How to Buy a Used Car

May 18, 2022

According to Consumer Reports: “Used car prices have skyrocketed and according to market analysts, they’re likely to remain high for a while. The reasons are complicated. In short, a global microchip shortage has meant that automakers can’t build new cars fast enough to meet demand.

Fewer new cars for sale has increased demand for used cars, pushing prices up more than 40 percent above normal levels this past summer.” The piece goes on to quote Jake Fisher, director of CR’s Auto Test Center, advising consumers to do their due diligence as the financial stakes are higher than ever.

Our Thoughts?

We agree. So in the spirit of helping anyone looking for a used car (or truck) get the best possible value – used cars depreciate in value less rapidly than new ones and generally cost less to buy and insure – here are some important tips to consider.

1. Give the Vehicle a Careful Once-over

  • Scrutinize the body (including the rocker panel behind the doors) for rust, punctures and uneven paint.
  • Check if the tires are identical, sized correctly and evenly worn.
  • Look under the car for signs of rust and welding repairs.
  • Examine the windshield for cracks, chips or scratches.
  • Locate possible oil or coolant leaks.
  • Sit in the cabin to detect unpleasant smells.
  • Test all the locks, wipers, radio and heating/cooling systems.
  • Check the battery.

2. Take a Test Drive

  • Does the car start easily with no suspicious sounds?
  • If the car is an automatic, check all possible settings. If the car is a manual, make sure the clutch engages smoothly and gear shifting is seamless.
  • Steering should be quiet and easy to handle. Check that the car maintains a straight trajectory.
  • Does the brake pedal work smoothly and without noise? Check that the parking brake engages properly, too.
  • Check the wheel alignment.
  • Listen carefully for any unexpected sounds; clunks, pings, rattles etc.

3. Check the Car’s History

  • For about $50, a CARFAX style vehicle history report will tell you if the car is subject to any insurance claims for accident damage or theft.
  • Check the car’s maintenance log.
  • If you’re buying from a dealership, be sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is included, together with the car’s mileage.

4. The Right Price

  • Check the list price – the fair sum for a given model in perfect condition.
  • Consult the Canadian Black Book, the definitive source for unbiased vehicle valuations in Canada for over 55 years.

Buyer Beware

Cautions Consumer Reports: “Remember, every pre-owned car has its own history of use – and sometimes abuse – so it’s always a good idea to have any used vehicle you’re considering inspected by a trusted mechanic before buying it.”

“Because cars are selling so quickly, it might be difficult to get a seller to agree to a mechanical inspection,” John Ibbotson, Consumer Report’s chief mechanic, was quoted as saying. “But having a trusted mechanic inspect any used car you’re considering buying is a good way to ensure that it will be both safe and reliable in the future.”

Good luck!

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