Questions To Ask Before Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is obviously a different sort of process than buying new, however, if you have a list of questions to ask before buying a used car, they will go a long way in helping you avoid the expensive pitfalls. One thing to remember (well among other things), there is NO such thing as a stupid question, so if something comes to mind don’t hesitate to ask.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Car

1. CarProof Please!

THIS IS HUGE and sadly very few people ask to see it. The CarProof is a report that provides you with the history of the vehicle in terms of what Provinces the car has been registered in, if there are any liens showing on the vehicle and if it was a car brought in from the US. The other piece of information that is important to you is if the car has been in an accident. If it has been reported through insurance, then it will be on the CarProof. Dealerships must tell you if the car has been in an accident where the damage is $3000.00 or above, it’s the law. Regardless, you still want to see it with your own eyes!

One last thing about the CarProof to keep in the back of your mind. I have gone car shopping with clients/friends and family and have run into this several times we have asked to see the CarProof:

a. “when you buy the car you can see the CarProof.” (that’s crap)

b. “another customer took it with him accidentally, we’re waiting for him to bring it back” (again … crap)

c. “we can’t afford to run CarProofs, they are way expensive, the car is good, no accidents on it” (yet again, don’t fall for it)

I don’t care how excellent the car looks, that it’s the one of your dreams and you just gotta have it in your life … walk away. Running a CarProof on a car is a cost of doing business. The initial cost to run one is $45.00, if it goes missing (it was here but a customer took it … ya ya that’s the picture), it costs 0 to run it again. If a dealer can’t afford to run a CarProof, again … then they shouldn’t be in business. I haven’t come across this with the “traditional dealers” mainly with the smaller “XYZ Car Sales” type lots. Regardless, if you come across this anywhere it is a sign that if they can’t do this simple thing, then you are in for a heap of hassle and you don’t need it!

2. Was this a Daily Rental, Taxi, Police or Emergency Services Vehicle?

Again, dealerships are required to tell you this. Why is this one of the questions to ask before buying a used car? Well, because you aren’t the original owner you certainly want to know because it will give you an indication as to how the vehicle was driven and what it was put through. From there you can certainly make up your mind to walk away and find something else.

3. What is the In-Service Date?

This is the date the vehicle was initially put on the road. You want to know this so you can determine if there is still manufacturer’s warranty left on the vehicle or not. I am a strong believer in the extended warranty, especially when buying a used car. You are not the original driver and while the car looks like it is in good shape and the kms are low for the year of the vehicle, you still don’t know how well the vehicle was taken care of. Now, you’re probably thinking … “well no worries, I have a 30 day warranty from the Dealer.” Uh, in a lot of cases you don’t, unless you have haggled on that. So, protect yourself and get an extended warranty, like anything else you can negotiate on that too.

4. Is Anything Else Included Besides the Safety and E-Test?

Some dealerships will offer you an incentive as a “thank you for doing business with them,” how cool is that! It’s good to know because you don’t want to negotiate oil changes for, example, when they are already included.

5. What Other Fees Are There?

Typically there may be an Admin/Prep Fee and your license. Again, it is good to know when you are negotiating on the price. These fees vary from one dealer to the next, however, knowing that they are there will set the pace for you in trying to get those waived or at least dropped down. If they aren’t able to take the fees off, then they should/may be able to reduce the price of the car at least.

6. What Are the Current Interest Rates?

Used cars are subject to the current Bank Rates. You’ll want to know this to determine if you use a line of credit if you have one and what your payment will be and can you afford it. Keep in mind a couple of things:

a. Interest rate is based on YOUR credit. If you have had a bankruptcy or consumer proposal and have just been discharged or about to, a traditional bank will not, typically, offer you financing. If they do, it won’t be at the current bank rate, expect it to be higher.

b. Length of the financing term (i.e. 36/48/60 up to 96 months) is determined by the year of the car you are buying. You’ll want to know this because again, if you were planning on spreading your payments out over 72 months and because of the year of the car, the banks will only give you 60 months, you need to figure out if that payment is still manageable.

c. If you’re using your line of credit, keep in mind that statistics show that it takes 13 years to pay off a line of credit when you use it for financing a car. Reason being is that once we pay it down a little we use it again. Also, if you have some sort of an emergency those “funds” aren’t as readily available because you have used it to finance your car buy. I have seen people come in and pay cash using their LOC (line of credit) and I really cringe. While it may look like the best option … you really need to think about it. If you are that disciplined where you are going to pay it off as you would a regular car loan, awesome! All I’m “sayin” is, weigh the pro’s and con’s before you write the cheque.

So, we have six questions to ask before buying a used car to get us rolling here. This list is by no means finished, we will certainly add to it as time goes on. In the meantime if you have run into a situation where you aren’t quite sure if it’s correct, or just want to get another opinion, fire it in and ask. We will certainly get back to you and help you out!

What are some of the “questions to ask before buying a used car” that you use? Share your’s and let’s help everyone avoid the expensive pitfalls.




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About Ryder

Serving in the Canadian Air Force, retiring after 20 years and now in the auto industry for the past seven years has certainly been an experience. Coming from a disciplined environment where I was required to explain things in detail, step by step to one that was relaxed was an adjustment to say the least. I mean it was only a matter of time before I got called into the Sales Manager's office and told "Ryder, you can't tell a customer to drop and give you 20"

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