Thursday, April 25, 2024
AdviceShopping for a Used Car today is Very Complex and Here's How...

Shopping for a Used Car today is Very Complex and Here’s How You Can Help Yourself

The pre-owned vehicle market is covered in landmines which is why an inspection is your best line of defence


  • Pricing and availability notwithstanding, should you really buy the car before you?

  • A pre-purchase inspection remains your absolute best bet against being taken for a ride.


We unfortunately live in a world where we’re all out to get each other. Fraud, shady business practices, and manipulation of facts have long been associated with the used car market. While not all used car dealerships are out to essentially steal from you, as a consumer, you can never be too cautious. This is why getting your selected vehicle checked before signing away your hard-earned dollars is an absolute must.

The month of May has traditionally been associated with car shopping. Though this may have changed somewhat since the pandemic, the advent of spring and the desire to drive and explore always motivate consumers to buy a new-to-them set of wheels.

The good news is that after two crazy years of high prices, used car values have finally begun dropping by between 10% and 20%. This will surely get more of us thinking about replacing the old family junker.

Top 10 Best Used Cars for the Money

Before you do, here’s the best piece of advice you’ll ever get when buying a pre-owned car:

Get a pre-purchase inspection done before signing anything. If you need to sign and leave a deposit, get a receipt with a clearly indicated “refundable” note on it. Why? Here’s the answer:

“There are about three million cars sold in Canada every year, with one in three transactions between private individuals,” said Adélaïde Favé, Kiwiz Co-Founder and COO of Kiwiz. “Most people don’t realize that about 30% of those cars are damaged or tampered, so it’s critical to be informed before you buy to avoid overpaying for the vehicle and extra maintenance costs later on.”

Here are a few signs that something might be off, as explained by Favé: “Is the paint the same all over the body of the car and if not, why? Has there been an accident that required the vehicle to be painted again? Does the steering wheel look worn even though the dealer says the car is only three years old? Do the electric windows, air conditioner and remote car door opener work as they should? These are all key questions that an inspection will address,”

Here are five things to consider when used car shopping according to Kiwiz:

Odometer: Carfax reports that odometer fraud on the rise, with more than 1.9 million vehicles on the road having rolled-back odometers. According to CarVertical, in Canada the odometer of one in six used cars has been tampered with. To protect yourself, have the car checked by your mechanic or an independent inspection service to see if the wear and tear on the car matches the mileage.

Seller’s info: Get as much information as possible on the seller and their relationship with the car. Ask why they’re selling the car (is there a good reason, or does the vehicle have defects that they can’t take anymore?), how and where they drove (highway, city, to work or for commercial use?) and how the car was maintained (do they have invoices to prove it?).

Price: Make sure the asking price matches the condition of the car. Research the average market price for that model, make a cost estimate according to needed repairs and negotiate the price on that basis. Keep in mind that used car prices are generally higher at a dealership than through a private seller.

Vehicle history: It’s common for people to buy Carfax data to learn about the history of a car. That’s helpful, but many people don’t take full advantage of the data, failing to realize that it links to other inspection-related information that will help buyers better understand the car and its parts. Beyond facts about the car, analysis of the data is critical.

Inspection: Whether buying privately or through a dealer, always get the car inspected, even if you’re happy with the test drive. Never accept the seller’s own inspection. Remember that they have a vested interest in selling their product, so their inspection won’t be as objective as an unaffiliated opinion. Always get a third party to inspect the car.

On the final point, Kiwiz is here to help. They are a new startup that offers a mobile car inspection service. It launched last year in Quebec and is now also available in the GTA, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Consider an inspection no different than getting a second opinion following some form of diagnosis. Yes, it’s that critical.

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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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