HOW TO: Worry Free Used Car Shopping

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Buying anything used can feel just as worrisome as betting your life savings on the black jack table. You just never know the outcome… UNTIL NOW!

My first car was purchased off a used car lot located in a far from ideal neighborhood, from a far from ideal sales man. It was one of those moments where I fell in love with the idea of owning “that car” I would do nearly anything to get my butt into it (which included a payment of $500 a month for far too long). I was purchasing this car blind as I knew nothing about its past life, other than the imperfections I could see with my own two eyes. Looking back that was a pretty stupid bold move considering how much I was going to depend on it. I got lucky, it was a decent car and it served its purpose for the length of its life with me.

Fast forward to the present day, where technology runs our world, and shopping for a used car doesn’t have to be from that skeezy sales lot with the metallic bunting banner draped from corner to corner. Oh no people! It’s good, it’s real real good!  From all the research we’ve done, I feel that we are more than capable and ridiculously real people who hunted down, purchased and currently own a used car with great success.  The key to finding and buying a used vehicle is simply finding a way to “verify the facts” for yourself.

1. FIND, DRIVE & INSPECT

We used sites like Craigslist, Buy & Sell, Kijiji, and Facebook to hunt down a car we were after. Once we narrowed down the vehicle we wanted in our budget we contact the current owners and asked to view and give it a test drive. Once you’ve seen and driven the car you should be asking questions about its past life. Like has it been in any accidents, and if so, what was the damage, where, and who fixed it (get contact information)? You want to know if they have had any problems with the engine, what maintenance they have done on the vehicle and of course why they’re selling the car. If you are unsure of the vehicle’s past or where the condition currently sits you can call any dealer and have their in-house mechanics give the car a complete inspection for under $200. We called around to many dealers (based on the make of car) and they were all happy to check the car at the owner’s convenience for anywhere between $150 and $200.

…If everything pans out, next you’ll want to get the VIN, the vehicle identification number which can be found on the drivers side door jamb.

2. VERIFY ITS LIFE

You will want to check and verify the life of the vehicle especially if it’s been in an accident, or in our case if the vehicle was a rebuild. Checking to see the history of a car is key, I’d like to think everyone selling a used car is totally and completely honest, but let’s get real it’s not always the case. Head on over to CarProof.com and see if the car has been in any accidents or has any current liens on it (good information to know before you buy). CarProof is a quick and affordable way to find out information that will save you a ton in the long run. I literally did it on my phone while we waited for the mechanic to look the car over. Normally the cost is just over $50 for the complete report, but because we live in British Columbia ICBC charges extra for these reports, we paid an additional $20, so in the end it cost us $75. CarProof verified that the car had been in 2 accidents, 1 minor at 64,000 km and 1 major at 72,000 km which ICBC deemed at a write-off. It also told us that the vehicle actually came from island, Victoria, and that it had no liens on it in either Canada or the United States. With this information we contacted the dealership on the Island and with its VIN we were able to find out the maintenance done on the car at this shop. It told us everything we needed to know to feel comfortable with buying the car from this seller, which in our case was a body shop.

…we also learnt that CarProof has a pretty amazing, and free resource centre providing tons of great information on buying, selling, and owning a used car. Great little link to keep handy, even after you’ve bought your car.

3. MAKE YOUR OFFER

Head back to all the sites that you originally visited to hunt this vehicle down and see what others are selling similar cars, same make and model for. Base this on similar kilometers, same year, and of course any added elements to the car (fully loaded, low km, clean, accidents, etc). Head on over to CanadianBlackBook.com and check the “average asking price” of that exact vehicle, and make note. This will give you two great places to start making sense of and putting together an appropriate and fair offer. Make a mental note of how much you would be willing to pay for the car, in most cases the seller is going to counter your offer, that or flat out deny (ha! brace yourself). Make your offer and be sure to back it up with reasoning to why you feel the car is worth your suggested amount. Next, keep your fingers crossed and hope they agree.

We’re so lucky to have access to companies like CarProof that give us all peace of mind in making such purchases. Where before you would “hope for the best” now you can actually take matters into your own hands and verify its condition. Buying a used car is a great and affordable way to add another reliable car into your family. For us two things were key, safety and budget. We knew we would have to go used, and thanks to a bit of research online it left us feeling just as content as buying brand new.

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HAVE YOU EVER thought about adding another vehicle to your family?  If so, I hope our tips help in making your decision a more calculated and comfortable one. Nothing wrong with buying anything used as long as you know its past.

Disclosure :: This post was created in partnership with CarProof, as always, the opinions are completely my own.

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