Top 10 Tips On Buying A Used Car From a Dealer.

Top 10 Tips On Buying A Used Car From a Dealer.

Most customers choose to buy a used car from a franchised dealership rather than privately. The knowledge that that their purchase will be backed up by a dealership, that the vehicle has been mechanically inspected and reconditioned and in many cases will have additional warranties included or offered; gives the customer much more peace of mind knowing that all of the unknowns associated with buying a vehicle privately have been addressed.

So, now that you have decided to purchase a used car, SUV or truck from a dealership, how do you find the right car and get a great deal?

1. Research:

Do your research on the car or truck that you are interested in. Take a look at what might be some alternative vehicles that you may also want to consider. Read any and all consumer reports, web reviews and car magazine comparisons etc., of the vehicle or vehicles you are considering. Determine which dealerships have the best pricing and value for the vehicle you are looking for.

There are numerous online portals where you can search to determine which dealerships have the exact vehicle that you are looking at and at what price. In Canada,,, and Craigslist are some of the most popular sites; but you can usually just Google the type of vehicle you are looking for along with a geographical identifier. With that you should find what you are looking for – i.e. “2015 Honda Civic Calgary for sale”.



2. Investigate:

Investigate the vehicle thoroughly – Look at more than just the price. What is the vehicle’s mileage and history? Has the vehicle been in an accident? A vehicle that has been in an accident isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Providing that it has been fixed properly, it may turn out to be a great deal. You will likely be able to buy it for less than other similar vehicles that haven’t been in an accident. Where did the vehicle originate? How many previous owners? Most good dealers will provide a copy or a link to the Carfax report right on their website which will give you all of this information.


3. Maintenance History:

Look at the maintenance history. Did the previous owner maintain it regularly?
What reconditioning did the dealership do? Again, better dealerships will provide you with a copy of the vehicles complete maintenance history along with a copy of the reconditioning that they completed when they acquired the vehicle.



4. Dealership Reputation:

Investigate the dealership. What is the dealership’s reputation?
You can find online reviews from other customer’s from Google, Dealerrater, and other 3rd party rating sites. A quick Google search will give you all you need to know about the dealership and how they treat their customers.


5. Dealership Policies:

What are the dealership’s policies? Does the dealer have a money back guarantee? Some dealers are now offering a 2 or 3 day money back guarantee if you take delivery and decide that the car or truck is not right for you. What about an exchange policy that would allow you to exchange the vehicle within a specified period of time?  If the dealership won’t offer either then we suggest that you find a dealership that will.


6. Is the Vehicle Certified?:

Is it a Certified used vehicle? Many dealers offer a certified used vehicle program through their manufacturer. While you pay a premium for a certified used vehicle, it may be worthwhile. Benefits include a more comprehensive reconditioning program, an extended power-train warranty that gives you more protection than the existing manufacturer’s warranty and often includes a lower interest rate offer for financing.

7. Financing:

Financing. Determine what your monthly budget is before looking at the vehicle and make sure that the vehicle will fit within that budget. You may want to go online and calculate what your approximate monthly payment will be on the vehicle that you are interested in. Don’t forget to add sales tax to the price of the vehicle and to deduct your down payment from the amount financed.

Some good rules of thumb for finance terms on used vehicles in Canada are:

• Current model (2019) and one year old (2018) = maximum term of 96 months
• 2016 to 2017 = 84 months
• 2015 = 72 months
• 2014 = 60 months
• 2012 to 2013 = 48 months
• Older units = Generally 36 months if available?

Interest rates will vary but a rule of thumb is the newer the vehicle, the better the interest rate.

Providing you have good credit, you should be able to get a rate of 6 – 7% for newer used vehicles (2015 and newer) and 7 – 8% for 2009 – 2011 vehicles. The rate that you qualify will also depend on your credit rating.  If your vehicle is a Certified Used Vehicle you may be able to get an even lower rate subsidized by the manufacturer.

8. The Test Drive:

Test drive and Inspect. Now that you have narrowed it down to a few vehicles, contact the dealership by phone or e-mail and set up an appointment to view and test drive. Don’t just show up as you may be wasting your time if the vehicle has already been sold or is otherwise not available. Set a specific time with the dealership so that you have a Sales rep that is ready for you, has the vehicle ready for you to test drive.

9. Physically Inspect:

Assess the vehicle. Has the vehicle been detailed (cleaned) properly? Are there any visible dings or dents? Often a few dings or dents is part of buying a used car; while excessive damage should throw up a flag that the dealer has taken short cuts mechanically. A perfect car aesthetically could also have mechanical short comings. So use your best judgment. After all it’s cheaper to repair a few dents and perform paint touch ups than it is to replace or repair mechanical items. Don’t let the shiny car fool you, on the other hand, don’t rule out the vehicle with a few imperfections.


10. Final Negotiation:

Keep Your Eye on The Prize. Keep all of the above items in mind when making the decision to move forward. Dealer’s vary immensely on negotiation. Many will not move on their pricing by providing you with their best price up front. Others may offer discounts off their asking price but you may be forced to negotiate to get it.

Ask the dealership for a market value analysis.  They should be willing to provide a print out of similar vehicles in the market that compares how there vehicle is priced versus other dealers and/or private listers.

At the end of the day, if you have done your research, you will know what vehicle is the best value for you regardless of whether the vehicle was discounted or not.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a vehicle is priced considerably below other similar vehicles in the market, there is a likely a good reason for it. Make sure that you understand why before going ahead.


That’s it! You are now ready to buy a great used car, get a great deal, and buy a car that you won’t regret.