Researching vehicles

Before signing a contract, be sure to research the vehicle, ask questions and weigh the risks.

Remember, once a contract is signed, it is generally binding on both parties.

Choosing a vehicle

What is the best vehicle to buy? Every vehicle purchaser wants to know. The reality is, there is no single answer. The best vehicle for one customer is not the best for another. Analyzing your specific needs and wants is a good place to start.

  • What is your budget? Focus on the total cost of the vehicle, not the affordability of the monthly payment when setting a budget.
  • What are your driving habits? Do you drive mostly in the city or on the highway? Vehicle size and comfort may be important considerations.
  • What kind of safety rating do you expect? Every make and model has different safety features. Define the features that are most important to you.
  • What are your expectations for fuel efficiency? Check out Natural Resources Canada for tips, information and calculators.
  • Are you concerned about the resale value of the vehicle?
  • What are your needs for passenger and cargo space?

This Vehicle Purchase Worksheet is available for you to fill out when shopping for a vehicle.

Access and use available information:

  • Hire an independent technician to inspect the vehicle before entering into a contract.
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask friends and relatives to recommend products, services and businesses.
  • Find out what consumer-testing and other agencies have to say about the vehicle. The Automobile Protection Association, the Canadian Automobile Association, for example, offer information including vehicle ratings for safety, reliability and price, as well as helpful information about the cost of maintenance and repair.
  • You can check if a vehicle has been reported stolen by searching the VIN on the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. The CPIC check is free.
  • Purchase at least one vehicle history report for a used vehicle.

Vehicle history

An automotive business operator must disclose vehicle history in writing to the consumer before purchase. This includes answers to the following:

  • Was the vehicle ever bought back by the manufacturer?
  • Was the vehicle ever damaged by fire?
  • Was the vehicle ever damaged by flooding?
  • Was the vehicle ever used as a police or emergency vehicle?
  • Was the vehicle ever used as a taxi or limo?
  • Was the vehicle ever owned by a vehicle rental business or used as a rental vehicle?
  • Was the vehicle ever declared a salvage vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  • Was the vehicle ever declared a non-repairable vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  • Was the vehicle ever declared an unsafe vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  • Was the vehicle ever in need of repairs that cost more than $3,000 including parts and labour due to an incident or collision? If yes, the total cost to complete the repairs.
  • Was the vehicle previously registered in a different jurisdiction immediately prior to the business operator acquiring it? If yes, name the province/country.
  • If the vehicle was registered in another jurisdiction immediately prior to the business operator acquiring it, was it required to be inspected prior to being registered in Alberta? If yes, did the vehicle pass or fail any inspections?

A current vehicle history report can also provide useful information. Depending on the vehicle history report provider and the available vehicle history, you may be able to determine the number of previous owners, recorded accident history, reported service records, vehicle use, odometer reading and various other vehicle information.

  • Always buy one or more current vehicle history reports.
  • Use the VIN copied off the vehicle when purchasing or requesting a current history report.

Consumers can use AMVIC’s used vehicle purchase guide to find more information on vehicle purchasing.

Odometer Fraud

Tampering with a vehicle’s odometer to roll back the recorded mileage is against the law. Criminals do it to fool buyers into believing a vehicle has travelled fewer kilometers. The motive is money. Consumers will usually pay more money for a vehicle with a lower odometer reading than other vehicles of the same make, model and year.

  • Low mileage combined with significant wear and tear could indicate the odometer has been tampered with.
  • Check for visible signs of odometer tampering such as misaligned numbers and scratches near the odometer.
  • Check oil change stickers on the vehicle’s windshield. They often document an odometer reading.
  • Check vehicle history reports and compare the reported mileage to what you see on the odometer.
  • When you register your vehicle, report your odometer reading to Alberta Registries. The provincial government will notify you if there is a discrepancy between the reading you report and previous readings reported for the same vehicle by a previous owner.
  • Signs of odometer fraud could also indicate you’re dealing with a curber. Report any odometer-tampering concerns to AMVIC.

Choosing a seller

AMVIC recommends you choose products and services sold by AMVIC-licensed businesses. Licensed businesses commit to following the consumer protection rules set out in Alberta’s Consumer Protection Act. More information on the benefits of buying from a licensed business and how to locate a licensed business.