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Tips for buying a used car

So you’ve decided to buy a used car – smart move! Buying used can help you get into a higher-end car at a lower price, and avoid the depreciation most vehicles face in their first few years. There are lots of decisions to make, because finding the right car at the right price isn’t always easy.

Here are some things to consider:

Buy privately or from a dealer?

Choosing to buy privately or from a dealer is one of the first decisions a used car buyer must make. There are pros and cons to each, so there is no right decision – it depends on your priorities.

You can often get a better price on a vehicle buying it privately, as the deal is being made directly between the buyer and seller and there is no middle-person, or dealership overhead costs, that need to be paid. Franchised dealers offer Certified Pre-Owned options, which provide many of the benefits of buying new (warranties etc.) while still offering used car prices.

Dealerships also take care of the paperwork and legal requirements on your behalf, making the buying process simpler and more straight-forward. This is a service that you’re paying for, so again, this decision largely comes down to who has the vehicle you’re most interested in, and your personal priorities.

What questions should you ask?

There’s a lot to remember when you’re shopping for a used car. Knowing which questions to ask when you meet with the seller will help ensure you get all the information you need. Here are a few questions to start with:

  • Has anything on the car been replaced or updated?
  • Does it come with winter tires?
  • Why are you selling the car?
  • Was the vehicle serviced regularly? Do you have the service records?
  • Do you have a vehicle history report?

Click here for more questions.

What should you be looking for in your test drive?

A test drive is an essential part of any vehicle purchase – it’s your opportunity to get inside the car, see how it feels and evaluate if it’s a good fit for you. There are lots of things to look and listen for, and little tests you can perform to get the most out of your test drive.

Get a comprehensive list here.

What is the vehicle’s history?

Has the vehicle ever been in an accident? This is important to know – although a vehicle with previous damage that’s been properly repaired can still be a great buy, the reality is that damage impacts vehicle value. Finding out about any damage that’s occurred in the vehicle’s past is key to getting a safe car at a fair price.

Does the vehicle have any liens? Buying a vehicle with an active lien could leave you responsible for the previous owner’s debt. Make sure you’re aware of the vehicle’s lien status before you make a purchase.

CARFAX Vehicle History Reports tell you about a vehicle’s accident history, lien status, registration history, unfixed safety recalls and more. Combined with a pre-purchase inspection, this is the best way to get the information you need to make an informed used car purchase.

How do you finalize the sale?

Depending on where you live and whether you buy from a dealer or a private consumer, there are different regulations to follow when buying a used car. Here’s a list of detailed regulations broken out by province.

And don’t forget, when buying used, it’s always important to stay safe.’s safety tips always apply, and it’s a good idea to bring a friend along when looking at a used car. They might come up with some smart questions to ask as well!

Arming yourself with the answers to these questions should give you the information you need to make an informed purchase. For more tips and tricks on buying, selling and owning a used car, visit CARFAX’s Resource Centre.

Chatter from the UsedHQ. We're the number one Canadian online classifieds, passionate about keeping items out of landfills, preserving unique curiosities, crafting, upcycling, anything vintage and SAVING MONEY!

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