Clutch’s Guide to Used Car Buying – 9 Insider Tips You Should Know

Purchasing a new or used vehicle is no small feat. For most Canadians, it will be the second largest purchase of their lives after a home. Clutch Canada believes that buying your first car should be just as exciting as buying your first home. Unfortunately for most, this is not the case, and many are taken advantage of. Many customers leave dealerships with a bad taste in their mouth once the paperwork is signed. They often drive away left wondering ‘did I get a good deal?’ or ‘did I just buy a lemon?’.

Clutch’s 9-Point Guide

This simple 9-point guide is here to help ‘you’, the customer make an informed decision and highlight things you should watch out for or avoid when shopping for a used/new vehicle:

1. Online Research

Always do your research before stepping on a dealership’s lot! This is the easiest way to know if you’re getting a good deal. With the internet today, there is a lot of information available. Places like Autotrader, Kijiji, and automotive forums will allow you to see the average market price of the vehicle you’re looking for. This will allow you to compare prices before you actually step foot in a dealership. Bring the examples with you as evidence – show the dealership, and you’ll be steering the conversation.

2. Inspection Reports

Many dealers will advertise 100-point or more inspections done to their vehicles. This is a trend starting to pop up everywhere. However, the reality is most dealers will say these ‘inspections’ are being done when in reality it’s just a marketing gimmick. The easiest way to avoid getting fooled into believing your car went through a rigorous inspection report is to demand proof. Ask to see the inspection report for the vehicle. If there is no hard copy or record that they can show you, then there is your first red flag to stay away!

3. CarProof

Always, and we mean ALWAYS, demand to see a full CarProof History on the vehicle. If the dealership will not provide a CarProof history report, then there is usually something wrong. CarProof’s will give you a full accident and service history of the car, showing any damage claims, how many owners it had and where it was bought and serviced. This is the easiest way to avoid buying a lemon.

4. Watch Out For Payment Packing

The most common unethical practice in the dealership world is called payment packing, this occurs at almost every dealership. The first thing you will notice is when payments are presented to you it is generally on a sheet of paper with only your monthly or bi-weekly payment written down and no other details. Dealers will try and work you on strictly payment, not the overall amount financed. This is so they don’t have to disclose any hidden fees or extra products they have packaged into the payments until you are already signing the paperwork in the office, at which point most people are so tired or eager to take their new vehicle they will just end up singing and deal with it later. You can end up with thousands of extras you didn’t even ask for. As soon as you start talking numbers, always demand a full disclosure worksheet, with all the fees and numbers broken out.

5. Free Add-Ons

Always be cautious of dealers that say they are including things free with the purchase of their vehicles. Examples sometimes include tire protections, insurance, etch, undercoat etc. Read through your disclosure worksheets and contract work carefully, usually you will see these charges hidden in the paperwork. Not all dealers are dishonest, but always take precautions. If it is too good to be true, generally it is.

6. Always A Sale? Hmm…

Ever notice when you drive past a dealership there is always some type of sale going on, no matter what week or month it is? That is because there is always a ‘sale’ happening, or so they want you to believe. It is always the ‘BIGGEST SALE OF THE YEAR’. Don’t be fooled by these sale tactics – a dealership is always willing to discount every month of the year. Next time you’re at the dealership, ask them why they haven’t taken down their sale flags in the last 6 months.

7. Trade-Ins

If you are planning to trade your vehicle in at a dealership, you can generally expect a wholesale value on your vehicle. There are a lot of tricks a dealer can play on you with your trade value. If you demand more for your trade and they raise the value by thousands, there is a good chance they are just applying manufacturer discounts that you should’ve been given off the selling price. Instead, they are applying them to your trade number to give you the false sense that they have ‘stepped’ up on your trade number. This technique applies more to ‘new’ vehicle purchases. Again, make sure to do your research online and see what discounts are being offered and make sure they are all applied before the trade. The best way is to work your numbers without a trade-in, then mention you plan on trading afterwards, so there is now no way the dealer can inflate your trade value

8. Non-Refundable Deposits

Don’t let a salesperson pressure you on the spot to buy that day, take your time and think about it. Don’t be fooled by non-refundable deposits (which are illegal). A common trend across dealers is that they will ask for a non-refundable credit card deposit in order to give you their “best price”. A deposit should only be given to hold a vehicle for a few days while you think about it, not to be nailed down on a car in a high-pressure situation

9. The Test Drive

The last point of our guide will seem like an obvious one but is still overlooked – the test drive. Make sure you take the vehicle on a similar trip to your daily drive. Low speeds, high speeds, stops and starts. There is no harm in taking out multiple vehicles; most people don’t buy the first home they walk into, so why should you buy the first car you drive?

– The Clutch Team