6 things you should know before buying that used car

If you’re thinking about buying a used car as your first or next ride, there are a number of things to consider that can help you save money and get you on your way!

1. Know what you want. According to AutoTrader.ca, there are over 300,000 used vehicles across Canada. Having an idea of what you want can definitely help narrow down your search. Along with make, model and colour, you’ll also want to think about your budget and how many kilometres you feel comfortable with. 

Tip: The general rule of thumb is, the lower the mileage, the better. Lower mileage vehicles may be more expensive upfront, but there’s a good chance things won’t go wrong for a while. Also, if something does go wrong with a lower mileage vehicle, it might still be covered by warranty helping to offset the cost of repairs.

2. Keep your options open. While you might not find your dream vehicle the moment you hit the market, being flexible, patient and having a list of options will prevent you from rushing into a bad buy. Do research and browse forums for a number of different vehicles to get an idea of what current owners think.

Tip: Be sure to pick up a vehicle history report from your province or a third-party such as CARFAX. For a small price, this report can help shed some light on the accident history, past claims and even liens on the car.

3. Go for a drive. Quite possibly the best part of the purchasing experience is getting to try-out different vehicles. Going for a test drive is the best way to see if you like how the car drives, and to listen and feel for any quirks.

Tip: When meeting a seller for the first time, try to arrange a viewing in a populated area such as a mall parking lot. For additional security, bring along a friend – preferably one who knows cars so they can help you spot trouble areas and negotiate.

4. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Often, vehicles will be listed higher than what they’re actually worth. Check the Canadian Black Book to determine what the fair market value is and use that price to negotiate. Other factors to consider which can help negotiate a lower price are:

  • Higher mileage or off-warranty vehicles
  • Cosmetic issues
  • Potential repairs

Tip: Does the seller have a set of winter tires, extra floor mats, or additional parts? If the seller is firm on the price, look to get more out of your money by negotiating these extras into the deal.

5. Have a pre-purchase inspection done. Once you find a car that checks off all the right boxes, a licensed mechanic should do a pre-purchase inspection to make sure the car is solid before the final purchase. For a small cost, the pre-purchase inspection will look at:

  • Parts prone to fail
  • Rust damage
  • Body damage
  • Any additional areas of concern

Tip: You’ll want to be careful of any modifications done to the vehicle as they can impact your insurability and, if installed incorrectly, affect long term reliability. Have your mechanic take a look for these prior to the purchase.  Also, don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad buy, it’ll save you a lot time and money in the future.

6. Get ready to drive off! Before you can drive away in your new ride, you’ll have to get the previous owner’s vehicle registration card, transfer the vehicle ownership to your name, and get insured. While the process depends on where you live, typically you’ll always need proof of insurance before getting your new licence plates. This is the perfect time to start shopping around for a good rate or even better coverage.

Tip: Your insurance rate is impacted by things like model, region, and other vehicle features or upgrades. Check out our top 5 vehicle features to help keep your insurance low.

Download "Buying that Used Car Checklist"


Coverage your car’s always wanted at a competitive price.