10 Things To Consider When Buying A Used Car!

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The market for car sales in Canada is large to say the least. Canadians are the 12th largest consumers of vehicles per capita in the world. Every year, more than 4 Million cars are sold in our country, and 65% of them are pre-owned. A car is often one of the most expensive purchases that a person will make in their lifetime, and like any major purchase, requires a lot of research and comparison-shopping. Choosing to buy a pre-owned car comes with both risks and rewards. LubeVan has compiled a list of some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when buying a used vehicle.


This one might seem obvious but people can still get it wrong. Most common vehicles will trade within a range of prices. The differences may come down to mileage, options, and general condition of the vehicle, but are usually priced similarly to comparable vehicles. Be wary of cars that are priced too low or too high. Too low a price probably tells you that someone wants to get rid of the car quickly and it may have problems that will cost you more in the long run. Too high a price might mean that the owner is setting you up for aggressive negotiations and feels the car is worth more than it really is. If buying a vintage or collector car, where price ranges might not exist, think about reaching out to other collectors for their input. There are plenty of blogs and chat rooms where experienced car buyers can help you determine what a vehicle should be worth.

Dealership vs. Private

The decision to buy from a dealership or from a private person is a matter of personal circumstances. Buying from a dealership will almost always cost you more money. The dealership has extensive overhead that an individual does not, and those costs have to be transferred through to the buyer in the form of higher prices. But in return you will get access to other services that a private selling usually can’t provide. Financing options, extended warranties, and the potential for a trade in are important considerations for many buyers, and dealerships are generally required to provide a safety certificate when selling a vehicle. Reputable dealerships, especially manufacturer dealers, will usually go beyond that and provide a CARFAX, or CarProof report, or another similar report of the vehicles history which can outline any accidents or major service appointments.

Know your cars history

Researching a cars history is something very few people think to do, but it can tell you a lot about where the car has been. A simple report from the MTO will list all the previous owners, and if the car has had a lot of owners, it might be for a reason. Also, be wary of cars that have generic ownership names like ‘program car,’ which is often code for a previous rental car. As most of us who have rented cars in the past know, they are not taken care of by their drivers and often go way beyond their service intervals so that they can be rented quickly.

 Ask for service records

Of course we are a little biased here ☺, but regular service using quality oil and filters is the single cheapest and most effective way to keep a car on the road longer, and running at peak performance. Not everyone keeps service records, but for those who take their car into the dealership or who use their trusted mobile oil change providers, those records are available and will tell you a lot about the service history on a planned purchase. Car owners who can provide records that are up to date and regular, are usually the ones that have prioritized taking care of their car for the long-term.

Use your own mechanic

It’s never a bad idea to take a car into a mechanic to have a look before buying it. This can be a bit tricky when buying from a dealership, but if you can bring someone who you know and trust along with you, all the better. Never rely on the opinion of an outsider since you have no idea if he is independent from the seller, and most of the time he/she will not be. If a private seller is reluctant to let you take the car to your mechanic, this should raise a lot of red flags that there might be something to hide.

Inspect the owner, not just the car

If you’re buying from a private seller, keep in mind that their habits and mannerisms can tell you a lot about the way the car has been driven and maintained. If he’s bragging about his record lap at Cayuga speedway, it might be a sign that he’s driven the car too hard. Also, if the car is dirty or the owner hasn’t made the effort to fix small problems, it is a good sign that they haven’t fixed the big ones either.

Know your budget and don’t buy on impulse

We’ve all done it, but when buying a car it can lead you into a costly mistake that will leave you feeling guilty. If you come in looking for a used car for $10,000 and the salesman wants to take you over to see the new cars that just arrived, run away…don’t walk. If you have to say to yourself, “I think I can afford this,” you probably can’t. Knowing what you can spend, either monthly or in a fixed amount is a necessity. Know your budget and stick to it. If you can’t negotiate your price, be prepared to walk away. There are tens of thousands of used cars for sale every day, and there will be one that is right for you.

Drive it like you own it

You can’t tell much from a 5-minute test drive in a 40 km an hour residential zone. Don’t be afraid to request a longer test drive that will get you on the highway and driving through traffic. Keep the radio off and the windows up so you can listen closely for any strange sounds, rattles, squeaky brakes, or other problems that might be hard to hear. Test all the cars features, like heat and air conditioning, power doors and windows, heated or air-conditioned seats, stereo, and Bluetooth features. Make sure to accelerate hard when possible to see how the transmission shifts.


Never pay the full listed price on a car from a dealership or a private seller. Negotiating is something that most people hate to do, but almost all used cars have some wiggle room on the price. Most private sellers will list their vehicle 5% to 15% above what they actually ‘hope’ to get for it. Dealerships have good profit margins too, and every salesman knows exactly what he can sell a car for and still turn a profit (they are wasting your time when they say they have to get permission from their manager). Don’t be afraid to ask for extras too. On my last vehicle purchase, I was able to get the dealership to throw in an optional roof rack and a set of winter tires for free.

Word of mouth

Don’t be afraid to let your friends and family know you are looking for a used vehicle. Sometimes, really good cars can be found at really good prices from people within your inner circle who you didn’t know had a car to sell (or perhaps from their dear aunt Mildred). And the best part is, you can buy with trust knowing that your friend will tell you the straight goods and won’t be out to fleece you (hopefully!).

We’d love to hear any of your advice or stories on your used car buying experience. Let us know, and we will share it with the rest of our great city.

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