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Buying a used car in Canada

If you’ve recently arrived in Canada you may need a car that meets your lifestyle, work, and family transportation needs. And buying a used car may be a better option than buying a brand new car, especially when you need to manage your expenses as you transition to life in Canada.

But before you buy a used car it’s helpful to think about your needs so that you can find a good car that fits your budget. Buying a used car comes with additional factors to consider. No one wants to buy what they think is a good car only to get stuck with a lemon. If you decide that it’s essential to own a car, here’s what you need to know and do before you buy a used car in Canada. 

10 Things To Do When Buying a Used Car In Canada

 1. Set a Budget

How much you want to pay for a vehicle will help you to narrow down the types of vehicles that are in your price range. Also, when you set a limit to how much you’re willing to spend on a car you won’t be tempted to overspend. Carefully managing your money when you first arrive in Canada is a key priority.

2. Determine How You’ll Pay for the Car: Cash, Loan, or Finance?

Determine how you plan to pay for your used vehicle. Do you want to pay cash? Do you need to take out a car loan? If you do, where are you going to get it – car dealer, bank, or another type of lender? 

3. Decide the Type of Vehicle You Want

You can get almost any car brand, make, or model on the used market. Spend some time to narrow down the type of vehicle you want to purchase. 

Ensure you are buying the right vehicle for your needs. A good used car can offer years of service at an affordable price to help transition into Canada at a time when finances may be tight. Think affordability. Also, it’s important to know that the type of vehicle you buy can affect your insurance costs.

A small car will suit a single person or couple.  If you have a growing family think about a mid-size car with a bigger back seat and a larger trunk.  Mini-vans are ideal if you have a couple of children or an extended family comprised of adults. Minivans offer multiple seats from seven to eight and a larger cargo area.

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are a lifestyle choice for some who like the styling and four-wheel-drive that is suitable for driving in Canadian winters. If you have moved to a region of Canada with harsh, snowy winters or live in a rural area with hills and rough roads an SUV may be ideal. Bear in mind, small four-cylinder cars with a manual transmission are still the most fuel-efficient and affordable cars to buy and maintain.

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4. Read Reviews

Before you look for a car, ensure you are armed with as much information about the specific make and model of vehicle that interests you.  Tools such as Canadian automotive websites and the Canadian Black Book, list the value for used vehicles of different types according to age and condition.

Look up vehicles you are interested in and check for manufacturer recalls in the past and common problems that need fixing. Your research will reveal which cars are good or bad and could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the future. Reliability is important when buying a used vehicle. Stick to brands and models that have proven to last the test of time. There are websites you can use to see the top used cars such as Autos.ca, and CARFAX

5. Research Insurance Costs

 Insurance costs vary based on the car you drive. Be aware of how much it will cost to insure the used car before buying it. 

6. Take a Test Drive

Always take a car out for a test drive before you buy it. You should feel comfortable behind the wheel. There is a big difference between how a car looks and how it feels when you are driving it. The test drive also gives you the opportunity to test out vehicle components to make sure everything is working as advertised. 

On the test drive, try the vehicle out on different road surfaces and at various speeds to check steering, engine noise, vibrations, transmission problems, brakes, shock absorbers, and front-end alignment. Do a few emergency stops and listen closely for transmission, engine, and suspension noises that could indicate trouble ahead. If the vehicle pulls to one side and the steering does not center itself this could spell alignment issues or have been caused by a previous accident.

7. Get the Used Car Checked by a Licensed Mechanic

Always get any used car checked out by a trusted mechanic. You never know what is going on under the hood. A mechanic can tell you if the car is in good shape and if there are upcoming repairs that will need to be done. 

If you feel positive about the vehicle, take it to a mechanic you trust or a diagnostic center for a thorough inspection before you buy it. A good mechanic will do a thorough check of the car to identify any problems and suggest what work that may be needed to keep the car safe and reliable.

8. Follow the Steps to Transfer Ownership for a Used Car in Canada

There is more to transferring ownership than just handing over the cash when you buy a used car in Canada.  You need to follow several steps to transfer ownership. These will vary based on your provincial regulations. 

9. Get the UVIP if Buying from a Private Seller

Always ask to see the seller’s Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP). This will give you an overview of the history of the car. Check the Vehicle Insurance Number (VIN), registration, and lien information to make sure the car is clean. It also serves as the bill of sale. 

10. Negotiate the Price for Used Cars in Canada

Regardless of whether you are buying a new or used car, the price is always negotiable. Make an offer you believe is fair and see if the seller is willing to accept it. Buying a used car in Canada is a negotiation. 

Consider the value of the vehicle from official trade journals such as the Canadian Black book taking into account: age, mileage, general condition, upgrades or extra features- minus any defects, or mechanical issues, you see and the mechanic’s report finds out.

Use any flaws in the vehicle to bargain and reach a price both you and the seller are comfortable with. Remember to be calm and rational and not be let emotion enter into the decision, no matter how much you like the car. You do not want to overpay for it.

Evaluate any counteroffer by the seller, but be prepared to walk away if need be, unless you feel inherently the car is worth the money the seller is asking.

If you do not buy the vehicle, be philosophical about it. The used car business is larger than the new car business. And there are plenty of other good used vehicles out there for you. With good basic research and a cautious, knowledgeable approach you can find a decent vehicle to fit your needs at a price within your budget.

When you follow these tips, you’ll be confident that you’re spending money wisely on a used car that will meet your driving needs in Canada.

For information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle in Canada successfully!