Infographic: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Car

A car is one of the largest purchases that a person will make in his or her entire life. So naturally, it’s important that the final decision be a well-informed one. While industry pros who’ve had auto sales training know the ins and outs of car buying, some of us aren’t quite so savvy when it comes to doing the research and shopping around.

Auto sales college grads know that there’s a simple three-step process you can follow to make sure you choose the right vehicle for your lifestyle, needs and budget. Check out our infographic for a quick guide to these essential steps.


Step 1: Research

  • 48% of buyers will spend between 1 and 3 months shopping for a car before making a final decision
  • Here are some great resources for finding a used car online:, and of course, Kijiji
  • It’s important not to leave out any expenses when you are creating your vehicle budget. You’ll be able to find budgeting tools and templates online to help you through the process.
  • SUV: great for the family driver, Convertible: a good choice for adventurers who want to enjoy life, Crossover: for the soccer mom who formerly owned a minivan, Muscle Car: a choice for mechanics and automotive history buffs, Sedan: perfect for the practical driver who values dependability and safety
  • Research has shown that there has been a 20% increase in the past 5 years in the number of cars on the road that are 16 years or older, and a 29% increase in cars that are between 5 and 10 years.
  • Top 3 frequently purchased used cars in Canada: Honda Civic, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Elantra

Step 2: Shopping                                            

  • Before heading to a dealer, you’ll need to assess your needs. Ask yourself how many passengers you’ll be carrying, if you’ll be driving on snow and ice, if you need all-wheel drive, and if fuel economy is important to you.
  • Weigh your buying options: Finance it with the dealer, take out a bank loan, or (if you’ve been saving up for awhile) paying it in full upfront
  • Buying from a private seller
    • Pros: vehicle will likely cost less, quick sale, since it is likely the seller’s personal car it will probably be well-maintained
    • Cons: you will have no warranty or guarantee, you’ll be required to meet with a stranger to see the vehicle, the seller might not be totally honest with you
  • Buying from a dealership/used car dealer:
    • Pros:
      • you’ll be getting a fully inspected vehicle
      • you can enjoy peace-of-mind
      • you will have a great selection of vehicles to choose from
    • Cons:
      • you might be paying more than you would with a private seller
      • the sales team might be pushy since their commission is reliant on the sale
      • there will be less room for negotiation
    • There are tons of online tools that will help you get a sense of how much owning a car will cost annually. CAA has a great driving costs calculator tool:
    • The best time to buy a used car is in January, March, April and May. Research has shown that most dealers drop their prices quite frequently during these months.

Step 3: Buying

  • It’s crucial to get a Vehicle History Report when buying a used car, since it will provide you with information you’ll need to know (registration, branding, service details, and if the car has been in an accident). CarProof is a trusted Canadian Vehicle History Report provider.
  • Colours: white (young), black (power, luxury, sophistication), gray (mature, ordinary), red (sporty for men, fun for women), blue (family)
  • Top 4 things to check before buying: under the car for fluid leaks, under the hood for engine sounds (should sound smooth, no ticks or hisses), exterior and interior damage (scratches, rust, upholstery), functionality of interior features (windows, locks, a/c)
  • Test drive check: comfort of the ride, strange sounds, feel of the steering wheel, functionality of the brakes




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