Jumped the Synapse: Thoughts without sponsors!

These are my thoughts that don't fit in my other blogs. They'll eventually cover a large range of topics.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Buying a used car in British Columbia (BC) Canada

This is a tip sheet for those buying a used car in British Columbia, Canada.

This is more or less geared towards a car that has been registered in BC for some period of time, but some of these resources may prove helpful for others.

Many of these resources require the VIN number of the vehicle, which you can get by asking the vendor to look at his/her insurance papers. This reported number is also located on the dash of the vehicle (you can see it by looking though the front windshield), on the drivers side pillar, and somewhere in the engine compartment. The reported number should be checked against one or several of those numbers on the vehicle, and should be checked for any apparent evidence of tampering.
  1. You can check for free to see if the vehicle is stolen at the Canadian Police Information Centre.
  2. ICBC provides a list of most-stolen vehicles here, which shows the most-stolen vehicles in different areas of the province. Unfortunately, while it has some utility, it only considers the greatest number of vehicles stolen, and not by percentage of licensed vehicles of that type on the road. (Meaning that, generally, those cars that sell the most will also show up as the most stolen). Still, it can help in making a decision on buying that vehicle, or theft-deterrent devices.
  3. The BCAA (British Columbia Automobile Association) has many excellent free resources. Here is an article on buying a used car, the sights and sounds of a lemon, general FAQs, which includes link to "Black Book" pricing for used vehicles, and a link to recall information. They also have an excellent reasonably-priced mobile inspection service. I highly suggest poking around on the BCAA site for other resources they have.
  4. What kind of accidents has the vehicle been in? Check here for $20 +GST on ICBC's site to see what payments they've made on a vehicle. Also tells if the vehicle was written off at any point in it's life, while insured by ICBC.
  5. One study by an individual reported on the Craigslist site, indicated that 40% of used cars on small independent lots appear to have had their odometers tampered with. Protect yourself, by viewing the previous AirCare records for the vehicle. You can see whether it passed AirCare (emissions controls), and that the mileage claimed makes sense in relation to previously reported mileages on the vehicle. Click on the "Readings for Your Vehicle" link and enter the VIN number.
  6. One of the most expensive things when buying a vehicle over it's life, is the cost of fuel. Check what the mileage ratings are at fueleconomy.gov, here (however, it is reported in US MPG). Elsewhere on the the site has the advantage in that some owners self-report mileage, so in addition to EPA ratings, some real-world owners also report. There's also Fuelly.com where you can check a number of folks mileage on many, many vehicles.
  7. Check for the reliability of your potential purchase, at the howstuffworks site. Select the vehicle make and model, then, and then the year applicable. Read the experts review, which has a section on the reliability. Don't forget about the excellent Consumer Reports which is unbiased and impartial. Membership is about $30 year.
  8. Check to see if there's a loan/lien outstanding on the vehicle, for BC only by going to an ICBC driver services centre with the VIN ($10+GST), or nationwide through CarProof.com (which can also include the accident history, negating the need for item #4), for about $60+GST. You can also check here ppsa.ca and for a relatively small fee ($20 or so), you can check out liens in each province.
  9. The Vehicle Sales Authority of BC (a government body that regulates and supports the auto dealer industry) has some good resources, including a series of videos on buying a used car, and how to avoid a "curber" (unregistered dealers, with frequently dodgy ethics) ripoff. In addition to the videos, I recommendyou view this series of tips. The one statistic I found shocking was the VSA's estimation that they believe some 50% of private, used-vehicle sales sold in BC are by curbers. This statistic unfortunately also indicates that, as a group, registered car dealer's would have to be complicit in this, as this would be the only way that the significant supply of used vehicles needed for resale could be provided to these unregistered dealers. You can voice your concern over this matter with the VSA, or with the new car dealers association of BC (their members also receive cars for trade in, and almost all also deal used cars).     
That's about it - happy hunting!

... another random musing