A Beginner’s Guide to Car Buying

Learn How to Find the Right Vehicle for the Right Price

Buying your first car can be a rush – the excitement, the anticipation and the joy when you finally get the keys. Make sure you land the vehicle that’s right for you and at the right price by following these tips.

Be Practical

Before you start shopping, figure out what you really need in a vehicle. Toting kids around? Then maybe that sleek two-seater convertible isn’t really the best choice. Need to cart around a lot of cargo? Make sure the car you buy has plenty of space. Set a budget based on your needs, and stick to it. Don’t forget to factor in all the other costs of car ownership like fuel, insurance, maintenance and repairs. Check out our online cost calculator to see how it all adds up.


Don’t be afraid to haggle. Dealerships typically markup factory prices between 15 and 20 per cent, so there’s room to negotiate. Keep an eye on extra fees that may not be included in the sticker price. Buying through a private seller? There’s room to negotiate here as well. Check out the asking price for other similar vehicles and take a look at the Black Book values online.

Get An Inspection

If you’re buying a used vehicle, this step is incredibly important. No one wants to end up with a lemon. Before you buy, take the vehicle to a trusted service location, like any of our CAA Approved Auto Repair Service locations, to get a full inspection done. If it turns out the car may need some repairs, consider asking the seller to deduct the repair costs from the price.

Check it Out

Do a curbside check of the vehicle, paying particular attention for any signs of rust, excessive wear or that repairs have been made. Make sure you request the maintenance records of the vehicle to look for evidence of past collisions or damage. It’s also important to run a vehicle information check on any car you are considering purchasing. It will turn up information on any liens, past insurance claims and accident history.

Take it for Spin

You should always take a vehicle you’re interested in buying out for a test drive. After all, if you don’t like how it handles, you probably won’t enjoy driving it. Try and put the car through its paces (within reason!) by parallel parking, reversing and taking it for a spin on the highway. Feel for any pulling, listen for any strange sounds and make sure none of the warning lights on the dashboard are lit.

Read the Fine Print

If you’re buying from a car dealership, make sure you know the details of what’s in your contract, including any additional fees or warranty information. If you’re buying privately, make sure a clear contract is drawn up and signed by both parties. Remember, a signed contract is a legally binding commitment to buy. Don’t put the pen to the paper unless you’re 100% certain this is the vehicle you want and can afford.

Looking for a good deal on car insurance? We can help. CAA Members are entitled to discounts up to 20% on car insurance. Contact us today or go online to get your quote.