When purchasing a car you're bombarded with a lot of information and terminology. Here are the common pricing terms and what they mean to you as a car buyer. This first group of terms are typically found on the Window Sticker:
Good publications to read are Consumer Reports magazine's April issue, which features a comprehensive review of new and used cars, and the annual Lemon-Aid, by Phil Edmonston. With a used vehicle, unlike a new vehicle, each one is unique with its own unique combination of owners, usage, maintenance and mileage. You need to look not only at mileage but the quality of the car. Look for various signs that the car has been (or hasn't been) well maintained.
A mechanical check is the best way to find out if the vehicle has been put to hard use or not Be sure to go to a mechanic you know or whom a friend or family member has recommended. Automobile Protection Association recommends getting a written account of the car's accident history from the dealer and private seller. You can check a few things yourself to find out if it is worth paying a mechanic to look at the car.
By law, dealers must guarantee against stolen vehicles and against liens on the car. For private sales in Ontario, the seller should provide you with a Used Vehicle Information Package that shows ownership as well as liens on the car and the financial institution that has that lien. If the UVIP is not provided, go to the provincial licence bureau and request this info before buying the car (about $20) to ensure you don't pay for a stolen car, which you won't be allowed to keep. If there is a lien on the car, you may want to provide two cheques totalling the agreed purchase price: one for the lienholder (the registered lien will indicate the total loan, not the current balance), and one for the balance.
While several laws, like The Sales of Goods Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Business Practices Act, the Fair Trading Act (depending on which province you are in) protect consumers who buy from dealers, with private sales, court is your only recourse. Dealers can also provide after sale service, extended warranties, trade-ins and financing options if you need them.