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Warning signs to watch out for when buying a used car


As soon as you drive off the lot, a new car starts to lose its value. If you’re buying a car on a budget, a used car can be an attractive and affordable option. However, any car purchase is still a significant investment, and you’ll want to make sure the used car you’re buying is in good condition and you’re paying a fair price. 

Here are a few warning signs to watch out for when buying a used car.

1.    The seller won’t let you go for a test drive

Never buy a used car without taking it for a test drive. If the seller won’t allow it, they’re probably trying to hide something. Take the car out for 30 minutes and drive a familiar route to test actions you normally do, like accelerating up hill, turning corners, merging and changing lanes and hitting the brakes to see if the car performs as you’d expect.

While the car is running, also take the opportunity to check the accessories, A/C and heat are all working as well and listen for any rapping, tapping or banging sounds coming from the engine.

2.    Something looks or smells unusual

Walk around the car slowly and inspect for anything odd or misaligned. If the tires are unevenly worn, it can mean there’s an alignment problem with the steering, frame or suspension. Signs of repair such as different coloured panels, new trim, paint overspray, ripples in the body and panels and bumpers that don’t line up can indicate that the car has been in a collision. The smell of antifreeze or fuel can indicate leaks. 

3.    The seller won’t let you do an independent inspection

A mechanic looks under the hood of a car in a shop while taking notes on a clipboard.If you’re not a car expert and you’re buying a used car from a private seller, it can be helpful to have a professional inspect the car before you purchase it to determine the cosmetic, mechanical and safety condition of the car. If the seller is in too much of a hurry to sell to let you schedule an inspection, it’s a warning sign that something’s not right. 

4.    There is missing or incorrect paperwork

A seller is legally required to provide a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) that details the history of the vehicle, including registration history and lien information. You should also ask for a Safety Standards Certificate to show that the car is safe to drive in Ontario and certification that it passes the Ontario Drive Clean Emissions Test. If the seller is unable or unwilling to provide this paperwork, they may be hiding something.

5.    The car is undervalued

Before you negotiate the purchase price of the car, research the car’s value. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. You can use tools like Auto Check or Car Fax to find a vehicle’s history, such as records of any accidents or recalls, using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You should also look up the average selling price of cars like it on Kelly Blue Book or Car and Driver to determine what the car is worth.

The car you buy will also have an impact on your insurance rates. When you decide to purchase a used car, you’ll need to call your insurance broker to get a quote and add your new vehicle to your policy. 

If your insurance policy is up for renewal, a broker can help you compare policies from different insurers and find the best value – call an OTIP insurance broker at 1-866-561-5559 to get a quote! If you’re adding a car to an existing OTIP policy, call 1-800-267-6847

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