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Steer Around the Potholes of Purchasing a Car

What you drive now says a lot about you. What you’re about to drive next, likely says everything. Cars offer freedom, fashion, function and fun. In short, a new car is awesome. Buying a new car is slightly less awesome.
Most frustration and anxiety comes from a lack of preparation and know-how when researching, inspecting, test-driving cars, and of course, negotiating with car dealers. But fear not, by doing a little bit of homework you can build the confidence you need to happily purchase your next car.

Do Your Homework

First things first, what type of vehicle are you interested in? If you’re looking for a sporty sedan, list all of the ones you’ve got in mind and that fit your needs. Next, pop open a few web sites like BCAA Canadian Black Book, Consumer Reports or Edmunds to get lists of comparable cars in the same category.
This helps in a number of ways: it will jog your memory on a few more makes and models, you’ll get to see how they compare at a glance, you’ll find in depth reviews and discover the reliability and maintenance costs you can expect.
You’ll also notice many vehicle categories have Hybrid versions of the same cars you’re comparing. Effectively, these cars and trucks will look and feel the same but have the added bonus of fuel-saving technology that positively impacts the environment. While the initial cost might be a bit higher, they will save you money a little down the road. Go here to learn more about Hybrids and for a chance to win a 2017 Toyota Hybrid Prius C.

Prepare Your Wallet

While it’s easy to buy groceries every week, buying a car is a rare event. Vehicles come with built-in expenses that need to be factored into the overall cost. In addition to sales tax, registration and insurance costs, put aside some money for a mechanical inspection. An extended warranty can cover your butt or it's a good idea to keep a small slush fund ($500 to $1000) for repairs, if needed. These costs can add up in a hurry which leads to the next point.
Most of us don’t have an extra $25,000 sitting in the bank, so that will mean taking out a loan. Don’t just settle for your own bank, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best interest rates before you purchase. Then decide how much you want to pay for the car - set a maximum and don't go over it. This will be key when you start negotiating with the seller or dealer.

Test Driving

The test drive is where you’ll really begin to feel if the car is right for you or not. Don’t be shy on putting the vehicle through its paces, test the acceleration, braking, body roll, turning radius, and gear shifting. Also check out the design of the dashboard, climate control, stereo and navigational features, and don’t forget to check the blind spots. For more details on inspecting used cars and how to test drive a new or used car, check out our full list of tips.
New vehicles have all the goodies: the latest safety, navigation and entertainment technology. While many pre-owned vehicles will have already depreciated roughly 40 per cent in the first three years. As you weight the differences, here are a few more considerations:


  • If it’s a used car, ask the seller about the its accident record, history of ownership and service record. If the seller is cooperative in answering your questions, chances are good that he has nothing to hide.


  • What's the warranty coverage? Are there any perks like free maintenance?
  • For new cars, ask about the closest authorized repair centre.
  • Are there any dealer demos. You get a healthy discount and drive away with the manufacturer's latest model. While technically pre-owned, dealer demos have usually been well-maintained and gently driven.


  • “Is that the best you can do?” is the best question to ask whether you’re negotiating for a new or used car. It signals you’re prepared to walk away. For many people, the toughest part of the whole process is actually being ready to walk away if you don’t like the answer. Remember, it’s your money and your decision.

Before You Buy

Before you make that final decision, you’ll want some peace of mind. For a used car, do a lien and accident search to see if there’s any undisclosed history. And, don’t forget to have a reputable auto mechanic do an inspection too. For your convenience, there are now five BCAA Auto Service Centres stocked with trusted experts for auto repair and maintenance. These Red Seal Certified technicians can do a Used Vehicle Inspection to make sure the car is in great working order before you show the world your latest and greatest car.