ICBC's top five tips for buying a used vehicle
February 9, 2011
How to protect yourself from making a mistake on a major investment
Buying a vehicle is a significant investment so why wouldn't you do your homework to ensure you know what you're really buying — especially when that vehicle is a used one?
Inflated prices, hidden damage, mechanical problems, liens, impulse buys — we've all heard the horror stories. But buying a used vehicle doesn't have to feel like a risk.
We've recently enhanced the ICBC Vehicle Claims History report to help our customers make sure their used vehicle purchase is a good one. The report now provides even more purchase protection for our customers by including warnings that the vehicle may be in an unsafe condition and require an inspection, and it will also indicate if the vehicle is listed by the police as stolen. We've made these improvements and more at no extra cost.
If you're shopping for a used vehicle, you can purchase the report at icbc.com. About 275,000 of these reports are purchased every year and they're also used by B.C.'s vehicle dealers, Autoplan brokers and our own Special Investigation Unit to investigate fraud.
There are many ways to protect yourself as you potentially make a major investment in a used vehicle. Here are ICBC's top five tips to help you make the right choice:
No. 1 — Find the right model for you: There are many different makes and models of vehicles on the market to choose from. You'll be considering how it looks, colour, comfort and hopefully, its safety features. You'll also want to decide if you need the vehicle primarily for commuting, work or family; and consider other aspects like fuel efficiency, comparable prices, resale value, insurance costs and the reliability of the model. Research your options for buying the vehicle — can you buy it outright or would it be better to lease?
No. 2 — Know who you're buying from: Buying from a registered dealer can give you additional peace of mind and you can also check their business record with the Better Business Bureau. If you decide to purchase a used vehicle privately, make sure you're taking some extra steps to avoid being taken advantage of by a curber (people who sell vehicles without a dealer's licence, which is a requirement of the Vehicle Sales Authority). A sure-fire way to tell if you're dealing with a curber, and not a legitimate private seller, is to search whatever source you're using — whether it's craigslist or the classifieds section of the newspaper — and see if their number is listed with another vehicle. If you go ahead with a private purchase, we also recommend that that the seller accompanies you to an Autoplan broker's office to complete the transfer of ownership.
No. 3 — Take a history lesson: A vehicle history report can tell you a lot about the car you're thinking of buying, like whether it's been in a major crash and subsequently written off and rebuilt, has any liens on it or if it's flood-damaged. A vehicle's status is one of the most important pieces of information about a vehicle. ICBC's Vehicle Claims History report may include all you need to know but if you want a more detailed report, have specific concerns about the vehicle's history or if its registration shows it was imported from outside of B.C., we recommend the CarProof Verified B.C. report. This will give you details on all ICBC claims, plus information from insurers and vehicle databases across Canada and the U.S. You can compare the two reports on icbc.com.
No. 4 — Give it your own inspection: Since 1981, every vehicle has been manufactured with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) — a unique combination of 17 numbers and letters used to identify it. You should confirm that the VIN on the dashboard matches the vehicle registration form. Check for signs of tampering with the VIN, like loose or mismatched rivets, scratched numbers, tape, glue or paint. You should also inspect the odometer for signs of tampering — look to see if the numbers are aligned and that the mileage is consistent with the condition of the vehicle (a car travels an average of 25,000 km per year).
No. 5 — Bring in the professionals: After you've done your own homework and taken the vehicle for a good test drive on local roads and on the highway, it's time to get a professional inspection done by a qualified mechanic. If you're not sure who should inspect the vehicle then BCAA's standard vehicle inspection is a good choice. Their 143-point visual, instrument and performance inspection is very thorough.
A little research can go a long way in protecting you when you're buying a used vehicle. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before signing on the dotted line and handing over payment. If at any point along the process something causes you concern, your best option may be to walk away from the sale. Importantly, if a deal on a vehicle seems too good to be true — it probably is.
Visit icbc.com for more tips on buying a used vehicle including important guidelines on transfer of ownership and registering, licensing and insuring your vehicle. You can also download a copy of our used vehicle buyer's checklist and get tips on selling a used vehicle and buying a new vehicle.