The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Car in Calgary

July 6th, 2021 by

There are a lot of factors that come into play when buying a used vehicle, and if you jump in unprepared it can become overwhelming and stressful very easily. Knowing exactly what you need, educating yourself and setting a budget are arguably the most important factors when it comes to shopping for a used vehicle. Finding your dream car should be a fun and exciting experience for everyone, so the team at Auto House has put together some tips and tricks we’ve learned for buying the used cars Calgary has to offer. By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the tools and knowledge you need to put yourself behind the wheel of your new car.


Research and Preparation

Before anything, it’s important that you educate yourself on the different factors that come into play when buying a used vehicle. Preparing yourself and doing research is imperative to finding the right car that is functional for your day-to-day activities, but also highlights your personality and who you are as a person. Research and preparation is the foundation of buying a used vehicle because this will impact your car-buying decisions and help you decide which type of vehicle best suits your needs.

Do I need space or compactability? Do I want power or fuel efficiency? Do I need to tow anything or will I be using this vehicle for recreational use? These are the questions you should be asking yourself in the research stage of finding a used vehicle as they will greatly affect your buying decisions. Think about what you are going to be using the vehicle for, and what kind of options you would like it to have. If you’re looking for a town car or a daily commuter to work, you’ll probably want a more compact car with great fuel efficiency. If you do more recreational activities or have a big family, you’re going to want a more spacious vehicle that comes equipped with a tow package. Take the time to ask yourself questions about what you need the vehicle for. This makes picking a vehicle that suits you much easier and saves you time down the road. 

Now for the biggest factor in your vehicle-buying decisions; your budget. Setting a budget when you buy a used vehicle ensures that you do not pay more than what you were bargaining for. Check your current financial situation and make proper planning for your budget. If you’re looking for a cheaper vehicle, Auto House has an inventory of used cars under $10,000. You’ll also want to start thinking about how you’re going to pay for the vehicle, but we’ll talk about that later in the guide.


Inspecting the Vehicle

Now that you’ve found the vehicle you like, it’s time to check it out! Book a time with the seller to take a look at the vehicle. There’s three major things you’ll want to visually inspect to make sure the vehicle is in a good enough shape for your liking; the interior, exterior and engine. This step in the process is important, because you don’t want to waste your money on a vehicle that may not be in the best shape, cosmetically or mechanically speaking.

Interior Inspection

It’s time to inspect the interior of the vehicle. Check the seats for scuffs or imperfections. If the vehicle has leather seats, look out for ripped seams or scratches as this is common wear and tear on leather seats. If the seats are fabric, watch out for stains as they are very hard to take out.

Inspect the rest of the interior for wear and tear. A little bit of wear and tear is typical and expected in a used car, but be cautious if there is an excessive amount of it. This may be a sign that the vehicle’s previous owner didn’t take too much care of the car. Start the engine and check the dash for warning lights. Lights that remain on the dash after the engine has turned over may indicate that the vehicle needs windshield washer fluid, oil, a new battery or even servicing. Ensure all the buttons work inside the vehicle as well.

Exterior Inspection

Walk around the vehicle to examine the body panels and paint for any dents, scratches or rust. If some spots seem like there is new paint or it appears wavy, this is an indication that there was previous damage to that area. Check the tires for tread wear and ensure the tread is even on all tires. Take a look under the vehicle for any oil leaks as these may indicate that the vehicle will need servicing. 

Mechanical Inspection

You don’t need to be a certified mechanic to inspect the basics of the engine. Examining the basics of the engine while you’re checking the vehicle you like is a great idea, but we always recommend having a service shop do a thorough inspection before you buy the vehicle. Inspecting the basics of the engine yourself will give you an idea as to if the vehicle is worth buying.

Open the hood and look for any rust or build-up of dust around the engine bay. Make sure that the coolant and oil are topped up as this shows the previous owner took good care of the engine. Keep an eye out for oil stains on the engine. This can indicate that the engine has an oil leak and will need servicing, which can be expensive. Take a look at the battery for any build-up of battery acid around the positive and negative posts. If there is battery acid around the posts, the vehicle is going to need a new battery. 

Take the Vehicle for a Test Drive

Take the vehicle for a test drive and pay close attention to the comfort of the ride, and any sounds the car may make. A healthy vehicle won’t make any unusual noise and the ride will feel smooth. Make sure that you take the vehicle on a highway so you can test the highest gear. Test the brakes and turning radius, along with the turning indicator lights so that you know everything works perfectly and functions the way it should.


Vehicle History

So you’ve found the vehicle you like and everything has checked out perfectly on the inspection. At this point, you may be inclined to purchase the vehicle; but you’re not in the clear yet! Ask the owner of the vehicle if they can provide you with the carfax or any servicing records they may have. The more service records the car has, the better. This gives you an idea of if the car has been well taken care of and serviced regularly. The carfax has a substantial amount of crucial information regarding the history of the vehicle; how many previous owners it had, online service records, vehicle status and much more. Take all of this information into consideration before making a decision on the vehicle, but if everything is to your liking then you’re ready to purchase your new ride!


Auto Finance or Cash Purchase

Finally, decide on whether you want to finance your vehicle or pay in cash. There are benefits to both, and this decision really depends on your financial status and credit history. If you choose to finance the vehicle, you can use a car loan calculator to predict how much your payments would be before you apply for an auto loan. If you have bad credit, an auto loan can also help build your credit and expand it. Paying in cash will save you from the monthly payments so if you’re able to afford paying cash and your credit doesn’t need rebuilding, then this would be the more suitable route to proceed with. 

Now that you’ve learned all the tools and tricks to buying a used car, you’re ready to go on the hunt for your dream vehicle! Remember; always do your research, prepare yourself, inspect the vehicle and decide on your payment plan whether it be cash or an auto finance. Checking off all the steps in the process ensures that you get the vehicle you deserve, without the headaches and surprises that you would get going in unprepared. 

Posted in Car Guides