Are you thinking about buying a used car? Decisions about buying a used car can be quite a daunting experience because of many things you need to consider. This guide will help you better understand the process of buying a used car and answer questions such as “What aspects of the vehicle should I inspect before buying?” and “Where are some of the best places to purchase used vehicles?”. When purchasing a car, you first consider your needs and wants, set a budget, and then start searching for your car.
What to Look for in a Used Car
Looking for a specific model or type when purchasing a used car is like buying a new car. There are a couple of things that individuals usually look at when purchasing a car:
- Seating: It is important to know how many people will be travelling in the car depending on your family size and car usage. Generally, sedans and hatchbacks seat 5 people, and minivans seat 7-8 people. SUVs can seat 5-8 people and trucks can seat 3-6 people.
- Engine and performance: If you have a trailer or need your vehicle to tow things regularly, you should pay attention to the engine size. You should also consider the vehicle’s fuel economy because larger cars and engines usually require more fuel.
- Electric Car Range: If you decide to buy an electric car, you should look at the range of the battery and see what charging stations are available in your city and how far apart they are. You can see the range of your electric vehicle through its battery range. These ranges are usually given on the window stickers of vehicles being sold under the EPA rating tag. If purchasing from a private seller, you can look online on websites for what the maximum range of the vehicle will be.
- Cargo Space: If you think you’re going to be carrying large items in your trunk, you should consider getting a larger vehicle such as an SUV or a truck.
- Monthly Budget: This is very important to consider and it is always a good idea to take a look at the interest rates being offered by lenders on car loans. An average car loan interest rate is 4.5%, so anything close to that amount should be a competitive rate. This will help you determine your approximate monthly paymentfor your car. Along with this, you should check insurance comparison websites online to see how much your car insurance will be
- Additional Car Options: These can include an infotainment system, cruise control, heated seats, a navigation system, Bluetooth, etc. These features help make your driving experience better and may or may not be available in a car at your selected budget.
Optimizing all these different options is a very difficult task as there are so many options to consider. A good way to compare all your options is through car comparison tools online like this one.
Where to Buy a Used Car
The best places to look for used cars are usually your local car dealerships because they sell cars that are mechanically inspected and detailed before being sold. This makes sure your car is coming from a trusted source and dealerships can help you obtain a car loan. Dealerships also offer several different warranty options depending on your vehicle’s age, however they are not required to offer you any warranty. Generally, dealers do not like to give warranties on older cars and would rather offer you a discount instead of a warranty.
There are also several trusted online marketplaces for buying used cars such as Kijiji, Autotrader, Craigslist, and CarPages. When using an online marketplace, individuals are responsible for transferring the title of the car and sourcing a loan on their car. Many dealerships also post their used cars for sale on these online marketplaces so it is useful to check both sources and have a wide variety of choices before making a selection. If the car is not being sold from a dealership then those cars are being sold privately, which is also a very common way to buy used cars.
What to Check When Buying a Used Car
There are 4 primary details you should check when buying a used car:
- Vehicle History
Vehicle History is critical to the value of the car. When purchasing a vehicle, you should always check the following:
- When the car was purchased
- The number of previous owners
- The vehicle’s Carfax report
- The vehicle’s current value, which can be determined using tools like the Canadian RedBook
- Any previous accidents the car had
All of these things factor into the true value of a vehicle. Previous accidents are especially important because broken parts in an accident can be replaced with after-market parts, which are lower quality than OEM parts from the manufacturer.
A car’s mileage can change the value of a car significantly. More kilometres on the vehicle can mean that the engine of the car has more wear and tear, which could lead to future mechanical failures and repairs. A good rule of thumb for the number of miles on a car is to multiply the age of the car by 19,000 and that should be considered a car that has not been overdriven.
- Mechanic Inspection
A mechanic inspection, or a pre-purchase inspection, is very important when purchasing a used vehicle. You should always get their vehicle checked by a mechanic to see if it has any hidden issues in its engine, transmission, steering, etc. These problems can be hidden even with a close visual inspection or test drive. Along with the mechanical inspection, you should also get the tires checked to see if they need replacements before purchasing.
- Rust or Paint Damage
Paint damage and rust can damage the physical appearance of the car and affect the price of the vehicle, with rust affecting the price of a vehicle more and being more serious than paint damage. Rust on cars can be a very serious issue because they erode the material of cars and cause body panelling to loosen, which is very unsafe. Moreover, rust on the frame of a vehicle is even more damaging as that causes damage to the integrity of the car’s structure, which can cause parts to snap off. If a car has very little rust on it, then you should take this fact into account when determining its value. Along with this, you should apply some rust protection to the vehicle after purchase. In the northern parts of Ontario, salt on roads during the winter can cause rusting to happen faster. This means that if you belong to those parts of Ontario, you should try to get your car rust protection before purchase.
- Test drive
Test driving a car is important before you buy. This is because you should feel out the driving experience of the car and check to see that the seat position, side and back mirrors, along with the interior space is comfortable. You should bring another person along to see if the ride is comfortable in the other seats. Along with this, check additional features like cruise control and navigation and see if the infotainment system buttons and touch controls are working well.
Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Cars are used cars that have been rigorously checked by a dealership. Every car brand has its own certified pre-owned vehicles in its dealerships. This is a very safe option to buy a used car as cars sold under the CPO tag are inspected with detail and undergo a list of safety checks. Their exterior and interior are usually detailed by the dealer and then sold again. Moreover, some CPO programs provide service warranties as an incentive. These warranties are very useful as they can cover everything from brake pads to oil changes. Though purchasing a vehicle from a program like this can give you a great deal of peace, these cars generally tend to be more expensive than if one were to buy the same model through, for example, an online marketplace.
How to Finance a Used Car
There are two routes to go through when financing your used car: through the dealership itself or a bank.
Financing Through a Bank
When looking for financing through a bank, it is a good idea to look at several banks rather than just one and see which bank is offering you the best interest rate. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of getting financing through a bank
Financing Through a Dealership
Financing through a dealership might be a better option for you if you go to a trusted dealership and want to take the car off the lot the same day. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of doing that:
The Buying Process
The buying process for a used car in Quebec is simple when buying from a dealership. It is as simple as going to the dealership with a valid Photo ID or a driver’s license and then the registration process is all that's needed to get taken care of once you have figured out the financing of your car. If you are purchasing from a private seller, it's recommended that you and the seller visit a SAAQ service outlet. Both of you must provide one piece of identification and the seller must show the existing vehicle registration. To register the car in your name, you’ll have to declare odometer reading.
Registration and Taxes
Before purchase, one should check if their vehicle is available for registration. The only way your vehicle would be ineligible for registration is if the buyer or the seller has an unpaid fine for an offence under the Highway Safety Code or under a municipal traffic or parking bylaw.
Registration at a Dealership
Registration when purchasing at a dealership is different from registration when purchasing from a private seller. When purchasing from a dealership, you will either get a temporary registration certificate, in which you go to a service outlet of the SAAQ (Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec) and get your vehicle registered. The other way is that the dealership uses the online registration portal by SAAQ called "SAAQclic-Commerçants", in which you do not need to visit a service center. You are also required to show a driver’s license or photo id when you are at the dealership. At registration, GST and QST taxes will be applied by the dealership and will be paid to the dealership. The GST is calculated based on the car’s purchase price while the QST is based on the sale price or the car’s value, whichever one is higher.
Registration Outside of a Dealership
Registration outside of a dealership requires you to visit an SAAQ service outlet shortly after the purchase of the vehicle and bring these things:
- Your driver's licence or another official photo ID document
- The Attestation de transaction avec un commerçant form
- the registration certificate signed by the former owner and the dealer
If you are under the age of 18, you must also bring the following form:
- The Consent of a Person Having Parental Authority form completed by your father, mother or legal guardian
- The Attestation de transaction avec un commerçant form
If you purchase a vehicle from a private seller, only the QST tax applies which is based on the sale price or the car’s value, whichever one is higher. This tax will be paid on registration at an SAAQ outlet.
Registration costs more if the vehicle classifies as a luxury vehicle. A luxury vehicle is one which:
- is worth more than $40,000
- has a net weight of 3,000 kg or less
- is less than 7 years old
This additional cost will be 1% of the vehicle’s value exceeding $40,000.
The SAAQ takes the following payment methods when you’re at a service outlet:
- Interac(debit card) - which might not be available in some outlets
- by one or more pre-authorized debits (a cheque specimen must be provided)
- by cheque or money order
Electric vehicles have specific federal and provincial incentives related to them should you purchase and EV. The Government of Canada can offer point-of-sale incentives of $2,500 to $5,000 for people who buy or lease an EV. The Government of Quebec also has a program for EVs called Roulez-Vert Program in which these rebates are included:
- For an electric vehicle, if the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is less than $60,000, you get a rebate up to $8,000
- For plug-in hybrid vehicles, if the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is less than $60,000 The amount of the rebate is calculated based on the capacity of the battery. This can mean a rebate of $500, $4,000, or $8,000.
- For hydrogen-powered vehicles, you get a rebate of $8,000
There are many decisions and checks made before buying a used car. It is important to keep all these caveats in mind when selecting a car of your choice. Hopefully, this guide has cleared up some confusion and given some clear insight into how to successfully make the right decision on choosing your next car.