Get a Free Car History Report To Avoid Getting a Lemon Car

April 2, 2019

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.

What’s a Lemon 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.

Is it Safe to Buy a Car That's Been in an Accident?

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.

Should I Have a Mechanic Look at the Vehicle?

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.

Where to Get a Car History Report?

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.

How Can I Check a Car’s History for Free?

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:

    • CARFAX Canada offers a free VIN check that reveals limited but up-to-date information about your car’s history. With this insight, you’ll be able to determine if you want to purchase a complete history report.
    • Transport Canada offers Canadians a free tool that will find any make, model, or year of vehicle that has been recalled in Canada.

What Steps Should I Take When Evaluating a Used Car?

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:

  1. Find the Car's History Report: Investigate the used vehicle’s history to see if there has been any previous damage.
  2. Perform an Informal Inspection: Inspect the inside and outside of the used vehicle, focusing on the body panel and paint job. Keep an eye out for any signs of rusting, mismatched paint, or tire wear.
  3. Test Drive: Make sure to drive the vehicle in stop-and-go areas as well as on the highway and in residential neighbourhoods. If you notice any excessive noise, signs of the smoke or leaks, or if the car bounces or vibrates when you go over bumps, this might be a sign that the vehicle has previously been in an accident and repairs were inadequate.
  4. Get a Professional Inspection: Once the used vehicle passes all of the above tests, it’s a good idea to take it to a mechanic to get it checked out. Any problems that the mechanic identifies with the vehicle can be used as points of negotiation if you decide to make an offer.

Your Checklist for Used Car Inspection

So you decided to go and inspect a car for yourself and you want to know what to look out for? This 9-step vehicle inspection checklist will ensure all bases are covered when you conduct your own informal inspection and test drive.

  1. Check the mileage against the year of the car. Enter the information about the vehicle, including the make, model, mileage, and year into Canadian Black Book to ensure you're getting the best value.
  2. Ask for the vehicle history report or download it yourself at CARFAX Canada
  3. Examine the paint job for colour uniformity and check for rust.
  4. Inspect the tires for any wear patterns.
  5. Check the ground and undercarriage for any signs of leakage.
  6. Under the hood, look for any general signs of rust or corrosion. Check oil levels, brake fluid, antifreeze, and transmission fluid. Inspect belts for any signs of wear.
  7. Ensure all lights are working. Check interior lights, as well as brake lights, turn signals, headlights, and taillights.
  8. During your test drive, listen for any unusual noises. Any tapping or rattling sounds are a legitimate cause for concern.
  9. Book a professional inspection. If you’re still not feeling confident about the car, pay a trusted third-party mechanic to inspect the vehicle.

Is GST Payable on Used Cars?

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.

What Does a “Clean Title” Mean for Used Vehicles?

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.

The Experts at Canada Drives Can Help You Get a Good Used Car

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.

Visit Canada Drives to fill out our quick online application and secure finance for your new car within a day.

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