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Buying a Car

Automobile Purchases

 An express warranty on an automobile can be part of a contract, or appear as a public statement (e.g. an advertisement). This public statement is considered to form part of the contract.

The subsequent owner of an automobile has the same rights under the express warranty as if they were the original purchaser. No fee can be charged for a warranty transfer.

Great deals can often be found when buying a used car. To avoid disappointment, though, you must be prepared to do your homework. This is true whether you are buying from a used car dealer or a former owner.

If you're thinking of buying a used car, shop carefully. Think about why you want a car, and what type of car will best suit your needs.

One of the first things you'll think about will be the cost. When you decide how much you can afford to pay, remember you have to consider more than the price tag. Remember the cost of registration fees, licence plates, taxes, insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repairs, parking fees and interest if you're buying on credit.

Homework is Essential

Make sure you know the market value of the car you want to buy. Look over car prices by reading the classifieds in newspapers, and study trade magazines. Check your local library for the Gold Book of Used Car Prices and the Canadian Red Book for price ranges. As well, visit a number of dealers for price ranges.

Give yourself enough time to thoroughly check out the car. Don't buy at night, in the rain, or if you are too cold, too wet or too busy to study your choice. Always take the car for a test drive. Always have a mechanic check the car, particularly the underneath.

On the Outside

Look for signs of an accident, such as dents or new paint or chrome. Make sure the hood closes properly. Check the body for rust or fill.

Look under the car. Check for cracks in the frame, rusting or welding. Check the condition of the muffler, tailpipe and exhaust system. Look for signs of fluids leaking from the car, including oil, brake or transmission fluid.

Push down the corners of the car to check the shock absorbers. If the car bounces up and down several times, the shocks are worn.

Open the trunk. Check for a jack and the condition of the spare tire. Check for rust under the mats. Look at the tires closely for any signs of uneven wear.

On the Inside

Lift the hood and check the condition of the belts and hoses. Check the battery to see if it is cracked. Pull out the dipstick to see the oil level, and whether it's dirty.

Check the parts and accessories, such as lights, horn, mirrors, seatbelts, radio, heater and windows. Make sure they all work. Have a friend check the outside lights for you. Make sure doors open and close easily, and that handles and locks work well.

Check the dimmer switch, headlights and windshield washer. You should also check the odometer. It is against the law to change the odometer, and if you think someone has tampered with it, call the RCMP.

Take A Test Drive

Test drive the car on different types of roads. Make sure the engine starts right away, and there are no unusual noises or vibrations. Be alert to shaky steering. It could mean front-end trouble.

Test the brakes for signs of pulling. A brake pedal that looks worn out should not be found in a car with low mileage. If the car has a manual transmission, push the clutch through various gears to see how it performs. If the car has manual steering, remember city driving and parallel parking can be difficult, so try and test drive the car under many conditions.

Run a Lien Check Online on the Vehicle Identification Number

When buying a used car, consumers should protect themselves by ensuring there are no outstanding liens against the car (for example: an unpaid loan). If there is an outstanding lien, the car could be seized of repossessed - even if you paid full price to the seller. The Lien Check service can be used to search for loans against cars, boats, trailers, mobile homes, aircraft, and outboard motors. Liens on personal property are recorded by the person or company who loaned money to the current owner. If you are buying from a reputable used car dealer, they will usually do the Lien check for you, but you should confirm this before buying the car.

A Stolen Car

Always check the serial number on the Vehicle Registration card. Make sure it corresponds to the number on the car. Make sure the person who is selling the car actually owns it, and is not trying to sell a leased vehicle.

Making an Offer

If you decide to buy, you can make an offer in writing, or verbally. If there are conditions to your offer, write them down. For example, if you want your mechanic to inspect the car before the sale is final (and you have not already had the car checked out), make the mechanic's approval a condition of the sale. If you need to borrow money to buy, make your offer subject to getting credit at a reasonable rate.

The seller may ask for a deposit. Make sure you state in your offer that the deposit will be refunded if the mechanic does not approve the car, or if you do not get the financing.

As part of the offer, suggest the seller grant a 30-day warranty. The warranty should say that the seller will take the car back should any major problems arise with the engine or other parts of the car. This type of warranty would not cover accidents while the car is in your possession.

The Purchase

Many people buy a used car by simply writing a cheque and getting the seller to sign the registration transfer form. Be sure you get a bill of sale when you buy a used car. It can help protect you in case anything is disputed later. The bill of sale should contain the date of the sale, the name and address of both the buyer and the seller, the make, model, serial number and year of the car, the number of kilometers on the car, the purchase price and method of payment.

Any important promises or statements about the car should also be included. For example, if the seller says the car has a new engine, put it on the bill of sale. Also, be sure to get any warranties in writing, and make sure the car warranty can be transferred. Get any warranties relating to the muffler, transmission or rust proofing from the seller.

Change in Ownership

Always ask the seller for the Certificate of Registration document. This document is required to transfer the vehicle ownership. The certificate also provides the purchaser a chance to confirm vehicle ownership.

Check the front of the Certificate of Registration for vehicle "branding" names. This is part of the national stolen and wrecked vehicle program. You may see such branding names as: reconstructed vehicle, salvage vehicle, rebuilt vehicle. If you see one of these branding names, you should discuss it with the seller. You can also contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles to confirm branding name and what it means.

The seller should sign over the Certificate of Registration. You have 30 days to register the change in ownership at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and pay the provincial sales tax. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, the seller must send in the notice of sale portion of the Certificate of Registration to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The purchase price or the Canadian Red Book wholesale value, whichever is greater, will be used as the sales price for determining provincial sales tax, which is payable upon transfer of ownership and registration.

If you feel the vehicle is not worth the Red Book wholesale value, you can have the vehicle appraised by a certified appraiser and present it to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The cost of an appraisal is about $50.