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Auto Know: Buying a used car anywhere has its risks

Published March 7, 2013
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Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: If auction cars are sold “as is,” aren’t you better off buying from a dealer?

A: James Hamilton of the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario replies:

In the eyes of Ontario law, a public auction operator is a motor vehicle dealer registered and regulated by OMVIC like all dealers. The auction bid-and-buy process is just another way to sell you a vehicle.

Eric Lai adds:

Many auction buyers are themselves dealers who will then resell these same vehicles to the public.

Older or higher mileage autos will have more wear-and-tear, and any used car sold “as is” may need substantial repairs for safety certification. These are inescapable facts. But to presume that traditional dealership used cars not sold “as is” must be trouble-free because they might be briefly under warranty after purchase would be naïve.

Year after year, used car dealer investigations conducted by the Automobile Protection Association find undisclosed wrecks being sold as accident-free, rampant odometer roll-backs, and cases where two “salvage” vehicles are welded together to make one “too good to be true” bargain vehicle (a fact typically not disclosed to the buyer). Many dealers issue their own safety certificates and, in several documented cases, passed questionable vehicles that APA mechanics say were clearly unsafe.

Wherever you buy a used car, be it at a traditional dealership, an auction, or privately, it’s buyer beware.

Q: Isn’t emission testing philosophically a good thing?

A: Philosophically, I feel that Drive Clean is akin to issuing all drivers a $35 “ticket” despite knowing full well that only a scant few are in violation. That’s incredibly unfair and degrades our Charter rights to be presumed innocent and to be free from arbitrary search and seizure.

A more laudable, though less revenue-generating, course of action would be to only ticket those actually in breach of the law rather than forcing all to prove their innocence.

In my opinion, legislators should leave it to police and the smog patrol to nab those actually visibly polluting, and stop imposing this de facto tax called Drive Clean on the law-abiding, emission-compliant masses.

Note that the answer above is a personal opinion only and does not necessarily represent the views of this publication.

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