Buying a vehicle

Welcome back 🙂

Have you wanted to purchase a vehicle? I have done just that a few times, it is rather a daunting task as you are taking a rather large sum of monies and putting it into an item that will continually take money to care for and operate. Will it break down a month after purchase? Will it be safer in an accident, meaning will I survive more likely than die? Is this a family size or do I need a small compact, need a pickup or an all utility? How much will this cost me monthly and so on?

This has been a long time coming, I wanted to post this some time ago but life’s challenges took over and blogging had to take a back seat (sort of speak). So here I am coming back and ready to go again and thought what a great topic to test drive and hit the road with.

This is a long blog as I am thorough when purchasing my own vehicles and I will try to be as clear as I can in tips and things to watch for that I have learned from experience. Skip to what you want to read or take the time to read over it all and work through the steps. It looks like more than what it really is, in total the test drive is about one hour and the walk around and checking out the car is about 10 to 20 minutes/ However your research will take a bit of time. but being prepared is a good thing. Knowledge IS power.


When I go looking for a new to me vehicle I actually have a checklist I bring with me. (I tend to forget when a fast-talking individual is trying to convince me of the “sweet” ride they want me to buy, so I bring a checklist to stay focused.) I go down my list that I have carefully researched the prices, mileage to price ratio, and so much more and then the vehicle check list I actually go through the list and inspect the vehicle with, all the ins and outs of the vehicle is thoroughly inspected. I have been burned only once and a few times some minor things but I am daddy’s girl, and learned a lot before buying my first car, so I have seen some sellers try many things. Perhaps because I am a female and people think that breasts means stupid and they can get the best of me. But I was taught by my father who was I think a wise man on how to look for things and it saved me a great deal of pain and a few things I picked up along the way that I decided “next time I want this in a vehicle!” or “next time when I am told this I should not listen!” type of things.

So I like to think about things in step by step order. Kinda like a checklist, did this –check, did that – check, check. So when I need to purchase a vehicle I start with writing down my ideas so I can refer back and not get side tracked by that really pretty shiny car and all those shiny buttons, lights and things it has, ooh and ah! Stay focused! Your wants, needs, and affordability is top of list, I do like to eat and have that roof overhead so… stay focused! I will go over this checklist with you in this blog today, hopefully it will help all you friends out there to avoid those costly bumps and hurts. Oh! and who cares what kind of face the seller makes at you, YOU are buying this car not them! Remember this is going to be your new toy, your precious, your car, not theirs! they just want your money right? so ignore the rude seller’s attitude and go with what feels right to you. You did all the work of research and earning the money to buy it, it is a big purchase item and can be stressful, no matter the amount you can afford! After going through all this, you deserve to  have the car/truck of your choice and affordability, and be happy with your choice – do not let anyone make you feel less smart, less important, cheap or poor, or just less because you are worth everything and deserve this your way!

Buying a used car is buying someone else’s problems! Minimize this by spending the small amount of time and taking a few extra precautions, and their problem will not become your problem!

  • What are your needs? Do you have kids? Need a car seat hook? Need a back seat? Need a truck for work? What are your needs, not wants! We will talk about those later. Do you need just a vehicle to get to work and home? A nice small low-cost car may be the best. Need a truck for hauling stuff? Then you will need to look at the size of truck you will need small or larger? Need the space to put groceries maybe a back seat or hatchback or maybe a small sport vehicle like an SUV or Rav 4? I do a lot of travel and a lot of my own building and shows so I needed something to haul stuff but cheap on fuel, so I bought a Toyota corolla, not completely functional for all my needs but for what I could afford at the time, it was the best choice. I strap sheets of wood and boxes and stuff to the roof and I can actually stuff a lot in that little car so it worked out just fine even though I had to make sacrifices and compromises with it.
  • What are your wants? This is the extras like colour, sporty, air conditioning, speakers, stereo, power windows, standard or automatic, size and on and on. Once you write down all your wants look and see the price difference of the extras, you may not be able to afford them all so go with what is the most important of wants like standard or automatic transmission, and maybe air conditioning. Some extras are included in the cost and others are an additional price. I usually start my search with the “base” model and go up from there with my most wanted of wants until I can no longer afford it. Such as a base model of a Toyota corolla then add standard however the dealer only had automatic, rather annoying!), standards are usually cheaper that automatic, usually. Then added air conditioning, then added power windows/locks until I reach my max cost (what I set aside for this item) so I have some of what I am looking for.
  • What can you afford? Discover your long term costs! This is usually overlooked I find when I’m helping friends buy their vehicle, I’m always helping them find out what their budget is. (surprised me but many, many people do not have a monthly budget, just spend the pay cheque and do it again next month.) To me, this is very important. What am I going to have to pay to run this thing? Well here are the cost I look for when purchasing a vehicle. In a large city with great bus system I usually just take the bus/walk, cheaper and less traffic to deal with. However in small cities/towns they typically have rubbish bus routes and I feel over-charge, and it is faster to just drive. So here is what I consider:

Insurance costs for that particular make/model/year? What is the insurance on this year, make, and model? Since each type, year, model all have different insurance rates it may be the deciding factor on whether I purchase that car.

Monthly and seasonal costs? Maintenance of the vehicle.

Monthly fuel cost – depending on your vehicle choice and your driving needs $70/mo. to $200/mo. or more even.

Every 3-6 months – wand car wash and DIY inside clean is about $6, for automatic depends on where you go $10- $40

Every 6 months – oil change with synthetic oil  about $50

Oil additives I put in a product that lubes the gears and help the older vehicle run better, smoother and I love it, which costs $20 per oil change.

Tire rotation $ 60 just rotate tires nothing else

Wiper fluid top up I do the same time I change my oil like the tires so typically I go through two of those containers a year, $16/year

Seasonal winter and summer rotation – Tire exchange (from summer to winter tires) 4tires x $25+ per tire =$100 or more depending on your exchange/balance cost,  and you do this before winter and again before summer so $200 or more/year. This is really a needed thing to do in our cold icy winters to have the appropriate seasonal rubber, all season really does not mean to include winter too, just our summers.

Unless you want to purchase the rim for each set of tires to stop this unmounting of rubber cost you and all that is needed is to mount each tire back onto the vehicle you can do that. However I still recommend it be rebalanced if tire has been sitting for some time. You can remount on your own, I re-mount my own tires, rotate my own tires, and do my own oil changes, fluids and anything else I can to save on cash and I just like to do my own work.

Additives like fuel line antifreeze at each fuel fill-up in the winter, stops the fuel from freezing and make cold starts possible! It is a must in our cold winters. About $2-$3 per bottle per fill up.

Every 1-2 years – new set of tires (depends on tires, I had some that lasted 3 years before needing replacing) tire cost ranges from cheap low-quality Wal-Mart tire $30/tire up to and even more than $320+/tire. Also depends on size of tire so this cost varies a lot.

***this is one set for summer (4 summer tires) and one set for winter (4 winter tires) not just one set for whole year! I find winter tires last longer than summer tires so I replace my summer tires once a year and winter tires about once every 2 years.

These are normal care of all vehicle. Does your engine eat oil like water through a sieve? (Look at the check fluids section to see how to check for this costly thing that could be huge in the long run.) So can you afford to buy a set of winter tires and summer set? You may need to do this in installments, as it gets to the end of a season I will pick up next season tires that are on sale at the end of the previous season.

Purchase outright? Lease? Finance? What can you afford? I personally hate, I mean absolutely hate making payments on anything, there is the cost of interest, and possible other service/office/administration fees and I hate having that monthly bill! So I prefer to save up my cash and purchase outright. Then the money is paid, the vehicle is mine outright and no monthly bill to budget in my spending budget. Leasing and financing can have other charges other than your principle payment. Plus the monthly bill makes me squeamish since I really don’t know if I am going to still live in this city a year from now, or what if I total off the vehicle? I still have this monthly bill for a vehicle I can’t drive and now have to re-finance for another vehicle costing more interest and higher monthly bill! Oh! it is just too much for a girl to take! Of course, this is just a crude generalized summary of a least or financing. So for me, I just pay it out right and done! On average it takes me about one year to save up the money for a vehicle, but I have taken 3 years to save up for a higher priced vehicle or depending on my earnings a cheap one, and include the initial expenses of tires etc. to start with and done! If you decide to lease or finance please do your research, look at the interest rate? Hidden costs or extra costs? Are you going to stay with that job and have the income to pay that bill every month for 48 to 60 months (that’s 4 to 5 years)?

  • Should I buy new or used? Entirely your choice! I for one go for used, here is why. Used vehicle already have been “broken in” sort of speak. Someone else has already paid the dramatic depreciation value, the repairs that happen within the standard 3 year of “getting out the kinks” and the cost is substantially lower than a new vehicle and the vehicle is still great to run for many years. A well cared for vehicle can last many years and look great too.
  • What do you know? Research, research, research! Go online to automotive websites to find out what are the quirks with the vehicles you have in mind. Or just google. Things like “what is the Honda accord concerns (or Problems)?” you will get sites like “car complaints” and “customer affairs” and more of course, but they will tell you the typical concerns. Look at the and YouTube site or for some ideas of cars, reports etc. More listed at the end.

For example when I purchased my Toyota corolla the main concern for this car is the transmission is shot around the 4th year and must be replaced, considering this is a large repair or replacement it is a good thing to be aware of that may come up, I just made sure that the Trany was already replaced and good to go. I have not had to put any money into my car for anything major at all since my purchase. I have however had to replace the ignition thingy behind the key spot but that was minor. (I am one of those that knows how to do, but not the name of the thingy I just fixed! My local auto parts store dealer always smiles at me and tells me he is amazed how I know how to fix, just not the names of parts, you are so funny he says.)

The Honda accord has the most complaints and premature breakdowns, average cost to fix is starting at over $2000.00 mainly the transmission! With a 2008 being the highest complaints of all with massive brake issues, engine problems, interior accessories issues. So for me looking at that, I would not even consider an Accord. But a used Honda civic is a different story, same name brand just different model, great little cars! Years of make will make a difference too, so look around.

  • Resale value? Value of your new to you vehicle? A dealer once told me a long time ago that cars typically depreciate like this.(and it has not changed to my knowledge) For the first year you should take off about $5thousand dollars from the original price you paid. Even if you drove it off the lot one minute earlier, it is just the way it works. The second year of the vehicle take off another $3,500. In the vehicles third year take off another $3,500. And in the vehicles 4th year, take off another $3,000 and the 5th year take off $2, 500. And every year after that you would take off $2,000 dollars. He said typically with this formula you are in good hands for the right amount of the cost of any vehicle. However if the mileage is OVER 20 thousand each year take off more! at least, $1,000 for every 5 thousand miles over the 20 thousand miles since it is now a high mileage vehicle.  Vehicle should be around 20 thousand miles of driving per year to be in the original depreciation calculation, anymore and it is high mileage! I found an example online of this, so for example, (regular mileage) you paid $29,873 (100%)the moment you drive it off the lot it is now $27,314 (91%one minute after purchase) and the vehicle is one year old the resale value of that vehicle is now $24,186 (81%). 2nd year is $20,579 (69%) 3rd year old is $17,406 (58%) 4th year is $14,593(49%)  5th year $12,069 (40%). After 5 years old the car is worth 37% the original purchase price and so on. my fave site ever for values!
  • Brand names. I like to look at the brands that are not as popular. Like buying that cheaper brand mac n cheese can be yuky, there are some no name brand mac n cheese that are actually better that the big popular brand name. Shop around and you will find a no name brand of mac n cheese that rocks! Just like cars, the less popular name brands have a great deal of potential and even better that those very popular overpriced high-end brand names of vehicles. Reason is that it is supply and demand! like finding a diamond in the ruff sort of speak. (I never thought that microeconomics course in college would ever be used, I was wrong.) so to keep the cost down then I looked at (when I purchased my car no one I knew had a Toyota) Toyota, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Honda. When I did a car report check of safety reports and any problems I like these brands the best, of course the years make a difference in the reports so keep an eye out for that too. Keep an open mind please, the lower popular is not meaning a crap car, they are very well made brands and have even better safety reports than some of those top brands.
  • Should I go through a dealer, used car dealer, auction or private seller, “buyer beware! Sold as is!” these are really important to know and understand since buying from a private seller you must be aware of the quirks of the vehicle and if the person seems slimy, walk away! I found that House was right, you know that T.V. show House? Well anyway, he is right. People lie! They are always hiding something that costs a lot later on. Used car dealers are not always on the “up and up” either. They are just as slimy, plus they get their vehicles from the auction and the vehicles that a real dealer lot would not keep.  Auctions… well you just never know and unless you are a mechanic, buyer beware! Main auto dealers are the better choice as they will send any vehicle that has too high of mileage or any history of badness and trade-ins to a used car dealer or auction so they already have weeded out the worst ones in the lot, (at least they are supposed to). So essentially you are buying the discarded vehicle from them!  Worried about paying too much? Well that is where the research kicks in, know the amount of the “blue book” or “black book value”, (I have heard people say it both ways but it really is the black book!) the average selling price in private sellers like kijiji, or  other auto sellers like auto trader, or other auto sellers online. You will have a really good idea of what to negotiate the cost down too. Most dealers will deal to a certain extent, but again be careful of those slimy ones. Also watch for added costs in the contract, they will slip in anything like administrative fees, and some other strange fees. (more on dealing for your car later)

I was going to buy a Nissan Pathfinder, I loved this vehicle! I mean I absolutely loved it! The report was good so I began the dealing,  the man that showed me the vehicle was willing but the main office manager, well he was slimy. His asking price was $14 thousand.  (black book value was $9000) I suggested that I would not go higher than $8 thousand for this year/make and because it has hail damage and the blue book priced it at $9, and other online sites had it as low as $6 thousand to $ 9 thousand. (He was already over pricing) He said, I’ll let it go for $12 and with tax and other costs it comes to $14.  He would not budge – so I walked. I saw he couldn’t sell it to anyone else, and later I saw it at a used car dealer lot only a couple months later. (They must move the vehicles in the lot and sometimes take a loss to sell it to a wholesaler, that other dealer I told you about explained this to me.)  My point is don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel you are getting pushed around, or taken advantage of. There are other vehicles!

  • History reports, this is done in the research section but I like to separate it as it is very important. Not all history reports will give a collision reports if owner doesn’t tell. So what I learned here is that history reports let me know if a car has been a salvage, rebuilt, accidents (sometimes), leans, insurance claims, out of province/country. Always use the VIN # to get the report. I ran a VIN # once and it was for a Honda, but the car I got the VIN off of was a pickup truck! Someone switched the vin#’s and did it sloppy. Not even the same make! Out of province is not always bad, people move and need to sell a car. It can be bad the sense that the car is a crap car and they can’t sell it in that province due to local laws!
  • Inspections by a trusted inspection mechanic. This is NOT your auto motive repair shop mechanic. This is an INSPECTION mechanic at an inspection shop. This is important since the average repair mechanic really does not have all the know how to inspect like these guys do. I am not putting down the local repair mechanic, I am saying that at an inspection shop specifically they are trained for this, and really know more, have the equipment to seek out issues. I have taken my vehicles to many repair shops mechanics over the years and for an inspection, all point type inspection they are trained to do but that is nothing in comparison to the inspection shop! Not even close to an inspection shop! It takes about a half day and can cost a bit, but if you are serious of the vehicle this can save you money down the road. Tones of money. These shops are also used by antique car buyers to ensure top quality of their purchase. Just saying if it’s good enough for them, it is good enough for me! This can sometimes save you a great deal of money down the road. Having a really good mechanic lift up our vehicle on a hoist and inspect your vehicle is a great way to spot a dud, a vehicle that was in a wreck, overspray and more things that people do to “cover up”. I admit to not always doing this because sometimes I just want to get a vehicle and get going, I did all the careful work up this point why bother? I was thorough! I learned if I want to save down the road, this helps a lot. If you are willing to take your punches and not use this step, then go for it.Do what is right for you.
  • Looking at your possible new to you vehicle whoo hoo! You have done all the research, found an inspection mechanic shop and now you are ready to test drive some vehicles that matches your research choices, needs and wants. This is the most exciting part, the most fun, the best part I think of the entire process. Now you’ve scoured the newspapers or online sales or now you are at the dealer’s door, face to face with that person standing between you and your car! Stay calm, stay focused, and do not look at those other shiny ones that are not in your list of choices.  Drive only what you will consider purchasing, do not let that dealer sway you into something you cannot really afford. You did all your research, you put in all this time, don’t let that smooth talker sway you! Remember he makes money off what you buy and how much you spend! He is not the enemy, but he is like that voodoo character on the new cartoon The Frog Prince, that takes place in New Orleans. “The voodoo man!” or “the shadow man”  Not all are like that but maybe because I am a female I would say about 99% of the dealers have tried their best to be the voodoo man. Oh ya, always, always and did I say, always… test drive in daylight!
  1. You are almost there! Any dealer or seller that drives for you and not let you drive, WALK AWAY! Leave that dealership or seller, run, run as fast as you can! RUN AWAY! The test drive is YOUR drive, not theirs, by them driving it you cannot find what may be at fault with the car, how it handles turns, spongy breaks, pulls to the right, etc. Tell the sales rep that you will be driving the car for about 45 min to an hour. Some dealers will let you have the car for 24 hours. This hour is enough time for you to take the car out on the highway and on side streets, pot holed areas, or gravel roads if that is your desire. If the sales rep/dealership refuses to let you take the car out for that time on your own or even come along with them sitting in the passenger or rear seat then walk away. Remember this is YOUR drive and you need this time to do a proper test drive. But before you leave the lot please go through the following list B-I below.
  2. Drive the vehicle like you own it! Do not speed, just obey the rules of the road but drive it like you already own this car. Babying the car will not let you find its faults if any, so drive like you already own the vehicle.
  3. First impressions matter! Before I tell a private seller I am coming to see the vehicle I drive passed first to look at the vehicle, or if address not listed in the add I will tell them I will meet them in 3 hours but drive by right away to see the vehicle in its current state. I sometimes find the owner out there right away cleaning out the car, and under the hood and tinkering with it. This is a bad sign! Another bad sign is if there is wood blocks under the tires to prevent it from rolling away. Very bad sign! I would never purchase a vehicle that has blocks preventing it from rolling away, the car should be able to hold itself in one spot. This could mean the breaks, transmission, or other is very wrong. Either way, expensive!
  4. Look under the hood. Even if you are not engine knowledgeable there are few things to look for when you look under the hood.I will try to explain some of this in hopes that those who don’t know will now know. Check for fluid leaks with car cold and off and with car running, so you see any leaks dripping or seeping out from any place and look under the car also for stains or drip spots underneath, engine off and on. Check all fluid levels before test driving a vehicle. Usually just needed for a private seller to check the fluid levels, auto dealers are pretty good and maintaining these levels. I have test driven a car that had absolutely no oil in it and on the test drive the engine seized. So check fluids! Needless to say, it was a long walk back to my car. The largest part under the hood is the engine – that thing that pretty much takes up the entire center of the space. The engine. Is it covered in oil blackness around the plugs or oil cap? This is usually a sign that it is burning oil. Plug area is just that – plugs coming out of that large mass. Or does it look like it was just freshly cleaned? All silver and shiny? Unless it is a show car / race car this in not the norm. Hmm, engines are dirty, they do get a bit of oil on it from regular filling but is it a cover up or is this person really that anal clean freak that cleaned the engine every month? Even if a clean freak look for a ring of oil around the plugs and the engine cap that you put oil into the engine through. Usually shaped like a bumpy circle.  Checking the oil levels – the oil dip stick is sticking out of the engine block, pull it out holding it with tip down and wipe with paper towel or cloth and re-insert all the way, then pull out again and look at it.  Looking at the tip to see the level – half full? Full? Overfull is bad, nothing on the stick is even worse! that’s no oil at all! Never drive without fluid on any of the sticks!  Now check antifreeze a.k.a. radiator fluid. The reservoir is on the side close to the battery I find, what colour is it? There are yellow, green, orange, red, and blue radiator coolant colours but be wary of muddy or rusty. That flat wide container at the center front of the car but behind the fan. There is a push cap you push and turn once then again slowly. Do not do this if the car is hot! Or running! Car must be turned off when checking this one for safety reasons. It can burn you! So cold car – car off- open slowly with a cloth to help put a barrier between your skin and the liquid. Great, easy right? Now you will need a radiator gauge to suck up the fluid and test its strength and colour. Dark muddy colour or rusty colour meaning particles floating around or settling could mean many things, or just a flush is needed but I typically do not like rust colored radiator fluid as it reminds me of a vehicle that has been sitting a long, long, long, time and will need some work to get it road worthy. The strength is how well it does in winter and summer for cooling the engine. You would like it to be about 50/50 typically year round, colder climates never more than 70/30 mix as coolant is worse with too much antifreeze to water mix. Pure antifreeze can cause the engine to overheat, so it must be mixed with water to get that 50/50 ratio, I typically like in this cold climate an easy 60/40 ratio year round. If the car has air-conditioning then this ratio is very important – air conditioners cool the inside of the car down wonderfully but they cause the engine temperature to rise quite a bit, so this coolant fluid is extremely important to the engine health. If they are too low it is time to flush the system by a trusted mechanic soon, or at least before the cold weather kicks in or heat of summer. Look for leaks from the air conditioner lines.  Now the transmission levels (in neutral gear, emergency brake on so it doesn’t roll because it is in neutral gear, with car running!) the transmission dip stick is rather on its own looking, not leading to the engine but the transmission (you typically cannot see as it is under to the side of engine) check same as you did motor oil. Again over full is bad.  Listen for ticks, hisses, knocking. – While engine is running ask for silence and listen for knocks and ticking sounds, these are anything from a broken seal, your pistons, and other engine damages, either way, sounds are bad.  Brake fluid levels is a short cylinder close to the firewall between engine and interior of car and says brake fluid – sometimes you can see this one through the container but if not then pop off the lid and look in, please be careful to not get any dirt in this, wipe brake fluid lid if needed first. Check even the levels of windshield wiper fluid – the large see through white container at the front corner of the car, full is nice but not a deal breaker if empty, just inquire if the line is damaged and leaks wiper fluid, an inexpensive repair and can be done on your own if you like to try it.
  5. Check tires. For about $2 you can purchase a tire depth checker. It is like a needle and you just insert the pointy end between the cavern of the tire tread and push down until it stops and this tells you what tread you have left, this tells you how soon you will need to replace the tire. Typically no less than #2, this is 2/32” of your tire tread. This is absolute minimum for safety on dry roads, for rainy and snowy weather is a minimum of 4/32 or #4 on the needle. This just lets you know how soon you will need to fork out the money for new tires. Look for cracks on the tire sides as this can indicate car was sitting with flat tires for a long, long time. Bulges in the tires need replacing immediately as they can and I have had them explode.  Most important look at the wear on the front and rear tires, is the inside worn down more than the outside or outside worn down more than inside? This indicates either wheel alignment out or worse front/rear end damaged. Do the tires lean to one side kinda like a slant? Definite front/rear end damage! do not buy! Do the tires match in size and brand? Size is a must brand is most desirable if not you will be replacing tires now type thing. Now some people like rear tires larger than front. There is no real reason for this as it does not give better traction. That is a myth and lie, and new tires always, always go on the rear first, rear is stability, without stability you will not have steering ability! as the rain will literally lift the warn out rear tires off the road and off the road you go! So new on back first when replacing two ties at a time.
  6. If wheels have spokes look at the breaks. If you can see through to the brake rotors do they looked scored? If so you may need to replace them.
  7. Body damage? Squat down and looking along the side of the car all the way to the back (while you are still at the front squatting down) and same for all around the car or truck. Do you see ripples? Dents? Indications of body work done maybe from an accident? Or rebuilt from a wreckers? Open and close all doors, so all open and close smoothly? Lock and unlock doors from inside and outside, is it smooth and easy or “tricky”? Check door hinges and edges for rust. Go to the trunk and lift up the pad or carpet, and look for rust on the metal basin and anyplace in the trunk. If you can look under the carpet of the inside of the car (most are glued down or bolted down) then if you can look for rust on the metal area. If not lay down and take a peak underneath for rust. And while you’re down there look at the muffler and pipe for rust, loose, or falling muffler and pipe. These are actually expensive little buggers to get replaced. I actually hate replacing mufflers.
  8. Go with a friend or ask the dealer or seller for help. Have your friend or dealer/seller to sit behind the wheel and turn on the head lights high and low beams (rather hard to see the positioning of these in daylight but for now just to see if they work, adjust height later is no problem) turn lights, break lights, reverse lights, and go one by one through all the lights to ensure they all work. If not working, it could be a problem with wiring or fuse or bulb itself, repair is needed.
  9. Your turn to sit in the driver seat. Climb on in and sit in the driver seat and check things out now. Turn on the air conditioner to see if it works, leave it running for a few minutes then turn it off and turn on the heater, see if it heats up, if it fogs up the car big time it could be a couple of problems all fixable for under $100 as far as I know. At least, for me it was. Check the radio and CD player, do they work? Does the dash board light up, do the gear lights light up? Turn on and off everything even the cigarette lighter does it heat up? If you have an air freshener in the car remove it, take it out of the care and open up the doors while you tinker around. It should air out the freshener smell and by the time you get the test drive stage you should be able to smell any smells that could be trying to hide like mold? Animal pee / poop? Vomit? Booze? Other strange non likable smells! This is important as a completely new interior is ridiculously priced to get done.
  • Now your test driving! Ok, you are here, you have obviously familiarized yourself with the vehicle to this point lets drive! Drive like you own it. Don’t baby the vehicle or you will miss out on important issues. You have already tested the stereo so you know it works so this test drove you are driving silent. No music, just listen to the car and focus on the vehicle for this 45 minutes to one hour. New or used this is all the same. Obey the rules of the road, drive carefully smart, let’s go!


Focus on how the vehicle accelerates, brakes, rides, corners, parks, steers, sounds, odd vibrations, any of these should be brought to the inspection mechanics attention if you decide to do a second test drive or to purchase. Here is my driving check list.

  • Make sure the vehicle reaches 100 km/hr so you will need to take it out on the highway. Slower speeds just don’t give you the speed you need for some issues to show themselves such as many high cost front end problems. So you are at 100 or 110 km/h is the front end shaking at any time to this speed? Did it stop as you got faster or is it shaking worse as you go faster? Do you notice vibration in the steering wheel at any time reaching this speed? Vibrations and shaking is obviously a bad thing but at higher speeds it is a costly front end issue and personally I would not purchase the vehicle, my trip would stop right there and I would return the car and walk away from it.
  • Does the steering wheel vibrate at any speed? This could be that the tires are mounted incorrectly (Walmart did that to me and tried to blame my car – I personally re-mounted the tires and it was fine) So that is a minor problem to be fixed but having said that, it could be a much more costly problem. I would if in a test drive, walk away from that vehicle. It is not my car yet so why would I want to do the investigating to find the costly problem? If it shakes, walk away!
  • Odd noises? Grinding? Ticking? Shushing? Hissing? Any noise is a symptom. Do the noises happen during acceleration or standstill or breaking? Does the engine light come on or any light come on.
  • Does the vehicle pull to one side? When diving notice if it feels like the steering wheel wants to pull you to a side. I will at different speeds up to the max highway speed, let go f the wheel for a couple seconds to see if the car starts to turn to either side. In the acceleration same thing, breaking same things. These are front end issues or a simple wheel alignment, either way walk away it is not your car yet, you have the ability to not take on the cost of investigation and repair! Also take the car out on a gravel road, I find this helpful to determine wheel alignment and front end issues also, if there is a problem doing 70km/h on a gravel road if the car sways a lot could be rear end issues or of it pulls hard to the side it is a front end issue or very bad wheel alignment. Or you suck at driving on gravel roads! I find this very helpful for me, I grew up driving gravel roads so maybe it is just that I know how it is supposed to feel normally, anyhow, I can feel the difference there but give it a shot, you have an hour!
  • Standard or automatic they both have a transmission so as you manually shift or as you accelerate quickly does it shift smoothly to the higher gear? Does it accelerate smoothly or jerk? Or accelerate slowly when you have the gas pedal to the floor? When shifting manually do you have to slam it in gear or does it go in smoothly? Or does it seem to slip?
  • Braking! Does the pedal feel squishy or spongy? Does the vehicle pull to one side while braking? Do you hear a squeal while braking? Find an empty parking long or church lot and reach about 40 or 60km if you can and hard brake, (no pumping brakes) push the brake hard does and stop as fast as the car can, does it stop quickly or seem to stop slow indicating bad brakes. Look online in your research how fast a car should stop, it is about 3-4 seconds to come to a full stop at highway speeds. So if at this parking lot you are at 60km/h and it takes 3 or 4 seconds to come to a full stop or longer the breaks are crap! I usually aim for 1.5-2 seconds in a parking lot at 60km/h sometimes I have done it on the highway when no one else is around at 90km/h. If slow it is another reason I would walk from this vehicle.


  • Closing the deal. I will list some sites to read to help you prepare for the closing game. This is good for dealerships and private sellers too. Knowledge is power so be powerful and confident and ready to play the close the deal game. This is a high rolling wheeling dealing game so let’s get started.

Here is a link to some of the terms and costs that dealers use and are liable for so you can know before you walk in the dealership.

Here is a link for scams and tips – then read this

Here is a dealership training site, great for you to see their process and how it works so you too can play the game right!

Here is the common mistakes that are made to help you steer clear of them –

Here is another good advice site –

I liked this one too


What I do is read the sites to remind me of my how to skills on negotiation like the ones above and walk in knowing my value of the vehicle in question and being insistent that that is the cost I will pay or I walk. I make sure that the contract I sign says exactly what I agreed to. I make sure that all calculations are correct with my own calculator.  I never, ever drive a vehicle home until ALL FINANCING AND REPAIRS ARE COMPLETE only then will I drive home with the vehicle, otherwise the dealer can pull a yo-yo on me and force me into some unfavorable terms. So leave it at the lot until it is exactly what you agreed to!




Remember Canadian contract law states that there is a 10 day grace period after signing a contact that you can back out of that contract.  Check in your area if this is correct for your area as it is here.

  • List of my best research sites. I am not paid by any of these so it is not at profit referral, I really use and have found some great information in them.

My top go to sites first for problem reports, pricing, and safety reports etc.  then skim the rest are:

  1. a.       carcomplaints.comb.      Consumer affairs is a blog but if blogs comes up on a google problem search I like it because I can read what others are frustrated with and can see that frustration telling me how serious an issue it has been. Also that information is never on an official auto report.c., reports, problems, etc.

    d. is good too

    e. if you are willing to pay for reports, history, etc.

    f.        And as always the ever popular for automotive.

    g.       The and YouTube site

    h.      The Kelly blue book site

    i.         Last but not lease my favourite free pricing guide in Canada is the site – only goes as far back as 2003 years but really it gives you an idea of the cost depreciation to calculate what your older vehicle should be worth.


These are my basic steps to buying my own vehicle, I am sure there are many, many other ideas and I tried to describe things as I see it so I hope it all makes sense for you. I would love to hear if this helped you out when buying your vehicle or if you have a story to share please post it below. Please remember to keep the language clean as I will not respond to vulgarity. Thank you for stopping by.

Please share your auto experiences in comments.






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