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Buckle Up: Our Top Tips for Used-Car Shopping

There has never been such an interesting time to purchase a car. Facing supply-chain issues, microchip shortages, record-high fuel prices and runaway inflation, many in BC are turning their eye toward a pre-owned vehicle. But buying used presents its own set of challenges right now.

By Benjamin Yong

After new-car scarcity spiked demand for used vehicles last year, the market is still feeling the pressure, with average BC used-vehicle prices sitting around 27 per cent higher than 2021. Experts predict prices will stabilize as supply gets back on track. But the pre-owned market is still hotter than normal – so it’s more important than ever to shop wisely. Here’s how.

Blue Honda Civic

Retains Its Value: The Canadian Black Book recently named the Honda Civic a best bet for holding value long-term.

BCAA Members can save 3¢/L on fuel and 10% off car washes and in-store purchases at Shell.
Learn more at

Find your match

Start with online research. The best resources for used-car browsing are classifieds; think big players like Craigslist, Kijiji Autos and AutoTrader; used by private sellers and retailers alike. All of these sites allow users to set up saved searches and email alerts. The more specific your search terms, the more relevant the hits you’ll receive.

When narrowing your choice of vehicle, remember not all brands will cost you the same in the long run, cautions BCAA Auto Service Manager Adrian Lissimore.

“Used vehicles are going to need repairs and have breakdowns, and certain European makes can be quite a bit costlier than, say, Japanese or domestic-built ones,” he says.

As always, watch the odometer count on prospective vehicles: “The average consumer does about 20,000 kilometres a year, so do the math based on the age of what you’re looking at and try not to exceed it by too much,” says Lissimore. An unusually low asking price could indicate high kilometres, a major-crash history or expensive upcoming maintenance. All are issues that could negate upfront savings down the road.

Red Dodge 2500 pickup truck

Future-Proof Purchase: The Dodge 2500 is among 2022-released models likely to retain the most value in future resale, according to Canadian Black Book.

Red flags and deal-breakers

When you view the vehicle in person, one big red flag is rust. If the vehicle is under 10 years old and there are significant signs of corroded metal – walk away. Rust, musty odours, mud and discoloured or mismatched upholstery could also indicate water damage – something affecting a lot of cars caught in the 2021 Fraser Valley floods.

Look out for leaking oil, too. Lissimore says this could lead to a big-ticket repair if the vehicle’s transmission is the source.

Of course, no used vehicle is going to be perfect. Standard wear-and-tear items such as brake pads and tires shouldn’t scare you away and are relatively easy to fix (though factor them into your offer price).

BCAA Members save up to 20% on BCAA Optional Car Insurance. Plus, save $40 when you bundle BCAA Home and Optional Car Insurance, and enjoy multi-vehicle discounts of 10% off each vehicle – and more!


Run a background check

Always do a lien check to make sure no financial institution has legal claim on the vehicle (otherwise the burden of payment could pass to you). Also look over the history reports to see whether the car has been rebuilt or experienced previous damage, which can lead to long-term issues. A CARFAX Canada report ($60.95) should reveal all of the above.

Consider a pre-purchase inspection

For ultimate peace of mind, ask the seller if the vehicle has undergone a pre-purchase inspection by a certified (third-party) mechanic. If such an inspection isn’t available to review, you can ask to have one performed. This kind of bumper-to-bumper exam will cover everything from engine health to steering response, giving a snapshot of the car’s overall condition. The mechanic will report any issues and if further investigation is needed.

White Hyundai Ioniq EV

Hot on the Resale Market: Hyundai's Ioniq 5 EV released in 2022 and sold out fast. It's now going for more than new in some used markets. 

Going hybrid or electric?

Hybrid vehicles and EVs are exploding in popularity due to the pain at the pump. The average price of a used EV jumped more than 57 per cent in the last year alone, while used hybrids jumped 30.5 per cent on average.

The good news is, EVs possess fewer moving parts than their internal combustion counterparts, which means they’re less likely to have major maintenance issues. You’ll want a qualified mechanic to check out the suspension, brakes and tires – which may wear out faster due to the weight of the battery and the torque-forward nature of electric motors.

A trip to the dealership may be needed to confirm battery health, since most mechanics don’t have the tools to perform this assessment (yet). Most EV and hybrid batteries are warrantied for eight years, but last longer. Some capacity – and range – loss is normal over time; studies estimate an average of about 2.3 per cent a year.

BCAA Auto Service technician inspecting rear bumper BCAA Auto Service Centres offer a 199-Point Pre-Purchase Inspection for used vehicles – great before buying or selling.

Test-drive wisely

Never buy a car without taking it for at least one drive, of at least 30 minutes. Choose a familiar route, preferably both in traffic and on a backroad where you can cruise at a sustained speed.

Things to be mindful of during the test run: how does it handle? Is the vehicle responsive as you’re accelerating and braking? Do you feel any abnormal vibrations or hear any unexpected sounds? Be sure to test any automated features such as parking assist, as well as wipers, headlights and the stereo system, and run the heater and air conditioning.

Keep your new-to-you ride in top shape! BCAA Members save 10% on labour at BCAA Auto Service Centres for wheel alignments, as well as braking, fluid, steering, chassis and suspension services.


Come to the table prepared

Before sitting down to talk dollars, research what similar offerings are fetching in the classifieds. The Canadian Black Book ( is also a useful resource. With demand still outstripping supply, however, haggling may prove challenging. Use any flaws or parts that need replacing as leverage to bring the price down. Newbies might want to bring a gearhead friend or family member along to help.

Protect your new investment

To keep the value high on your new ride, maintain it in tiptop shape. Schedule regular maintenance and file all receipts, and documentation of work to share with a future buyer.

Make sure you drive with peace of mind knowing your protected on the road in case of the unexpected with a BCAA Membership starting at less than $8 per month.


Thinking about putting a car up for sale and wondering how to get top dollar, safely? Here are a few pointers.

Know when it’s time. It can be hard to admit if you have a long history with your car. But when repairs start to become a constant occurrence, it’s usually time to part ways. You want to let go before a major issue takes a chunk out of the resale value.

Make minor repairs. Consider putting in a small investment to make your car more attractive to prospective buyers. Recharge the air conditioning system and refresh the brakes and tires, for instance. Consider getting a 199-Point Pre-Purchase Inspection at a BCAA Auto Service Centre to share with prospective buyers, too.

Appearance matters. Think of it like staging a home. Have your vehicle professionally detailed inside and out, and replace any burnt-out lightbulbs or worn windshield wipers. Paintless dent removal (where a mechanic smooths out a dent without heavy body work) is fairly inexpensive, often mobile, and does wonders for a car’s appearance.

Get paperwork in order. Be ready to show all service records to prospective buyers. Also, to complete the sale, and transfer registration and insurance to the new owner, you’ll need a BC Transfer/Tax Form (APV9T) from ICBC ( Don’t forget to remove licence plates post-sale.

Conduct showings safely. Arrange to meet in a public spot in the daytime, like a mall parking lot or outside a restaurant, where there’s foot traffic. Ask a friend or family member to tag along if it makes you feel more comfortable, and don’t divulge too much personal information prior to the appointment.

EV & hybrid buyers save an extra 5% on BCAA Optional Car Insurance.

First published in the Fall/Winter 2022 BCAA Magazine. Read more from BCAA Magazine.

Photo Credit: Getty, Honda, Dodge, Hyundai