If the vehicle you’re hoping to buy has a crash history, it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of being resold. However, it should be looked at thoroughly before you buy it.
Used vehicles are an attractive option for Canadian car buyers. Factors like slower depreciation and lower insurance rates are just a couple of reasons why you may choose to buy a used vehicle over a new one.
However, it’s important to remember that used vehicles don’t come straight from the manufacturer. And before committing to a used vehicle, buyers need to be aware of its history. Otherwise, you could end up with a car that’s barely roadworthy, or worse, a lemon.
If you’re in the market for an automobile, read on to find out how you can avoid some of the common pitfalls of buying a used car.
A lemon will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. It's a pre-owned vehicle that has severe defects which impacts its safety and overall value. It may seem like a good deal at the time, but hidden issues prevent this kind of vehicle from functioning correctly. And since you’re the new car-owner, guess who gets stuck with the repair bills?
Unlike the United States, Canada doesn’t have a firm federal law to protect buyers against defective vehicles. Nova Scotia and Manitoba have passed laws that refer to lemon vehicles, but they don’t fit the federal bill. The Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP) is an auto industry program that allows Canadians car buyers to dispute with the manufacturer in front of an independent arbitrator.
If the used vehicle you purchased is a lemon, you can take the manufacturer to the small claims court. If the problem with the car is safety-related, Canadians should reach out to Transport Canada for further help investigating the defect.
The best way to avoid buying a subpar pre-owned vehicle is to ensure you receive the vehicle’s full repair and history report. Thoroughly understanding the vehicle’s background will help you better comprehend where your money is going and what you can expect in terms of future maintenance.
Vehicle damage from a collision can be problematic. If you’re looking to purchase a pre-owned vehicle, and the seller notes that it’s previously been in an accident, there are a couple of things you should know.
Firstly, when you’re buying a vehicle that’s had significant bodywork, the overall price will likely be a lot lower; great, if you’re on a budget! But a price-cut for a vehicle that’s previously sustained damage might not be worth this low price, as it could mean you’ll have to spend money on future repairs.
Secondly, if the vehicle has been in an accident, it’s crucial that the buyer understands what happened and the damage to the car. If the collision was minor and the seller shows you all of the legitimate repair records, investing in a used vehicle that’s been in a minor accident is not a bad idea.
However, if the car you’re looking at has been in a significant crash and withstood a lot of damage, specifically to the internal carrying structure, you should be very cautious.
In Canada, there are approximately 160,000 car accidents each year – ranging from fender benders to high-speed collisions. If the vehicle you’re hoping to buy has a crash history, it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of being resold. However, it should be looked at thoroughly before you buy it. If you’re not familiar with automobiles, we suggest getting the opinion of a trusted mechanic.
A lot of people spend thousands of dollars on a used vehicle without having it inspected by a professional first. Buyers typically take the seller at their word and commit to purchasing after just a 10-minute test drive. When you’re buying a used vehicle, it’s vital to ensure you’re getting value for your money.
The expense of a mechanic’s assessment is a wise investment as it could save you a small fortune down the road. Inspections by a mechanic on a used vehicle could shed light on problems that you didn’t know existed with the car. If an inspection report from a mechanic doesn’t come back clean, you can negotiate with the seller on a lower price to reflect the cost of repairs.
When making a big purchase such as buying a car, a trusted mechanic can give you the confidence you need to make the right decision. A good inspection will serve several functions. It ensures that all components and parts are working well together and that there are no hidden problems with the engine, body, or frame. A mechanic will expose any mechanical or electrical problems if they exist.
A trained eye could also help you unearth poor previous repair work, any flood or fire damage, hidden rust, fluid leaks, nonfunctioning accessories, and overdue maintenance procedures.
Getting your hands on a copy of a vehicle’s history report is a crucial step before you buy. If you’re buying a car from a private seller, it’s a good idea to request a copy of the vehicle’s history report from the seller. If the seller seems reluctant to share the vehicle’s history, you may want to purchase the report yourself. CARFAX Canada lets you retrieve a copy of the vehicle’s history report. All you need is the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN).
CARFAX history reports show details about the vehicle’s previous ownership, accident history, safety recalls, and used car value. Typically, it costs between $40 and $90 to receive a vehicle’s history report. Here’s what a sample report looks like.
If you’re buying through a dealership, there may be a free report depending on the vehicle. If you browse a dealer’s used car inventory online, look out for links to free CARFAX reports or ask your dealer about it.
Canada Drives work with over 350 dealer partners, and many of them specialize in pre-owned car sales. If you’re looking for a dealership you can trust and a car you can depend on, we can connect you with a reputable dealer close to you.
As discussed, if you’re buying a pre-owned car from a private seller or dealership, they may already have a history report that you can examine free of charge. However, this is not guaranteed. But there are a couple of things you can do to check a vehicle’s history without spending a penny:
Purchasing a used vehicle can be a great way to save money, but there’s risk involved, so it’s important to do your due diligence. If you’ve got your eye on a car, these are the steps you should follow to ensure the vehicle is worth what you’re paying:
After you view a used car’s history report and you’re satisfied with that, this 12-step vehicle inspection checklist will ensure all bases are covered when you conduct your own informal inspection and test drive.
Inspect the tires for any wear patterns. If the grip is worn down, the tires may need to be replaced soon at extra cost to you. There may also be an alignment issue if the wear on the tires does not look even.
Check the ground and undercarriage for any signs of leakage while you're examining the tires.
Look for any general signs of rust or corrosion under the hood. These signs are a good indication of the car’s current condition and life expectancy.
Inspect belts for any signs of wear. If any of the belts are frayed or torn, they may need to be replaced soon.
Check transmission fluid. Ensure that levels are high. The fluid should be a clear reddish colour. Do a sniff test. Any burnt smell indicates that the transmission is overheating.
Check oil levels. If the car has been running, wait at least 10 minutes for the engine to settle. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean. Push the dipstick in again and then withdraw it.
Check brake fluid. You can predict how worn your brakes are based on how much fluid is left in your reservoir. Low brake fluid levels mean the brakes are in need of some repairs or restoration.
Check antifreeze. Make sure there’s no oil contamination and that the colour is clear.
An onboard diagnostic OBDll scanner is a useful tool to have on hand and it’ll make you look like a car expert! Plug it into the OBDll port by the console and switch on the ignition. A very quick scan will tell you if the vehicle is reporting any trouble or error codes.
Check lights. Ensure brake lights, turn signals, headlights, and taillights are all in working order. Then, ensure all interior lights are working too.
Listen out for any unusual noises during your test drive. Any tapping or rattling sounds are a legitimate cause for concern.
New cars in Canada are subject to GST and sales tax, depending on the province. However, when it comes to used vehicles, it’s a little different. Used cars that get sold through a car dealership do have federal and provincial sales taxes, but when a person buys a used vehicle from a private seller, there is no GST attached to the sales tag according to Canadian tax law.
Instead, buyers of privately-owned vehicles only pay provincial sales taxes which are calculated based on the vehicle’s value, and this typically occurs when the used car is registered.
For more information about GST/HST on motor vehicles, check out this great resource.
If a dealership or a private seller advertises a used car with the words “clean title,” this means that the vehicle is generally in good shape. A clean title provides some assurance to the buyer. However, it’s important to note that the vehicle could still have some problems.
A clean title means that a car does not have a history of reported insurance claims. But that doesn’t mean there are no issues with the vehicle. Sometimes, private sellers make their own sloppy repairs to avoid insurance claims. That's why it's a good idea to ask a professional mechanic to perform an inspection regardless of what the history report says.
A branded title offers a level of transparency on pre-owned vehicles by highlighting its history of reported damage. Depending on the level of damage and quality of the repair, customers can sometimes enjoy good value with a branded title car. Typical branding title designations include: Rebuilt, Salvage, and Irreparable.
Canada Drives can connect you with hundreds of certified dealerships across Canada. Each one of our partner dealerships guarantees a safer option for consumers compared to private sales. Canada Drives’ dealers have high-quality standards that private sales lack, and we’ve helped thousands of Canadians get behind the wheel of safe and reliable vehicles.
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