Thinking of buying a used vehicle? Even if you trust the seller, it’s important to do your due diligence—including pulling the vehicle’s history report and having it inspected by a qualified technician. An inspection will help you determine the condition of the vehicle, and in most cases will be required in order to purchase insurance.
AMA members get preferred rates on vehicle inspections at select Approved Auto Repair Services (AARS) facilities.
We asked AMA’s Randy Loyk—a manager in Automotive Services with four decades of industry experience—for more on the ins and outs of used vehicle inspections.
What’s the first thing you should do when considering a used vehicle?
If have a make and model in mind, do some online research on it—read reviews about its performance, check out safety ratings, and figure out what it should cost by finding it in the Black Book.
When you find a specific vehicle you’re interested in buying, investigate its history. A CarProof report will tell you the ownership history of the vehicle and whether it’s been in any major collisions. A CarProof report costs about $55, but it’s absolutely worth the money to do that preliminary check. If you want to find out if there’s a lien on the vehicle, AMA Registries can do a lien search for $17.
There’s also the CARFAX report, which can tell you if a vehicle imported from the U.S. has ever been reported stolen, rebuilt, or salvaged.
How do you get a used vehicle inspection in Alberta?
There are a number of AARS facilities in Alberta that do vehicle inspections. Any seller who’s acting in good faith should be okay with you wanting to get an inspection. If they refuse, you can probably assume there’s a problem with the car that they don’t want you to know about.
What does the inspection entail?
AMA-approved facilities offer two types of inspections. The buyer/seller car inspection is a 201-point inspection that covers pretty much everything—including the engine, fuel system, cooling system, exhaust system, brakes, tires and wheels, suspension, steering, electrical accessories, the body and overall safety. The inspector will also take the vehicle for a road test.
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Another option is the engine, powertrain and safety inspection, which is a 141-point inspection. That’s more for a situation where you trust the seller—perhaps they’re a friend or relative—and you’re confident that you know the vehicle’s history.
How else can prospective used-car buyers do their due diligence?
Before you even take the vehicle for a full inspection, give it a close look yourself. Make sure the seller has had the car cleaned: Dirt can hide scratches and other damage to the body. Examine the bodylines of the car, too. If you see any unevenness, or lines that don’t match up, then the car has probably had some suspect body repair work done in the past.
We also recommend that you take another person with you when you first look at the vehicle. Generally, if you’re hoping to buy a car, you’re probably excited about it. You want to believe you’ve found a good one, so you might overlook some issues. A second set of critical eyes can be very helpful in that regard.
What are some common problems that crop up with used vehicles?
We’ve seen it all. Everything from poor body repairs to major component failures. And if the vehicle has a lot of kilometres on it—more than 100,000, for example—it’ll tend to have more things wrong with it.
Does the inspection have insurance implications?
Your insurance company has the right to ask that a vehicle inspection be conducted before they insure it. They don’t always exercise it, but it becomes more likely as the vehicle gets older. The simple answer here is to check with your insurance advisor to find out what the requirements are for an older vehicle at your insurer.
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Take a look: AMA members get preferred rates on vehicle inspections at select AARS facilities.