5 things most people don’t consider when buying a used car, according to an expert

Sep 15 2021, 9:08 am

As a global shortage of automotive semiconductors continues to impact some of the world’s most prominent vehicle manufacturers, the result for consumers means increasing prices for new and used cars due to inventory constraints.

It also means less availability and longer delays for consumers. For this reason, coupled with the benefits of supporting the second-hand economy, buying a used car is becoming a more appealing option for many. But with this often comes another set of things to consider, from the cost of repairs to maintenance, from fuel to the vehicle warranty.

To discover the things most commonly overlooked when individuals are buying a used car and how to navigate them, we spoke with Simon Goumaz, senior product manager at GuardTree, Canada’s first subscription-based extended warranty for used cars.

Factory warranty expiration

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First and foremost, Goumaz says a common pitfall that people can encounter is failing to check if the factory warranty is in date. “Most likely, all or part of the factory warranty would have expired when someone purchases a used vehicle,” he tells Daily Hive. “That means electrical or mechanical breakdowns [that] arise as the car gets older might be out of the pocket [of] the car owner.”

Before you purchase, make sure to check with your seller to see what kind of warranty is still available for the vehicle and if not, you may want to consider purchasing one to protect your purchase, he adds.

Detailed vehicle history

When buying a used car, Goumaz says it’s important for consumers to look into the vehicle history. They may not necessarily know “how the previous owner used to drive the vehicle” or its history of repairs. While he recommends asking for the Safety Standards Certificate to find out more information, not everything will be listed on it and consequently, purchasing a pre-purchase inspection may be worthwhile.

Consumers can also verify the vehicle’s history with a free VIN decoder and lookup or purchase a more comprehensive vehicle history report. This report contains valuable information about that specific vehicle’s accident and maintenance history, product recalls, past owner history, and current liens (claims or legal rights against assets).

Once you have access to the car’s vehicle history report, Goumaz suggests taking a good look at the owner history section. If the car was bought back by the manufacturer, that’s often a sign that the car was faulty. Some red flags to look out for in the report include recurring repairs, repairs that happened when the car was new, which weren’t caused by a collision or modification, and serious issues that go beyond superficial wear and tear (problems with the powertrain or suspension, for example).

Lofty repair costs

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When a vehicle is older, Goumaz explains how big mechanical and electrical repairs are more likely to happen, from the engine, transmission, to the AC compressor. “Repairs can range anywhere from a couple of hundred to several thousand [of dollars],” he notes. “This is a big expense that can happen at any time and more likely, again, if it’s a used vehicle.”

Some surprisingly expensive and common repairs that can be a hefty amount include engine repair or replacement ($3,000 to $10,000+), transmission replacement ($4,000 to $7,000), suspension replacement ($2,500 to $3,500), and air conditioner compressor replacement (~$1,000).

Budgeting for maintenance and repairs

According to Ridetime, a good rule of thumb is to save $1,200 to $2,000 for repairs and maintenance every year. To plan for breakdowns and repairs, you can either create your own rainy-day fund or, you could consider a used-car warranty.

To calculate how much to budget for car repairs and maintenance each year, familiarize yourself with average car repair costs in Canada and use the Canadian Automobile Association’s driving costs calculator to get an idea of your vehicle’s average annual total costs.

As Goumaz tells us, “At a minimum, staying on top of basic maintenance — such as changing engine oil and filters — will help reduce the likelihood of larger breakdowns and repairs.” He also warns against using generic parts for replacements.

Although it’s tempting to use “aftermarket” or generic car parts to fix your vehicle because they’re typically much cheaper than original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, they may be lacking in quality, which can cost you more in the long run. Before you invest in a generic replacement part, ask a mechanic and check online reviews and forums to make sure that it’s up to scratch. 

Dealing with the unexpected

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Buying a used car without an extended warranty comes with the risk of “dealing with the unexpected,” something Goumaz says “nobody wants to have to experience.” He shares the similarity between this and getting insurance coverage to protect oneself against flooding or fire ever occurring in their home. “You don’t want to deal with the risk of a car breakdown, so you transfer the risk to [a] company like ours.”

GuardTree is one option that offers extended car warranty plans that cover mechanical and electrical breakdowns and repairs — without getting a third party involved. And since there are no locked-in, long-term contracts, members can change or cancel their monthly subscription at any time.  

Roadside assistance is also included in the subscription, along with car rental benefits, trip interruption lodging, and meal benefits if needed during a breakdown. Members have the added benefit of being able to use any locally licensed repair shop for repairs, too.


Consumers who are interested in protecting one of their most-used assets can sign up and activate their used car warranty online in minutes with GuardTree.

For a limited time, the company is offering a 25% discount on the first month for those who join before October 15 with the promo code CAR25. Please note, this offer is subject to change without notice.

For more information or to become a subscriber, visit guardtree.ca.

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