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Some Basics on Purchasing a vehicle or selling.

  1. Ensure to purchase from an OMVIC certified dealer within Ontario. UCDA sign present. If the dealer won’t show you proof of registration, move on. Visit or call 416-226-4500 or 1-800-943-6002 to see if a dealer is registered.

    Many are also members of the Used Car Dealers Association, which has a list of car-buying tips at, along with ways to identify ‘curbsiders,’ unregistered dealers masquerading as private sellers.
  2. Ensure to review the car during day light hours in clear weather preferably.  In the night it’s hard to see issues or concerns with the car. If it isn’t available for a second look on a dry day, walk away.
  3. Fresh undercoating. It can hide a multitude of sins. Sellers may states just had it undercoated for my new buyer, meaning just had my issues covered up so you cant tell. You might be purchasing problems beneath it. Rust iisues, holes, poor body work.
  4. Bumpers and panels that don’t line up. These can indicate a car that’s been in a collision. Look for possible signs of repair, including areas that are a different colour, trim pieces that look newer than the rest, paint overspray, or ripples in the body.
  5. No road test. No buy.  You need to feel the vehicle, listen for issues. Handling and braking should be felt. Manufacturer features, functions, and accessories. Take time on the road test and try them out. Ask the seller about all the features.  See if they start commenting “we’ll this doesn’t work, and that doesn’t work” . Items like: heated seat(s), cooling seat(s), rear seat belts, fold down seating, lay away seating, all positions movement of seats, All interior lighting, radio and all radio features, navigation system and blue tooth pairing system, fuel door, truck and hood release functions. Auto sliding doors side and rear, remote control key fobs and do all features work with fobs on car. See if equipped with Wheel lock keys and have owner show them to you and verify they fit.
  6. Puddles and smells.  Any leaks dripping during a safety inspection fail on a vehicle. However many people wash and clean engine of leaks prior to having safety inspection performed. European cars have large under vehicle covers that capture leaks and are not necessarily seen on the ground. A Technician should inspect this with the cover removed.
  7. Missing or incorrect paperwork. If you’re buying the vehicle certified, examine the safety certificate. It cannot have any blank areas and the vehicle information number (VIN) must match that of the car.

    Check the date of the safety. It expires after 36 days, weekends and holidays included. An unscrupulous seller might date it so it runs out shortly after you take delivery of the vehicle.

    If it’s a private sale, the seller needs to provide a Used Vehicle Information Package, obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which you keep when you buy the car.

    Make sure the seller’s name matches that in the package. If not, you may be dealing with a curbsider.

    The package will also tell you if the car was ever written off, if there are any outstanding liens against it, and if there is any reason why it can’t be licensed.

    Check the mileage on the package with the car’s odometer to be sure it lines up.

    Beware, too, if the seller can’t provide the vehicle’s service records, including maintenance and repairs.
  8. The ‘death rattle.’ That’s any rapping, tapping or banging sound coming out of the engine when it’s running, especially when it’s cold. Check the tailpipe; the exhaust shouldn’t be blue or black, or smell of antifreeze. Pull out the oil dipstick, and pass on the car if the oil looks creamy-white, which can indicate an internal coolant leak.
  9. An too clean interior.  Either you have a person you is dedicated to having a spotless vehicle or it just went to a detailing facility for the full makeover.  Beware of too-heavy air freshener smells that could be masking cigarette smoke or mildew from water leaks.
  10. A rush job. Beware the car that you have to buy right away, whether it’s a private seller with a deadline such as moving away or selling it for a relative, or a dealer who says it’s ‘on special today’ or ‘it will be gone tomorrow.’
  11. Get a Pre purchase inspection.  It’s not a perfect guarantee. A certified technician in an automotive facility can assess the vehicle pre purchase and warn you against pending issues or provide advice on the condition of the vehicle.  Find a facility that is up to date with safety guidelines. Many shops have no manual, and perform safety from memory.  The guidelines have recently changed and allow for many more items to be inspected. As well inspecting non safety items like maintenance issues is important.  
  12. 12 Air conditioning. This is a hard area. In winter you can’t really tell if it’s working. Add to the complexity, that when many older cars have a failure they are likely to find the cheapest solution to solve the problem. The automotive market is flooded with flammable based refrigerant alternatives you can buy off the auto store shelf.  So once it fails the seller fills it with this flammable based chemical, and voila cold air again ready for the sale.   The only way to avoid this is to fully test the a/c system pre purchase or at least verification of a non flammable refrigerant in the system. There will be a cost to do this in many cases, but could save you a bad purchase deal, if not hundreds in a/c repairs down the road.

You can’t expect to keep a seller waiting too long for your decision, but you should be able to give it some thought before you buy.

A safety inspection is NOT a warranty on the car. Effective the date of the inspection a licensed government technician stated it passed all criteria to transfer the ownership. The certificate is valid for 36 calendar days.  If You fail the inspection you have 10 days to have it fixed to standards and re inspected by the original facility. The facility may have a fee to Re Inspect the vehicle as they need to verify those repairs were done properly and to specifications.

If you wish you can sell a vehicle “ as is “ and that means exactly that – you get what you buy and the buyer assumes the risk of the safety inspection concerns.

If you want to know more about CAA Vehicle Inspections go to:

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