There are many benefits to buying a used car over a brand new car. Great value, usually cheaper repairs, and often more affordable used car financing. Not to mention the value of your new car doesn’t dip by up to 20% the second you drive it away.

But what should you look out for when buying a used car?

The world of used car sales can be fraught with scams and hidden costs. If you’re in the market for a used car, here are some things to pay attention to.

How much is the car worth?

Man buying used car financing

First and foremost, you’ll want to know the actual value of the car so you can determine if you’re getting a great deal or are being taken to the cleaners.

Do your research on used car marketplaces, Kijiji, ask friends that have recently bought a used car – anywhere you can think of! It’s also smart to see what the same car is selling for new, or if the particular model is very old or isn’t in production any more, see what the latest similar model is going for direct from the car manufacturer.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to better understand the worth of the car you might be buying, how much the used car financing might set you back, and will be in a better place to negotiate if you decide to make an offer.

Get a VIN check

Every car comes with a Vehicle Identification Number or VIN. This is a number unique to every car and is usually located either on the windshield or in the door jamb of the driver’s door.

A VIN is a 17 digital alphanumeric code that serves as a car’s fingerprint, as no two VINs are the same. A VIN contains a wealth of information about the car including where it was built, it’s make and model, engine size, and more.

Whenever you are considering buying a used car, it is a good idea to ask the seller for the VIN so you can look it up. There are plenty of free VIN checker tools online, and looking it up can give you peace of mind that the listing matches up with what the car actually offers.

Get a comprehensive car history check

Definitely one of the absolute must do’s when looking at buying a used car is getting a comprehensive car history check.

These detailed reports will list any past issues that the car might have had that required a trip to the mechanics or involved an insurance claim. There are several black marks on this record you should keep your eye out for, including whether the car has ever suffered flooding damage or been written off.

These kinds of events can actually render a car uninsurable which in effect means it cannot be driven. Even if there isn’t a critical incident in the car’s past, you’ll be able to see what has happened to this car in the past so you can get some idea of what to expect in the future.

Ask for a test drive

Used car test drive in Toronto

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but taking your potential car for a test drive is crucial to finding out if it is the right one for you.

Many used cars, particularly older ones, will have quirks and different handling that you really need to experience to determine whether it is something you will be able to deal with. A test drive will also give you the opportunity to confirm the car runs ok, doesn’t have any breaking issues, and the steering is accurate.

This will be a significant investment no matter how much you end up paying for the car, so you want to make sure that you feel comfortable in it.

Oil leaks, rusting, mechanical issues

Ask the seller if they are aware of any oil leaks or mechanical issues the car may have had in the past. As they are trying to sell you something, it is wise to take their responses with a grain of salt and they might not give you the entire story if they sense that if they did they might lose the sale.

Do your own physical inspection of the car. Look for any obvious rusting in the body, pop the hood and have a look for any clear signs of wear and tear, and check the ground under the car to see if there are any oil spots.

One of the key risks of buying a used car is the potential for costly repairs in the near future. If you are taking out any used car financing, you will want to avoid any undue outgoing expenses like repairs that could have been avoided. Doing a thorough inspection before you sign on the dotted line is at least one way you can try to protect yourself from buying a money pit.

Are you taking over an lease?

Make sure you completely understand any financial obligations that come attached to the car. Many people looking to sell their cars are still paying off car loans and are looking for someone to take it over.

Used car financing can be tricky as you didn’t negotiate the terms of the lease yourself so you may be bound to rates that you wouldn’t have settled for if you had the choice. Make sure you understand the terms of the lease and if you aren’t happy with them, either reconsider the car or shop around for a lease transfer.

 

Mechanic performing used car repairs

Check the air conditioning

Whilst this may not seem like a pressing concern when looking at a used car, it is definitely something you will miss come one of Toronto’s infamously sticky summers.

Car air conditioners can lose effectiveness over time and need to be recharged. This isn’t a major expense and is a relatively quick and straightforward fix, but it is definitely something to ask about and be aware of.

If the car you are interested in has air conditioning, sit in the car and turn it on to see how it runs. Make sure there aren’t any unpleasant odours coming out of the air vents, and don’t forget to check the heating as well. You’ll definitely be wanting that during the colder months!

Smell for cigarettes or pets

Something that can be incredibly hard to remove from a car is the smell of cigarettes or pets. Cigarette smoke has a way of penetrating deep into the fibres of a car seat and even into the plastic on the walls and dashboard.

Ask the owner if they have smoked in the car before, and then give it a smell yourself. If you notice a faint smell of cigarettes, this could likely be rectified with a good cleaning. If the smell is overpowering, you might want to consider passing on the car as it can be incredibly difficult to remove completely.

Similarly, ask about whether pets have been transported in the car on a regular basis. Pet hair and smells can stick around in cars for years and, whilst likely not a deal breaker, can be a nuisance to get rid of once you get the car home.

Do your research on the car brand

Find out everything there is to know about the brand of car you are contemplating purchasing to get a sense of its history, what it is known for, and whether it is an overall trustworthy brand.

Certain car brands will have a reputation (deserved or not) for being cheaply made and thus liable to break down easily, whilst others might be known as the gold standard in safety.

Something else to keep in mind is how easily it will be to get replacement parts should the car require them. Modern day cars tend to be fairly globalised and parts can be sourced relatively pain free, but some older models might require expensive imports that can take weeks.

Weigh up the qualities that are most important to you in your next car and make an informed decision when looking at buying a used vehicle.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

It is a widely known fact that pretty much everything is negotiable, and that couldn’t ring more true when it comes to buying a used car.

These buying situations actually afford the buyer more power than the seller, as in all likelihood the seller is losing money every day that the car is not sold, either in insurance costs, their lease repayments, or even just the space the car is taking up.

If the used car you are looking at is still under lease, you could even negotiate a cash incentive to take the car off the seller’s hands, as is the case with many used car listings on marketplaces like Kijiji.

If you will be taking out any kind of used car financing for your purchase, every dollar you can save on the outset will help in the long run. There’s no harm in asking for a better price, in fact it is usually expected. Worst case scenario they don’t budge, but more than likely you’ll knock a bit off the asking price.

If you don’t have the time or patience to sift through piles of possibly fake or blurry used car listings, contact Auto Loan Solutions today and let one of our car experts help you into a certified used car with the lowest interest rate financing plans in Ontario.

Let's Get Started

Join thousands of Canadians who have trusted AutoLoans.ca.

Get Approved Now