Vehicle Used

April 08, 2014

Take the vehicle to a mechanic of your choice and have it thoroughly inspected. On the Lower Mainland the BC Automobile Association (BCAA) provides an inspection service at a nominal charge. For more information outside the lower mainland call 1(800) 663-4636. Callers in the lower mainland can phone BCAA at (604) 298-2755. Ask the mechanic to look for signs of wear that do not match the odometer reading. Make any sale agreement a conditional one, subject to the results of the vehicle inspection. On a dealer sale agreement, write in a clause such as: 'Subject to a mechanical inspection by...and my approval of the results.'

Ask I.C.B.C. for the vehicle claims history for damage over $2,000.00 for a fee of $20.00 and the transfer tax history at a cost of $10.00 to check the mileage. Call I.C.B.C. at 1(800) 464-5050 or (604) 661-2233 (Vancouver) or fax (604) 443-7307. You can visit I.C.B.C.'s website at

Contact CarProof for a Verified BC report for a fee, it will provide vehicle history including prior registrations, status changes, insured crash repairs, verified odometer readings, and any current liens from all across Canada and the United States. It does not provide private information as to prior vehicle ownership.

A report can be obtained at, through I.C.B.C. at, or through the Vehicle Sales Authority (VSA) online at or by phoning (604) 294-9889 extension 4 or toll free at 1-877-294-9889 extension 4.

You may do a Personal Property Registry lien search to determine if any liens have been registered against the vehicle by going to either a government agent's office or any Motor Vehicle Branch. If you prefer to do a Canada-wide lien search, contact Canada Search & Registry Corp. at 1-888-879-LIEN (5436) or go to the website at

If you are buying privately, ask to see the seller's driver's license so you know you are not dealing with a 'curber', or illegal car dealer. See that the license matches the location where you are buying the vehicle and the transfer papers.

Inspect the Vehicle Indentification Number (VIN) on the dash and doorpost for signs of tampering. Compare these numbers to the numbers on the vehicle's papers. 

Check the vehicle status on the transfer document: 'R' indicates a Rebuilt vehicle.

Inspect the registration papers to make sure all the details match. Be sure the papers are original - no photocopies.

It is an offence to tie the financing of a vehicle to the purchase of sickness, accident and life insurance.

Ask if the vehicle was used as a police car, taxi, emergency, lease or rental vehicle or if it has been rebuilt in any way. These facts should be noted on any purchase agreement.

Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of any warranties. Words are cheap. Don't rely on verbal promises.

The vehicle advertised price must include the extras such as freight, delivery, etc. This enables you to shop and compare prices.

Always test-drive a vehicle over a variety of road surfaces before you buy.

Never buy a vehicle from someone who shows up at your door with the vehicle. Go to where the seller lives to see the vehicle and check if the address matches the registration documents. Don't buy from someone who can only be reached via cell phone or pager.

Take the seller to an autoplan agent to transfer the vehicle.

If you feel some violation has occurred during the transaction, report your concerns to the Vehicle Sales Authority (VSA). You may also check out their website at or contact them at (604) 294-9889.

The Motor Dealer Customer Compensation Fund, which went into effect June 1, 1995 offers buyers of motor vehicles or extended 'in-house' warranty plans the ability to claim up to $20,000 in cases of dealership business failure, dishonest conduct or failure to provide clear title. This protection covers buyers from registered dealers. 

For $15, Lemon-Aid guide author Phil Edmonston will fax motorists a summary of all TSB's (technical service bulletins) for a specific vehicle, and copies of individual bulletins (including hidden warranties) for $5 each. Check the back of any current Lemon-Aid guide for mail order details or fax an inquiry to his Fort Lauderdale, FL office: (954) 563-2448 or e-mail: The website is

Yahoo's auto section at offers a comparison feature to help you compare vehicles in which you may be interested.

Check out the Consumer Reports website at regarding vehicle recalls.

If it is an import, a check with Carfax ( will often show salvage certificates and warn of possible odometer rollbacks.

Warranties and 'As Is'

If you buy from a private owner, you almost always buy 'as is'. You negotiate price on the basis of your evaluation of the vehicle and what you think will be needed to correct any defects.

With a dealer, many used vehicles, particularly older models, are sold 'as is' - that is, without the dealer undertaking any repairs and without any warranty. The evaluation of the vehicle, and the price you are willing to pay, is entirely up to you and no matter what happens to the vehicle you have no claim against the dealer.

For the vehicle that is not sold 'as is', there are two types of warranties - the one given by the manufacturer and the one given solely by the dealer. Some late model used vehicles may still have the manufacturer's warranty in effect. If so, make sure it continues beyond the first owner.

If the manufacturer's warranty is no longer in effect, dealers may offer their own warranty. An ideal dealer warranty would be 30, 60 or 90 days, covering everything, including parts and labor. A common dealer warranty is '30 days, 50/50 parts and labor', which is quite reasonable providing any repairs needed are done at a garage of your choice.

If the dealer claims to have done a paint job or installed a new or rebuilt engine, a new transmission or new tires, these items should be specifically guaranteed on the contract for a set length of time. Any warranty should:

- be in writing;
- be part of the contract; 
- be signed by the dealer, not just the salesperson; 
- be specific, with details of what is covered and for how long; and 
- contain a statement giving you a choice of garage services, in the event of a breakdown.