New Car Buyer's Tips


Is a new car in your plans for this year? Here are some stress-busting tips to keep in mind as you start your sales visits

Shopping for a new car is a daunting task. With seemingly endless options and lots of unsolicited advice, it’s easy to see why buying a car is stressful. Before getting swept up in all the uncertainty and second-guessing, take a minute to prepare with these tips and tricks.

While no one set of tips will work for everyone, these will doubtless help, whether you are shopping for your very first new car or reentering the marketplace after a couple years. Remember, being prepared isn’t just the boy scout motto, it’s also the best way to avoid the pitfalls in any major purchase. 

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Tip 1: Make a  list

New cars have an almost limitless number of available features. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the amazing upgraded sound, or the extra-large moon roof. These extras can drive your cost way up, and you may not have even wanted them in the first place. 

Before setting foot in a dealership, make a list of what you actually want. Collision warning? Rearview camera? Navigation? Write it all down, print it, and bring it with you. Go over it with each sales representative you meet to ensure you’re viewing and test-driving a model that meets as many of your criteria as possible.

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Tip 2: Do some research

Knowledge is power. Use magazines, websites, and YouTube to help determine the sort of vehicle you need. What suits your life? A sedan, a hatchback, a crossover, a truck, a coupe, or a minivan? 

Having a narrowed focus will allow you to avoid comparing apples to oranges. After all, if you know you need a minivan, there’s really no point in getting excited about the grill on the front of the new pickup. 

Doing research and narrowing your choices before visiting the dealership is a great way to avoid wasting time, second-guessing, and becoming frustrated. 

Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council Website

Tip 3: Know the rules

Check out the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) website, or the comparable resource in your province, for a look at your rights as a car shopper, and the rules and regulations around what’s allowed—and what isn’t—when it comes to price advertising and additional fees. For instance, in Ontario, it’s against the rules for a salesperson to infer that any charge beyond HST and licensing is mandated or required. In Ontario, administration fees aren’t against the law—but they must be included in an ‘all-in’ price. Regulations vary from province to province, and it pays to be aware of them.

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Tip 4: Plan for ample time

With so many demands on our time it can be difficult to set aside a reasonable chunk for a dealership visit. However, a good test drive should take half an hour or more, and if you’re strongly considering the model in question, you may want to test-drive it again. 

It’s important to book vehicle shopping time into your calendar so you can give this major purchase the attention it deserves. Consider booking a sitter for the initial visits, so you can focus on the experience and get a good feel for the car. And if the dealership is making you feel rushed, don’t be afraid to take your business elsewhere. 

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Tip 5: Sweat the small stuff

How many charger ports are there? Are the drink holders stable? How many drink holders can you reach from the driver’s seat? Will your teenager have enough legroom? Can you fit two hockey bags in the trunk? How loud is the ambient road noise? What does the car feel like going over a speedbump? Does the car need to be on so the mirrors can fold? Think of your lifestyle, the things and people you’ll transport, and how you need the vehicle to work for you in real life—both now, and 5 years out. 

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Tip 6: Be wary of upsells

You’ve finally reached a decision, and now you’re presented with a list of optional equipment. Before getting caught up in leather seats, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, these extras can often be purchased at a later date, giving you time to do some research first. Second, remember that dealer options are often high-profit items designed to strike at your wallet when it’s already open. Is that $800 rust module a good investment? Should you spend $1,600 on an extended warranty, or put the same $1,600 in your bank account in case a repair is needed? Keep these questions in mind, do your research and decide which, (if any) add-ons are of value to you.