7 Important Steps To Take Before Buying A Used Car

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Buying a vehicle is a big decision and an important investment. With the high and fast depreciation rate of new vehicles, many buyers consider used vehicles as an option. According to a report by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., used car vehicles sales in Canada totaled $37.2 billion in 2015, accounting for 60% of total vehicle sales. The used vehicle market has been growing much faster than new vehicle market and will continue to do so.

While it might be a more economic choice for some, the decision of selecting and purchasing a used vehicle needs to be made carefully. Used cars that are sold with hidden damage can become costly for the consumer in the long run.  In order to avoid purchasing the proverbial lemon, here are steps you should take before buying a used vehicle.

Step One: Do your research

Two decades ago, technology had not advanced to the point where all information could be available at our fingertips. However, in 2017, before even leaving your home to purchase a vehicle, you can search all different makes and models available in the market, desired features, specifications, benefits, and promotions. Research consumer and auto reviews on autoTRADER, Edmunds, MotorTrend and Auto123. The manufacturer’s website can also be a great source of information for prospective buyers. While the website might not have the information on the year you are looking for, it can give you a well-rounded idea of the range of features available by the automaker and which specifications and features you would like to have and which ones you can live without. The frequency and nature of what you intend to use the vehicle for will also influence what your needs are versus your wants.

Research consumer and auto reviews on autoTRADER, Edmunds, MotorTrend and Auto123.

If you’re planning on buying a vehicle that is less than 5 years old, consider one that’s certified pre-owned. CPO vehicles have long-term warranties that are backed by the car manufacturers, not just the dealership selling to you. It’s important to note that CPO vehicles will be slightly more expensive than a regular used vehicle.

Come into a dealership having an idea of your “must-haves” and “like to-haves.”

Come into a dealership having an idea of your “must-haves” and “like to-haves.” However, even if you don’t do your starter research before coming in, our salespeople are understanding, knowledgeable and patient and will answer all your questions, without any obligation. You can book a no-obligation test drive at our location at any time here.

Step Two: Know your budget

Determine how much you can spend on a vehicle. Keep in mind, that unless you are going to make a full cash payment, you will most likely be making weekly or bi-weekly payments on your vehicle. Have a general idea for how much your monthly allotment is considering insurance and car payments.

Step Three: Check the dealer

Before going into a dealership, ensure that the business is licensed by the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC).

Before going into a dealership, ensure that the business is licensed by the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC). AMVIC is Alberta’s automotive industry regulator. Automotive businesses are legally required to be licensed by AMVIC and each sales person is required to be registered with AMVIC. Licensed businesses are held accountable to high standards of professional conduct, honesty and integrity and offer the consumers protection in the case of a bad or dishonest sale.

Step Four: Check Vehicle Paperwork and Reports

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a vehicle’s fingerprint. The combination of the 17 letters and numbers are unique to each vehicle and represent a number of facts about the vehicle, such as the model year, ownership and country built. Make sure the VIN on the dashboard identification plate matches that on the vehicle registration form and that it has not been tampered with. You can check online here. Tampering may indicate a stolen vehicle. The VIN will also reveal if there are any outstanding liens on the vehicle. However, you can leave these worries behind when you deal with a licensed dealership.

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a vehicle’s fingerprint.

Check car proofs as they will provide you with the history of the vehicle, status of liens, stolen vehicle check, import records and any information on the damage that the car has sustained in the past, whether it is minor damage, structural damage from an accident, collision or damage to the vehicle. Also ask for an inspection copy. In a dealership environment, you do not need to worry about buying a car under dishonest pretenses since it is illegal for a dealership to sell a used vehicle without conducting an inspection.

Step Five: Thorough inspection of aesthetics: Inside and Out

Outside

The car should be inspected in broad daylight. The vehicle should be clean so the paint condition is visible. Inspect the car body for any signs of rust, dents, ripples or scratches. Also run your finger along the edges of the joints between panels. Roughness can indicate residue left from tape.

The vehicle should be clean so the paint condition is visible. Inspect the car body for any signs of rust, dents, ripples or scratches.

Check if the vehicle’s body seems to have a fresh coat of paint or mismatched paint. This can indicate that the seller is trying to hide something about the body’s condition. Press down on each corner of the vehicle. If it continues to bounce, the shock absorbers may need replacing. Lastly, check for any visible leaks or corrosion. This can indicate expensive repairs in the future.

Unevenly worn tires can indicate bad alignment, caused by a worn steering or suspension components or frame damage.

Check the tires. They should be worn evenly and they should match. Unevenly worn tires can indicate bad alignment, which could have been caused by a worn steering or suspension components or frame damage. Bumpers and panels should line up. If they don’t, it can indicate that the vehicle was in a collision.

Inside

For the entire interior of the vehicle, check the driver and passenger cabins, along with the condition of the trunk. Check the upholstery of the vehicle for any tears, rips stains or any other form of damage. Keep in mind that since this is a used car, wear and tear comes with the package. However, know how much wear and tear you are comfortable with and if it is something you are not willing to accept, either decide if you will be willing to spend the money to fix it or move on to considering another vehicle.

Check the odometer for the vehicle’s mileage. An average vehicle is driven between 16,000 to 25,000 km per year.

Inspect the electronics, such as the radio, music and speaker system and window and seat controls of the vehicle and ensure they are all in working order. Check the odometer for the vehicle’s mileage. An average vehicle is driven between 16,000 to 25,000 km per year. You should be wary if the vehicle shows a particularly low mileage for its age or if the signs of wear and tear are not consistent with the odometer reading.

Request the dealership to conduct a Mechanical Fitness Assessment of the used vehicle. At a dealership, this is done at no-cost or no-obligation to the customer.

Lastly, if you have not been offered one yet, request the dealership to conduct a Mechanical Fitness Assessment of the used vehicle. At a dealership, this is done at no-cost or no-obligation to the customer. An assessment is completed by a licensed journeyman technician and assesses more than 60 vehicle equipment parts, including equipment in the power train, lamps, instruments, brakes, steering, suspension, tires and wheels, frame and body and electrical. The assessment is valid for 120 days. Private sellers are not required to provide a mechanical fitness assessment.

Step Six: Take it for a Test Drive

Test driving the vehicle is perhaps one of the best ways to test all the critical vehicle functions and if they are performing as they should. Check for the following things when taking the vehicle out for a test drive:

  • The vehicle starts immediately and idles smoothly once it’s warm.
  • Check electric systems. Check that all the warning and signal lights, parking sensors, reverse camera (if applicable), radio and any music installation or sound system work prior to driving. Also, check for excessive exhaust smoke and unusual noises, especially when accelerating.
  • Air conditioning. Does the cooling and heating system work?
  • Steering wheel. Does the steering stiffen up and bind? If the vehicle has power steering, there should be no squeaks or moans.
  • Check all available gears. If the car is an automatic, the gear changes should be quick, smooth and almost silent.
  • Test the brakes. Are they in working order? If they pull to one side, it might indicate an alignment issue. Brake on a hill and look for any slippage. There should be no vibration from the brake pedal or any squealing or strange noise.
  • After the test drive, check for any leaks in the engine bay and underneath the vehicle.

Step Seven: Don’t be too quick to pull the trigger

To avoid buyer’s remorse, take your time looking at every aspect of the used vehicle. Take the time to do your research and negotiate the best price or financing options with any options of warranties that may extend beyond the initial new coverage.

Keep in mind that when purchasing a used vehicle, it will come with maintenance cost.

Also keep in mind that when purchasing a used vehicle, it will come with maintenance cost. Although this cost is the usual cost of ownership with any car, it is more so with a used car. You may find yourself spending more in maintenance on a vehicle that already has a few thousand kilometers on it. This frame of mind will avoid you from having buyer’s remorse or regret down the road.

Bring a friend with you. A third-person’s point of view will provide you with objectivity and an extra pair of eyes during inspection.

The more information you have about the vehicle, the better. After completing all these steps, if you are still not satisfied with the proofs and inspection reports and the assessment done at the dealership, get an independent technician to inspect it. Also, if you are someone who is not too familiar or knowledgeable about cars, bring a friend with you who is. A third-person’s point of view will provide you with objectivity and an extra pair of eyes during inspection.

At Okotoks Nissan, we pride ourselves in providing the best customer service and utmost customer satisfaction pre- and post- a vehicle sale. Browse our massive selection of over 750 used vehicles online: http://www.okotoksnissan.com/used-inventory/index.htm. You’re sure to find one that suits your needs and budget!

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