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Buying a Used Car: Private, Third Party or an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Dealership?

CAA Auto Advice January 11, 2024
A young woman, sales agent and parent stand by as she admires her new used car purchase.

At CAA, we're not in the business of selling cars – but we know more than a thing or two about them. This means we can give you unbiased advice to help make the right purchase decision. In addition to helping you assess affordability and overall value, we can help guide you through all of the different places that sell used cars.

And if you are looking for a more in-depth guide on buying a car, check out our guide.

Private sales.

Private individuals are one source of used vehicles, often advertised through a variety of online marketplaces. Buying a car privately has the advantage of dealing directly with the previous owner but also with the risk of falling prey to distrustful individuals. In Ontario, every private seller is required to provide a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) which supplies the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) and other critical information – including if there is a financial lien on the vehicle. Make sure the seller gives you the UVIP, a signed Bill of Sale, and a completely signed Application for Transfer.

Take care not to privately purchase your used car from what's sometimes known as a curbsider. These individuals generally sell their vehicles from home (curbside, get it?), which may lead one to assume they're simply getting rid of the family vehicle. In reality, curbsiders buy up used vehicles at low prices and try to flip them for a profit. With their eye squarely on their wallet and not the car's mechanical fitness, the chances of ending up with a bad buy are fairly high. A recent registration or a registration that's not yet in the seller's name are clues you're dealing with a curbsider.

Third-party dealers.

Third-party dealers are very popular. Some prefer to sell a particular type or brand of car, which brings the advantage of dealing with a shop that has speciality knowledge. Others are more general in nature, simply stocking what they think is currently popular. In both instances, fully research the business by checking its standing with the Better Business Bureau and reading online reviews from customers. Note that some extended warranties from these vendors may not be as comprehensive as factory coverage.

OEM Dealerships.

This brings us to large original equipment manufacturer (OEM) dealerships. Their prices may be higher, given that they have more overhead expenses in the form of more employees and a bigger building. However, thanks to their service departments, they are best equipped to provide you with the past service history of a vehicle especially if the car being sold belongs to their house brand. Be sure to ask questions of the sales rep about factory extended warranties, repairs that may have been carried out on the vehicle and what type of inspection process it has received. A good OEM dealership should be well equipped to answer all three.

Need advice on where to look for your perfect vehicle?

The CAA Auto Advice team provides Members with free automotive advice. If you have questions about car care, buying a new or used vehicle, auto repairs, vehicle inspection, driving costs and more, contact us by phone at: 1-866-464-6448 or email: autoadvice@caasco.ca