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Rob's Garage

14 tips for buying a car Add to ...

Rob, my wife and I are contemplating the purchase of a "new" vehicle. By new, I mean new to us, we're not hung up on a brand new vehicle.

We were considering the reliability of a Toyota, but are very disappointed with the latest news that surrounds the brand. All that aside, how do we go about choosing our next major purchase?

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Russ and Sandie

Smart on ya, Russ and Sandie. Those in the know, know that the best way to make a great deal is to use other people's money. By that I mean, let someone else pay for the depreciation of a vehicle, so it makes a ton of sense to consider the option of purchasing an off-lease vehicle. An off-lease is usually two or three years old, will still hold the remainder of the manufacturer's warranty, is usually loaded with options, well maintained and will be in good cosmetic condition.

Consider the following points when it comes to making the second-most expensive purchase most people will ever make, next to a home.

  • Set a budget. You will be amazed by how fast you will whittle down the overwhelming choices that are out there.
  • Decide if you want to purchase or lease. Yes, you can lease used vehicles. Unless you have a business that you can write off the lease payments against, I suggest you purchase. When you lease, you are basically renting a vehicle and the agreement comes with strings such as keeping the kilometres low, regular, documented maintenance and ensuring the cosmetic condition is top notch.
  • What will you be using the vehicle for? Determine what you will be doing with the vehicle 95 per cent of the time. Unless you have definitive answers to any or all of the following points, it's likely you can get away with a small car. I used the 95 per cent figure because in the mid 1980s General Motors conducted a study to determine how it should outfit its pickup truck line. GM found that pickups were used as pickups only 5 per cent of the time. This turned the tables on light-duty trucks forever by making them more car-like.
  • Do you have needs that require car pooling?
  • Are you expecting to take bunches of kids to hockey or soccer? (There's a lot of gear to be slogged around along with the kids)
  • Do you expect to haul cargo ? Will it be light or heavy?
  • Will you be towing a trailer or boat?
  • Will you be off-roading or driving to ski hills on snow covered roads?
  • Is fuel economy important? Many manufacturers offer the same model with four cylinder as well as six- or even eight-cylinder engines. You don't have to settle for what's popular. With some planning and patience, you will find what you are looking for.
  • Check out recalls and service campaigns. This can be done by contacting that brand's dealer or by subscribing to service information providers like Alldata.com or by visiting the Transport Canada web site.
  • Check out Consumer Reports. This can be done online or by magazine. Find out consensus for your choice of vehicle. Consumer Reports publishes a yearly document that not only spells out findings by their experts but also publishes vehicle owner survey results.
  • Take your investigation to the next level: check out online forums. What are people saying that own these vehicles? I have done this on occasion and it's amazing the feedback you will discover.
  • Take your narrowed-down list to an auto mall. Drive all your choices - you may find that a test drive will make you wonder why you even considered this vehicle in the first place - or you may wonder why it took you so long to find "the perfect car".
  • Keep your eye on the Internet. There are many web sites that offer vehicles for sale providing two advantages: You will get a sense of the actual costing of the vehicle. You will be better prepared to bargain when the time comes to make an offer.

Russ and Sandie, in the end, you like everyone else will likely buy with your heart. But now at least you have an idea how to narrow down the search and what to expect along the way.

Good luck and above all, have fun. Buying a vehicle should be a highlight.

Have a car maintenance issue? E-mail Rob at GlobeDrive@globeandmail.com



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