Advice for First-time Car Buyers

Purchasers of pre-owned vehicles should request a CarProof report to determine a vehicle’s true condition and history, Susan Gubasta writes.

By Susan Gubasta Wheels.ca

Oct 23, 2018 3 min. read

Article was updated 5 years ago

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Buying a first car is both an emotional and memorable experience for many Canadians.

A first car represents a sense of freedom, adventure, maturity, pride of ownership and practicality. For a majority of Canadians, owning a vehicle is necessary to meet their work and lifestyle needs.

If you are preparing to purchase your first automobile, either new or pre-owned, congratulations! Here is some advice that will help you to make the best car-buying decision.

1) Identify needs, not wants. This can be difficult considering the wide assortment of automobile brands, styles and features available. Buying a vehicle that is geared to your driving habits, lifestyle and budget will result in an overall better ownership experience than if you choose a “dream car.”

2) Plan your purchase. A wealth of information is available on all makes and models. Check out trade magazines and newspapers (Wheels Section) reviews, manufacturers’ and dealerships’ websites, YouTube channels and social media sites. Visit new car dealerships in your area and talk to salespeople and service advisers. The more information you can gather, the better decision you will make.

3) Ownership costs. Low interest rates and high rebates are attractive, but they do not tell the whole story about car ownership costs. You will need to factor in other costs related to buying and operating a vehicle, such as insurance costs, borrowing costs, fuel, maintenance, repairs and resale value. Understand the real costs of vehicle ownership and affordability.

4) Financing your purchase. Creditworthiness determines whether a bank or financial institution will extend you credit to purchase a vehicle and on what terms. Good credit history is essential to obtaining financing approval. A cash down payment is helpful, but occasionally a co-signer is required. Car buyers should know their credit history before they start the sales process. Under the Consumer Reporting Act, citizens are within their right to obtain a copy of their credit report prior to visiting a dealership.

5) Choose a dealership. The primary goal of any dealership is to provide the best possible car buying experience, and to offer vehicles that are in excellent condition, and backed by warranty protection (new and pre-owned vehicles). They work with all categories of buyers, from first timers to repeat customers. Buying a vehicle from a private seller is certainly an option, but remember when you choose to buy privately, there are no protections and it’s always buyer beware.

6) Vehicle reports. Purchasers of pre-owned vehicles should request a CarProof report to determine a vehicle’s true condition and history. CarProof provides transparency and confidence for car buyers and is endorsed by the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association.

7) The right fit. Whether you are a first time car buyer or a seasoned veteran, it is important to test drive any vehicle that you are considering purchasing. It is easy to forego this part of the process, but for the short amount of time it takes to test drive a few vehicles, it is worth it in the end. The average car owner drives thousands of kilometres per year, and comfort level should be an important consideration. If something does not feel right at the outset, do not assume that it will improve with time. Like buying a pair of pants you hope to fit into over time, avoid buying a car hoping that a few irritants will go away.

8) Enjoy the experience. Part of the excitement of buying a first car should be the process. Do not be intimidated by sales, technical or financial jargon. Proceed at your own pace, not according to someone else’s agenda. If there is something you do not understand, ask a friend or family member for help.

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This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to president@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Susan Gubasta is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is president/CEO of Mississauga Toyota. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.

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