Buying a used vehicle checklist
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Protect yourself when buying a used vehicle. Research the vehicle before you make an offer. Use this checklist as a guide:
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- Gather used vehicle buying information.
- Decide what type of vehicle meets your needs. Read the provincial government’s In the Driver’s Seat to do a little research.
- Set a budget – what can you afford? Consumer Reports offers a finance calculator to make it a bit easier to gauge.
- Factor in insurance, registration, maintenance and operating costs into your budget.
- Research to narrow down your choices. Compare like vehicles and weigh their options, pricing, benefits and drawbacks.
- Visit car lots and check classified ads.
- Check out the vehicle’s crashworthiness. Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s websites to view vehicle crash ratings.
- Research vehicle reliability. Gather general vehicle buying information on the Consumer Reports website. Look at model ratings, reliability information, owner satisfaction and fuel economy reports. Compare like vehicles, weighing their options, pricing, benefits and drawbacks.
- Learn about a vehicle’s fuel efficiency by searching the government of Canada's comprehensive research tool.
- Use member-exclusive Gold Book, CAA Black Book and VMR Canada to research market values for used vehicles - used car pricing services.
- Obtain lien and/or vehicle information reports on the vehicle you’ve selected.
- Take vehicle for test drive and use this Consumer Reports' checklist as a guide.
- Arrange for an independent mechanical inspection at an Approved Auto Repair Services facility.
- Be familiar with your rights and responsibilities when leaving a deposit and signing a Bill of Sale.
- Read and understand the contract completely before signing.
Making an offer
- Ask the dealer for the vehicle’s certificate of mechanical fitness, which they are required by law to provide.
- Make the seller a realistic offer, leaving some room for bargaining.
- Before signing an offer, include special conditions you want to be part of the deal or things the seller has promised you, such as floor mats.
- Do not sign an offer unless you really want the vehicle and are prepared to accept the specified deal.
- If the dealer counters your offer unrealistically, you may want to cancel the deal. Make sure you indicate on any written offer the deal was cancelled.
- If you are searching the market for a used vehicle, your budget should include a repair fund. A used vehicle, even a fairly new one, usually needs something.
- Before making a final decision, have a mechanic look over your prospective purchase. A mechanic can spot any problem areas and will help you know what repairs are needed. Tires, belts or radiator hoses, brakes or a new battery are common replacement items. Having this information may give you extra bargaining power.
- A professional opinion can be valuable in estimating interior repairs, too. A car with worn or damaged fabric but in good mechanical condition may be a good investment. Upholstery burns and tears can usually be repaired at a reasonable cost by an upholstery shop.
- Caution: Be wary if the vehicle owner resists a vehicle inspection. This can indicate the seller may be hiding something.
- Download a Bill of Sale. Make sure the contract includes: your name and address; sellers name and address; make, model and year of vehicle; VIN; odometer reading; price and how you’re paying; special conditions; any other promises, warranties or statements; certificate of mechanical fitness.
- Be smart if shopping online: If a seller's price seems too good to be true, and their ads do not have phone numbers, which prompts you to contact the seller via e-mail, it may be a scam.