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Aug 7, 2018

6 min. read

Legions of people firmly believe buying a used car is a much smarter decision than purchasing a brand-new machine. While each situation is different, signing the note on a second-hand automobile is not without merit.

Finding a great vehicle that’s been previously loved need not involve bags of good luck and a séance with the Ouija board either. While there is no Patron Saint of Driveshafts, a bit of research and preparedness can help you choose wisely.

Know what you want.

Are you looking for a simple commuter appliance? Something that’ll haul your trailer? A machine with room for future family growth? It’s important to carefully consider the tasks for which you’re going to use your new ride, lest wind up with a machine even less useful than Tesla’s rescue submarine. Uttering the words “I’m not sure what we’re looking for,” while shopping for a used car is akin to walking around a Las Vegas casino with an open wallet.

Research your selection.

Once you’ve nailed down a couple of options, seek out the advice and opinions of people who have reviewed or, better still, actually own that type of car. A quick survey of a few friends that have already spent their hard-earned cheddar on the make and model you’re considering is time well spent. Ask why they bought the car, if there have been any problems, and if they would change anything about it.

A man and woman sitting in the driver's seat of a car.

Set a budget.

Now you’ve identified a couple of machines that you’re interested, it’s time to figure out how much you can afford on this purchase. Be certain to take all aspects of car ownership into account, including running costs and insurance. That flashy red coupe might be in the realm of affordability but may stretch your financial limits once crash coverage is added. Big wheels and tires look cool until they leave a smoking hole in your bank account at replacement time.

Mechanic’s delight.

Your humble author is no stranger to getting swept up in the excitement of selecting a new car, proceeding to lose all perspective and good reasoning in the face of shiny sheetmetal. This is why bringing in a detached third-party is very important. CAA can help by assisting with the booking of a 139-point inspection at your local AARS facility. Here, one will find mechanics who will inspect the apple of your eye for defects that may cause problems down the road.

Whether one is buying from a dealer or private individual, make sure to thoroughly inspect all the paperwork you’re being asked to sign. With a private sale, ensure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is correct and make sure the person with whom you’re dealing has the right to, y’know, actually sell the car. At a dealer, look over the documents to ensure you’re satisfied with the deal and no rogue fees have crept into the selling price.

Above all else, take your time. There might not be a patron saint of used cars, but due diligence and good planning will help you make a great decision.

CAA’s Consumer and Technical Services (CATS) team provides Members with free automotive advice. If you have questions about car care, buying a new or used vehicle, auto repairs, vehicle inspection, driving costs and more, contact CATS by phone 1-866-464-6448 or email: cats@caasco.ca.

Written by: Mathew Guy

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