Too often used cars get a bad rap. There are many great used cars out there for sale. How you end up feeling about your new used car will likely depend on your buying experience. So to make the best of your car buying experience, consider the following tips when buying a used car.

Ask a lot of questions

You can't ask enough of them when it comes to buying a used car. Regardless of whether or not you are buying from a licensed car dealer or salesperson, or buying privately, you'll want to consider questions like:

  • Are you the original owner (if buying privately)?
  • Why are you selling the vehicle (if buying privately)?
  • Are you the person who drove it the most (if buying privately)?
  • How many people have owned the car?
  • What is the car's condition? How about the body and upholstery?
  • Has the car ever needed repairs that cost more than say $1000?
  • Has the vehicle ever been in an accident?
  • Have only licensed mechanics serviced the vehicle?
  • Are there service records?
  • Did the car come from another province? Country?
  • Was it ever used as a taxi, police car, emergency vehicle, a lease or rental?
  • Does the odometer accurately show the true mileage the car has travelled?

Understand how much the car is worth

If you're interested in finding the value of a used car, you have a couple of resources at your disposal: the Canadian Red Book and the Canadian Black Book.

As well, look for other cars of the same year, make and model online to see what others are asking for in price. There are oodles of online classified websites that you can check out to see what the going rate is.

Buying privately?

There are special considerations for someone buying a car from a private seller. While many people sell privately, there are some unscrupulous people you need to watch out for: "curbers" or "curbsiders". These folks are looking for unsuspecting buyers. They pose as private individuals selling their car, but are actually in the business of selling stolen, rebuilt or odometer-tampered vehicles. They sell damaged or defective cars to people. Don't be mistaken in thinking it won't happen to you, because according to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, "surveys have shown that one in four classified vehicle ads are placed by curbsiders."

Tips on how to make sure you're not dealing with a curber/curbsider:

  • Check the car's history
    You'll need the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), make, model and model year to do this and if the seller won't give it to you, beware! They obviously don't want you finding something out.

    Also, check with your provincial government. They may have a standardized report that the seller has to make available to you. For example, in Ontario by law, private sellers of most motor vehicles, including motorcycles, must provide buyers with a Used Vehicle Information Package. This package includes:

    1. Description of the vehicle
    2. Ontario vehicle registration history
    3. Odometer information
    4. Outstanding debts (or liens) on the vehicle
    5. Wholesale and retail values for the vehicle's model and year, if available
    6. Retail sales tax requirements
    7. Bill of sale
    8. Tips on vehicle safety standards inspections

    If the seller refuses to give you the information necessary to obtain a report on the car's history or make available all required information about the vehicle, walk away.

  • Check the car's registration
    Make sure the car you are buying is registered in the name of the seller. If it isn't, ask why. Otherwise, you may be buying the vehicle from a curbsider.

  • Have your mechanic check the car
    Before you agree to buy the car, get an unbiased opinion from a mechanic you trust and not someone the seller suggests.

Inspect the vehicle during daylight

Under the cover of darkness, many flaws can be hidden out in the open. Make sure you check out the car in the light. Look for extreme wear of the upholstery, seats, brake and accelerator pedals. Also, note anything new as this could signal the car has had more than its fair share of use. Look closely at the exterior and watch for waves on the body which could mean bodywork or that the vehicle has been in an accident.

Of course, it goes without saying; take it for a test drive. Drive at different speeds and on different road conditions to get the fullest experience possible.

Factor in the cost of insurance

Your insurance rates are determined, in part, by the car. Don't find out until it is too late that the cost to insure the vehicle takes you over your budget. Once you've got a car in mind, can help you get a feel for how much your "new to you" car will cost to insure. Easily compare car insurance Canada, because everyone deserves the lowest rates possible!

In the market to buy a car? Don't forget to read:

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