New or Used?

Whether you're in the market for a new or used car, there are several important factors to consider before. Here are a few, considerations gleaned from various Quebec Consumer Protection Office publications.

- New Car -

Be an Informed Consumer

Obtain as much information as possible on the makes and models of cars that interest you. Seek advice from family and friends and experts, automobile associations and consumer protection agencies. You might also want to check out automobile magazines and buyer's guides. Pay special attention to the following points while doing your research:

  • fuel consumption
  • performance (acceleration, cruising speed, efficiency, reliability, etc.)
  • safety (road-handling, braking, visibility, driver and passenger protection, etc.)
  • comfort (suspension, seating, layout of instrument panels, ease of steering, etc.)
  • standard equipment versus the options you'd like to have
  • fit and finish of bodywork
  • size of dealer network
  • warranties
  • cost of replacement parts.

Visit Several Dealers

Because the price of a car can vary from one dealer to the next, be sure to visit a few. When you're given a price, be sure to note the model and features included so you'll know you're comparing apples to apples when shopping around.

Take It for a Spin

The best way to make an informed decision about a car is to take it for a test drive. A good test drive should follow a varied route (curves, hills, straightaways, etc.) that you're familiar with so you can properly evaluate the car's overall performance. Remember to check visibility and how easy the car is to park, and make sure the instruments are within easy reach. In short, evaluate the car as a whole.

Be Sure Before You Sign!

Avoid unpleasant surprises. Remember that signing a contract means you agree to everything in it.

That said, by law you do have 48 hours to cancel a contract without penalty or charges. However, certain conditions must be met for the cancellation to apply. The contract must include credit, and you must not have driven the car, for even a short distance. If these two conditions are met, you can cancel the contract within 48 hours of signing it.

So read your contract carefully before signing. Ask as many questions as you like, and remember: anything is negotiable as long as the two parties agree.

Inspect the Car

Carefully inspect your new car before driving it off the dealer's lot. Make sure everything conforms to the contract you signed and check for scratches and any other defects so you can point them out right away.

- Used Car -

Check the Car's History

Before buying a used car, ask to see its records (purchase contract, warranty/maintenance logs, repair bills, manufacturer's recall notices, etc.). Check to see if there is any warranty coverage left, and try to find out if the vehicle has ever been in an accident.

A Thorough Inspection is a Must

It's always a good idea to have an experienced, independent mechanic evaluate the vehicle before you buy. If the vehicle has problems, you might want to look elsewhere. If it checks out, you'll have a better idea of what the vehicle is really worth before negotiating a price.

Check the Body

Check every inch of the car's body. If you find any rust, for example, you may be able to obtain a lower purchase price to offset the cost of repairs and painting.

Negotiate Your Price

How can you be sure you're not paying too much? To begin with, you might want to check the classified ads in your local paper. You can also consult such publications as Auto Hebdo, a buyer's guide that lists a price for each car based on average kilometres driven. Naturally, differences in mileage and vehicle equipment will have an impact on the price. Another publication to check out is the Canadian Red Book. In the end, the right price will be the one you negotiate with the seller.

A Contract is Important

There must be a signed contract to validate the transaction. CAA-Quebec members can obtain blank contracts at any Club branch. Non-members can contact the Consumer Protection Office. The contract must include the following elements:

  • complete name and address of the buyer and seller
  • description of the vehicle (serial number, make, model, year, etc.)
  • the warranty, if any
  • mention of the fact that the buyer inspected or road-tested the vehicle, or had it inspected
  • any known problems or necessary repairs
  • certification of absolute ownership
  • any accidents involving the car.

The Truth About Latent Defects

The new Civil Code of Quebec introduced a new term—warranty of quality—to describe certain guarantees inherent in a sale, including one against “latent defects.” In a transaction between two individuals, the seller must provide this warranty of quality to the buyer. The Civil Code defines latent defects as any defects “which render the property unfit for the use for which it was intended or which so diminish its usefulness that the buyer would not have bought it or paid so high a price if he had been aware of them.”

Under the Civil Code, buyers must advise the seller of a latent defect in writing, within a reasonable period of time following its discovery. After that, the buyer has three years to initiate a suit if the seller refuses to settle the problem to the buyer's satisfaction.

A Word About Warranties and Taxes

Only dealers are required to offer warranties for vehicles with less than 80,000 km. As for taxes, transactions between individuals are exempt from GST. However, the buyer must pay 9.975% QST on the greater of the following two amounts:

  • the actual purchase price
  • the price indicated in the blue section of Auto Hebdo, less $500.

For vehicles 10 or more years old and which are no longer listed in the Red Book, the QST is based on the transaction amount.

Don't Forget About Insurance and Registration

Advise your insurance company as soon as possible of the date on which you will be officially changing vehicles. If the sale takes place at a dealership, the dealer will give you the required transfer-of-ownership forms and sell you a temporary registration certificate. You will then have 10 days to obtain your licence plate from an SAAQ (Société d'assurance-automobile du Québec) office. If the transaction takes place between two individuals, both parties must go to an SAAQ office together.