general search.

  • You'll need the vehicle registration number (VIN or serial number), and for a fee, you can find out such information as whether there are any outstanding liens registered by creditors, ownership registrations, if the car has been stolen and if it has an odometer history.
  • By checking the vehicle's history before you buy, you will be protecting yourself from hidden problems. A reputable dealer may offer the history of its vehicles as part of its service to customers.

5. Buying from a private seller

Privately sold cars are cheaper than those bought from dealers. View the car at the vendor's home in daylight and in good weather so you can check it over thoroughly and get a feel for how well the car has been maintained.

6. When to complain

Although buying privately can be the cheapest way, your legal rights are limited as there will be no warranty.

  • Cars are sold as seen, so you have no comeback if it is faulty.
  • But if the vendor has misrepresented some aspect of the car — for example, by saying that it has had only one previous owner when you can prove that it has had more — then you can claim for compensation.
  • But you may not get redress even if you win a legal battle, so check the vehicle thoroughly before buying.

7. Check for liens

In most provinces in Canada, dealers are responsible for ensuring that there are no liens against vehicles from outstanding financing agreements.

  • If you are buying privately, you must ensure no such lien exists against the vendor by checking with the provincial ministry that deals with consumer and commercial relations.
  • Some provincial transportation ministries now require the vendor to produce proof of no liens before they will accept an ownership transfer.

Buying a used car can save you a lot of money. Make sure you're getting the best deal by following these seven tips and doing some easy research.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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