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Important tips on buying a used vehicle

Know the value of buying “certified” over “as is” vehicles
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It’s the perfect storm in the automotive industry. A computer chip shortage around the globe has reduced new vehicle inventories and caused sales to plunge. As a result, used cars are in high demand, driving up pre-owned vehicle prices and leaving buyers scrambling to make purchases.

Shortages can often cause consumers to make snap decisions on purchases, and that’s never a good idea when it comes to big ticket items like cars and trucks. It’s a reason why the Guelph Garage Owners Association (GGOA) has come out with this list of tips to consider before buying a used vehicle – especially ones being sold “as is” rather than fully certified.

“I would never recommend buying a vehicle listed “as is” instead of being certified,” said Jaime Hamilton, owner of GGOA-member College Auto Tech. “There’s no way to know the true value of the vehicle until it’s fully inspected. You could wind up paying for a vehicle that may not even be certifiable.”

Hamilton said she often sees young buyers excited about their first car purchase who think they have got a good deal buying an “as is” vehicle. “They get it in for a safety inspection, it doesn’t pass, and it needs two or three thousand dollars worth of work to pass,” she said. “Suddenly, that deal doesn’t look so great anymore.”

Generally speaking, a vehicle being sold “as is” means it has not been inspected and fully certified. That leaves the buyer responsible for proper certification and all the associated costs that go with passing a proper inspection. It’s a gamble many consumers have lost when buying private sale vehicles. Here are some important tips from the GGOA that can help you avoid making a bad vehicle purchase.

Set your budget and stick with it. Determine how much you can afford.

Build a target list of used vehicles. There are many different ways to research used vehicles, from Autotrader to Facebook Marketplace. Bottom line is, shop around.

Compare prices. If you’re looking at popular best-selling models, chances are the car you’re looking at can be found for varying prices.

Try to buy locally. Look for used cars in your area. You’re more likely able to bring the car to your technician if you buy locally.

Check the vehicle history report. Using the VIN (vehicle identification number) you can use online services like to see if the vehicle has been involved in accidents.

Reach out to the seller and arrange a test-drive. A legitimate seller should have no issue with you taking the car for a drive. Test the brakes, check all the lights, and drive it on the highway. All these steps will give you an idea if the car is worth buying. 

Have the car inspected by a licensed technician. Only after getting the green-light from your technician should you consider buying a car listed “as is.” Ultimately, buying certified is always the better option, but it’s still no guarantee that the car will not need repairs in the immediate future. You can find all the touchpoints covered in a safety on the MTO website.

Negotiate the best price. Private sellers often want the cars off their driveway. Don’t shy away from negotiating a better purchase price.

Check with your insurance company to see what impact buying this vehicle will have on your insurance. If you’re a 20-year-old buying a Porsche, you might find the insurance cost a little restrictive!

Make sure you get all the proper paperwork if you’re making a purchase. This includes a bill of sale listing actual sale price, a safety certificate, and the ownership signed over to your name.

For more information, visit the GGAO website.