Buying a used car can be a great option on a budget, but only if you do it right. The wrong car or the wrong price can create added cost and hassle. It can be intimidating, but we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to know before buying a used car.

Know What You’re Looking For

People look for different things in a car. Decide what’s most important to you before you start looking. Is it price? Value? Do you want a specific type of car? This will largely depend on your situation and your needs. Once you’ve figured that out, set a budget and stick with it. It’s good to set your limit before you see the car or speak to the seller. That way, the budget is set before emotions are involved. Don’t forget to consider the depreciation and resale value, the fuel economy and the insurance cost. These additional factors can be easy to forget when you look at the sticker price, but they vary by vehicle.

Know Where to Look to Buy a Used Car

There are many ways to buy a used car in Ontario. Here are your options and some basic information you should know to help you decide what route to take:

  • Private sale – Private sales are very popular because of the ease of transaction and price advantage. When you buy a used car in a private sale you get the car exactly as it is, which includes any problems with the vehicle. For that reason, it’s important to have a mechanic inspect the car prior to purchase.
  • Used car dealership – When buying a used car at a dealership the quality of the vehicle and the integrity of the person selling it vary as much as in private sale. Although there are rules and regulations for a dealership, it can be very difficult to recover lost costs. The biggest advantage is the ability to compare a number of vehicles.
  • Public and private auction – You can find hidden gem at an auction, but you can also act on impulse and spend too much without inspecting the vehicle first.

Consider your options, and consider what method you feel most comfortable with as a buyer.

Inspect the Car

Once you’ve found your ideal car you need to inspect it visually and mechanically. Scrutinize the interior and exterior visually as much as possible. Look for scrapes, rust and any indication of prior accidents.

You also need to take a thorough look at the vehicle information package (UVIP). It’s an offense under the Highway Traffic Act for the seller not to provide the buyer with a UVIP, which contains:

1. A description of the vehicle, including:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Plate Number
  • Year, Make
  • Model
  • Colour
  • Body Type
  • Cylinders
  • Power
  • Status
  • Brand

2. Ontario vehicle registration history
3. Odometer information
4. Outstanding debts (liens) on the vehicle
5. Wholesale and retail values, if available
6. Retail sales tax requirements
7. Bill of sale
8. Tips on vehicle safety standards inspections

As of April 1, 2017, a Drive Clean emissions test is no longer required when selling and/or transferring a light-duty vehicle (cars, vans, SUVs, light trucks) in Ontario; however, you may request a test be done at your discretion as a buyer. If this is something you would like to explore, you can use the VIN to look up the car’s emissions testing history on the Drive Clean website.

Take a Test Drive

Take the car for a test drive. Drive the car at different speeds and test the brakes. See how it handles turns, hills and acceleration. If you like the car, get a mechanic to inspect it more thoroughly. Although it’s an additional cost, it’s best to have an expert look at the car mechanically to verify its condition and identify any potential problems.

At this point, you know all you can about the car. Now’s the time to negotiate.

Finalize the Purchase

Once you’ve found the right car at the right price, it’s time to make the purchase. The seller must give you the UVIP after the sale has been completed. Both the seller and buyer must sign the application for transfer and the seller must also provide a bill of sale. Make sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the car matches the VIN on the permit.

It’s important to note that the car will remain registered in the seller’s name until the vehicle transfer has been completed at ServiceOntario. Once you’ve purchased the car and completed paperwork, the next step is to register the car with the government and get it insured. To register the car, you’ll need the safety and emissions test certificates, your driver’s license, the UVIP, the bill of sale and the vehicle permit. Once you have your license plate and validation sticker, you’re all set to drive on!

If you want a pre-purchase car inspection or you’ve just purchased a used car that needs a check-up, find a Jiffy Lube near you!