5 Expert Tips To Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying A Used Car

Steer clear of damaged or tampered vehicles. 🛞

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​ A white Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA parked in Montreal.

A white Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA parked in Montreal.

May often marks the best time of year to buy a car in Canada, with prices dropping by 10 to 20% in some cases. But, alongside the surge in used car sales, used car fraud is also on the rise.

Statistically speaking, one in three used cars sold by private individuals have some form of damage or tampering, according to car inspection service Kiwiz.

"It’s critical to be informed before you buy to avoid overpaying for the vehicle and extra maintenance costs later on," said Kiwiz spokesperson Adélaïde Favé.

A road test and a thorough inspection, including a complete aesthetic, mechanical and functional review, are vital, she said.

To avoid being duped, here are five trusty tips to keep in your back pocket:


A car odometer.

A car odometer.

Filippo Carlot | Dreamstime

Watch out for sneaky mileage manipulations. Carfax recently highlighted a growing issue with odometer fraud, revealing that more than 1.9 million vehicles on the road have altered odometers.

According to CarVertical, this problem is especially prevalent in Canada, where one in six used cars has experienced odometer tampering. To safeguard yourself, Favé recommends getting your vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic or an independent inspection service to ensure the car's wear and tear aligns with the reported mileage.


\u200bA used car lot.

A used car lot.

Raytags | Dreamstime

Knowledge is power. Start by researching the average market price for the specific make and model of the car you're interested in. Once you have a general idea of what the car is worth, factor in any necessary repairs or maintenance that may be needed. Armed with this information, you can negotiate with the seller based on the estimated cost of repairs and the overall value of the car.

Keep in mind that if you're buying from a dealership, prices may be higher than if you were buying from a private seller.


Cars on raised platforms in a garage.

Cars on raised platforms in a garage.

Stanko07 | Dreamstime

Trust, but verify. Always opt for an independent inspection, whether buying privately or through a dealer. A third-party inspection will offer unbiased advice.

"Is the paint the same all over the body of the car and if not, why? Has there been an accident that required the vehicle to be painted again? Does the steering wheel look worn even though the dealer says the car is only three years old? Do the electric windows, air conditioner and remote car door opener work as they should? These are all key questions that an inspection will address," said Favé.

Vehicle History

Service and inspection of a car in a workshop.

Service and inspection of a car in a workshop.

Industryviews | Dreamstime

Dig deep into the car's past with something like Carfax data, but don't forget to scrutinize inspection-related info for the full picture. It's important to remember that there's more to the report than just the basic facts.

In addition to details about accidents, ownership and mileage, the report can also include information related to inspections and maintenance. This information can be invaluable when it comes to understanding the condition of the car and its various parts.

Seller's Info

\u200bSomeone inspects the trunk of a car.

Someone inspects the trunk of a car.

Ifeelstock | Dreamstime

Know thy seller! Probe their relationship with the car and find out why they're selling it — is there a valid reason, or are there hidden issues they can no longer handle?

Get a sense of their driving habits and where they typically used the car, like whether it was mostly for highway or city driving, commuting, or commercial use. Don't forget to ask about the car's maintenance history and request any receipts or invoices they may have as proof. These questions will help you make a more informed decision as a buyer, said Favé.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an award-winning writer, editor and former radio journalist with a passion for finding hidden gems in the city.