Choosing the safest vehicles for your teen

On occasion, I’m tasked with helping a client find a suitable vehicle for their teenager(s). And from what I’ve learned, this is no easy task – mainly because of the stakeholders involved and their rather polar priorities. Parents obviously want something that won’t endanger their children with too much power or a high centre of gravity that might make it more prone to rollovers. And their kids want something cool and quick. The boxes parents (should) look to check are: safety, reliability and low operating cost. But at the same time they don’t want to end up being the lamest parents ever in the eyes of their kids because they’ve come home from the dealership with something like a PT Cruiser (if this offended you, congrats – your kids think you’re lame). And although I’m told by parents that safety, reliability and operating cost are the three most important search criteria, the desire not to be lame always seems to pervade their decision-making; probably more so than it should.

Whatever your shortlist of prospective vehicles may end up being, call your insurance company for quotes. This might be a huge determining factor when selecting the right vehicle for the kids and is a better place to start than to finish. Chances are, the more expensive to insure, the less appropriate for your child. The reason a vehicle is more expensive to insure is a greater propensity to be involved in a claim. So it’s likely faster or more powerful, or is more desirable to a higher-risk demographic. That said, actuaries never cease to amaze me and there will always be exceptions to the rule. But in general, the lower the cost to insure the more likely it’s a suitable option for teenage transportation as probabilities (and actuaries) are telling you it’s less likely to be involved in a claim. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying simply choose the cheapest to insure – but there often is a correlation between insurance cost and suitability.

Something like a Toyota Corolla won’t be a teen’s first choice (unless your teen is far more responsible than their age states they should be), but it’s efficient, reliable, safe and inexpensive to operate. And being a lame parent whose kid has survived an accident is way better than the alternative. If you feel a mid-size sedan will be a safer choice (greater mass and larger crumple zones), stay away from 6-cylinder engines. Most mid-size sedans can be configured with either 4- or 6-cylinder engines so pay close attention to the trim level that indicates the number of cylinders. The last thing you want is to enable your offspring to go fast. 4-cylinders are capable of overtaking on the highway, so “needing” a 6-cylinder is moot when it comes to being a “safety” issue.

Now let’s get down to the meat of it. What should you look for?

Shop pre-owned. Insurance premiums for new cars will be more than pre-owned, and pre-owned doesn’t necessarily mean less safe or suitable.

Don’t go too old – ESC is a MUST. You can go a handful of years back and still have a very safe vehicle with modern safety features. Airbags have pretty much been standard since before 2000. Same can be said for ABS except on the most basic of cars with base trim levels. But one feature you should make a “must have” is ESC (electronic stability control) or some manufacturer-specific variation of the term which will help prevent roll-overs – a deadly type of accident. ABS (anti-lock brakes) are also great for emergency situations and in icy or snowy conditions.

Don’t rule out SUVs. In fact, do the opposite: put them near the top of your list. Once upon a time, SUVs were considered more dangerous because of their high centre of gravity that made them more prone to roll over. But with ESC-equipped SUVs that aren’t prone to roll, you’ll be placing your teen in an elevated vehicle that proves safer. Basic physics can’t be defeated, and the greater the mass the better. Even when compared to cars of similar weight, SUVs have lower death rates (IIHS via Globe & Mail).

Use season-appropriate tires. This may not affect your vehicle decision-making, but leave yourself a few bucks to purchase a decent set of winter tires. They’re one of the best safety features money can buy.

So what vehicles are the best bets for your teens? Here’s a list of vehicles (in no particular order) I believe to be worthy of consideration:

  • SUVs
    • Honda CR-V
    • Toyota RAV4 (4-cylinder)
    • Hyundai Tucson
    • Kia Sportage (2011 or newer)
    • VW Tiguan
    • Honda Element
  • Mid-size sedans
    • Honda Accord (4-cylinder)
    • Toyota Camry (4-cylinder)
    • Nissan Altima (2010 or newer 4-cylinder)
    • Ford Fusion (4-cylinder)
    • Mazda6 (4-cylinder)
    • Hyundai Sonata (4-cylinder)
  • Compact sedans or hatchbacks (note: compact cars aren’t the safest option due to their smaller mass and crumple zones. But sometimes they’re the only option within budget or due to garage / parking constraints.)
    • Mazda3 (2010 or newer)
    • Honda Civic
    • Toyota Corolla
    • Hyundai Elantra
    • Ford Focus
    • Kia Forte
    • VW Golf / Rabbit
    • Mazda2
    • Honda Fit

Whatever type of car you decide on, don’t forget that your kids learn from you (even passively when in the back seat) – so set good examples behind the wheel.
Best of luck with your search. If you’d like assistance, I’d be happy to help!

Angus McComb
CarCompass.ca

2012 BMW X1 xDrive 28i review: a potent little ‘ute

For the past day and a half I’ve been driving around in a new 2012 BMW X1. And when I say new, I mean new – as in only 150km on the odometer new. And it’s not mine, so I’m very much responsible for returning this brand new machine in one piece…

I first sat in the captain’s chair longing for and expecting that glorious new car smell, but evidently not all new car smell is created equal. When you buy a car with leather, the first note to hit your ol’ factory senses is the deep, rich scent of cowhide. You know, a scent not dissimilar to the expensive yet rarely-worn calf skin dress shoes in the closet. But many manufacturers (yes, even the premium ones) have taken to using synthetic leathers (dubbed various names like “ARTICO leather” – despite having nothing to do with leather) and some do a better job than others. Sure, real leather is still available, but it’ll set you back around two grand. Mercedes’ synthetic ARTICO leather isn’t bad from a tactile perspective, and neither is Audi’s. But the leatherette on this BMW feels a little on the thin side and certainly doesn’t provide the ego-stroking aroma of success that sitting on something that has subsequently been turned into a Big Mac provides.

Getting past initial impressions of the leatherette I must say that the cabin is quite pleasant. The seat is perfectly comfortable (this X1 is not equipped with the “Sport Package” which offers sport seats). The steering wheel is thick and meaty – in a good way – as it’s very reassuring to grab onto. The sporting “bumps” in the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock are in just the right spot to remind you that you could take the X1 to the track if necessary. (But don’t – the X1 isn’t designed for that). And it’s a good thing the wheel is so hefty as it takes quite a lot of force to turn at parking lot speeds. The power steering feels lazy, as if it can’t be bothered to help at low speed. The ability to adjust speed sensitivity in the power steering would be of great benefit as I don’t need to feel like Sebastian Vettel parking his F1 car sans power steering after a race.

The cabin controls are all accessible and placed in ergonomically sensible locations. I can’t fault the X1 much for its interior design and functionality; and for $1,900 one can upgrade to 100% beef seats if so inclined. But if you have kids or wear on your seats heavily then leatherette may actually be more functional over the long term. It’s easier to clean and less likely to crack and wear. But you will miss that smell.

Your ears, however, will not miss the ambient road noise as the cabin is well insulated and manages to keep things relatively refined inside. The turbo-charged four cylinder engine will creep into the cabin on occasion but nothing unmanageable. If you’re expecting silky-smooth 6-cylinder power delivery and sounds from the turbo four-cylinder, don’t. Initial throttle response isn’t sharp and the engine doesn’t purr. You most definitely know you’re driving a four-banger at low rpm. Raspy, unrefined and raucous might be the best adjectives. But the story changes entirely when you plant your right foot. It’s very willing and able to put all of its 241 ponies to work and they do a pretty spectacular job via the 8-speed auto trans once the single, twin-scroll turbo gets spooling. The engine note improves at higher RPM and the power is nothing short of impressive for a measly 2.0 litres of displacement. There may be a bit of disconnect between the sporting impression the meaty steering wheel exudes and the actual driving experience, but it’s kind of charming. It’s the little CUV that could. So if you can put lethargic throttle response aside, you’ll be thrilled with the performance and fuel economy from this little turbo four that thinks it’s a six.

This CUV can certainly ‘ute. It may be at the smaller end of the size spectrum, but interior space configuration is done to expected German efficacy that makes the most of what it has. And at 6’1 I have plenty of legroom; so much in fact that I don’t even have to put the driver’s seat all the way back – a first for me.
Check out these photos of the X1 and its interior:

It’s a pretty good car with great driving dynamics (throttle responsiveness aside), but then again it should be for a base price of around $40K in Canada with freight and PDI. If this will be stretching your budget by a healthy margin but you still want a good, practical CUV then I highly recommend checking out the new Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. Starting at around $25K they make for a pretty compelling value proposition.

Lastly: BMW, please, please bring the diesel version of the X1 to North America. We want it.

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If you’re located in or around Toronto and in the market for an X1 (or any vehicle for that matter), I’d be pleased to be your car broker.

Angus McComb – Car Broker
www.carcompass.ca

0% financing vs. cash incentives – which is better?

zero percentIf you’re in the market for a new car, chances are you’ve noticed promotions within ads offering motivators like 0% financing or cash purchase incentives. The key word in the ads is often the word “or” – e.g. “0% financing or cash purchase incentive”. This means you can only have one or the other. And if you’re going to maximize your available savings, you need to know how to analyze the best option to pursue as it might not be as clear cut as it seems.

Let’s quickly cover the basics. 0% financing is, in theory, free money as you can finance your vehicle purchase with no cost for borrowing the money. However, like communism, what’s good in theory isn’t always good in practice – as is sometimes the case with 0% financing. If there’s a “cash purchase incentive” being offered in lieu of 0% financing, then the financing isn’t really free, is it? You’re foregoing the cash purchase discount by financing, thus making the cost of borrowing not 0%, but the amount of the cash incentive. Misleading? I think so, and I really believe manufacturers should be prohibited from this kind of misleading advertising. But I digress…

In order to decide whether taking 0% financing or the cash incentive is best for you, you need to know what interest rate you can attain from your financial institution for an automotive loan, as the dealership will — perhaps surprisingly — regard this as a cash purchase as they’re being handed a cheque from your lender. So with financing from your own bank rather than the auto manufacturer’s financial services arm you can cash in on the “cash purchase discount/incentive”, even though you are in fact financing your vehicle purchase. And in some cases, paying your lender an annual interest rate of roughly 5% can work out to a lower monthly payment by capitalizing on the cash incentive instead of the “0%” financing (which we now know isn’t really free if there’s an alternative cash incentive at play). So do your homework. Call you bank to find out your interest rate on an auto loan. Then use an online financing calculator to determine whether it’s cheaper to borrow from your bank or the manufacturer’s financial services arm at “0%”. You might just be surprised at how much money a tiny bit of research can save you!

Angus McComb

www.carcompass.ca

855-STEER-ME or 416-477-9328

“29% of vehicles listed on Kijiji and autoTRADER.ca were actually posted by curbsiders”

ImagePer a recent release by OMVIC, the UCDA (Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario) has completed a study that has determined nearly one-third (29%) of all online vehicle postings on Kijiji and autoTRADER.ca are posted by curbsiders! What’s a curbsider? “Curbsiders are unlicensed dealers who pose as private sellers to sell damaged, misrepresented or stolen vehicles.” – OMVIC curbsider website

This is a rather astonishing and frightening figure if it’s accurate. Given that the UCDA is a dealers association whose interests lie in selling cars to consumers and that online listing sites like Kijiji and autoTRADER.ca provide great competition to dealers within the pre-owned vehicle market, I can’t help but be a little skeptical of this 29% figure given their vested interest. Don’t get me wrong, there are undoubtedly a lot of curbsiders lurking on these sites as I’ve discovered from my own searching, but 29%?! I applaud OMVIC for their efforts to thwart curbsiders and wish them continued success as curbsiders “flout the law, damage the industry, rip off car buyers and put all Ontarians at risk.” I agree with this sentiment and wish nothing more than for all curbsiders to be eradicated as they are often attempting to sell cars that have been poorly fixed up and may have fabricated safety certificates. They leave consumers highly exposed to not only unsafe vehicles but financial loss as consumers wouldn’t have access to the Compensation Fund like they would should they have bought from an OMVIC-registered dealers and the vehicle turns out to be worth less than paid due to past use as a taxi or rental vehicle for example, or being a flood-damaged vehicle or insurance write-off.

There are many legitimate online sellers out there looking to sell their own vehicles privately, but it can be very difficult to distinguish the legitimate from illegitimate. Be diligent, and don’t be afraid to enlist the assistance of a broker to help buy from a dealership, as negotiated savings can often make buying from a dealer comparable in price to buying from a private seller. And don’t forget the benefit of buying a “CPO” (certified pre-owned) from a dealer which may carry an extended warranty already included in the asking price.

Faithfully yours,

Angus McComb

Image

carcompass.ca

855-STEER-ME or 416-477-9328

2013 Mazda CX-5: a lot of versatility from a little package (with an even smaller price)

Today I had the pleasure of taking the new Mazda CX-5 GS out for a test drive. It originally drew my attention at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto as I’ve always liked the idea of a compact or “baby” SUV (or crossover if you really prefer) and wanted to see what Mazda was bringing to this relatively new crossover party. Well, as it turns out, they’ve brought a lot. I guess a quick synopsis for those that don’t wish to read further into the more granular review elements is that it’s a fantastic and well-rounded value proposition. For the money, it feels like a well-built and thought out vehicle. From the fit and finish of the materials and interior plastics, to the ergonomics of the controls, it’s a solid little crossover. I drove the AWD GS trim level with auto trans and cloth seats (the upgraded cloth, which I feel looks worse than the basic cloth due to its questionable pattern).

REVIEW CONTINUED AFTER THE PHOTOS

Despite having only a seemingly meagre 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine and the added weight of the all-wheel drive system to haul around, power was readily available and left little to be desired. Granted, I only got up to around 100km/h on the DVP, but I wasn’t left wishing for more. And I’m sure I’d be thankful of that when it comes time to fill up the frugal little SkyActiv powertrain at the gas pumps.

Seating was quite comfortable as the lateral support was clearly (and thankfully) not designed for our larger (er… big-boned?) friends to the south, but for a more average to slender frame. Headroom was plentiful for me (I’m 6’1), as was foot room in the back seat which is no small feat for a smaller vehicle. Knee room in the back seats is fine, but the foot room is what makes it brilliant – the designers have managed to create loads of space for the rear passengers’ feet so they won’t feel remotely cramped or confined. It’s almost possible to feel like you’re stretching out a bit because of how far forward your feet can go under the driver’s and passenger’s seats! The cabin space is very cleverly utilised indeed.

And the suspension setup seems as if it were designed for Toronto as it ate up our potholes and imperfections without making those in the cabin aware of what was just traversed. Comfortable but not sloppy is how to best describe it, which from me is high praise. Not spine-shakingly stiff, and not like driving a bowl of Mr. Cosby’s favourite pudding – the perfectly balanced middle-ground right in between.

Of the three trim levels (GX, GS and GT), certain desirable options are only available on specific trim levels which is a pretty standard and annoying practice here in Canada employed by almost every manufacturer. There’s not much in the way of à la carte feature adding to your vehicle. For example, on the mid-trim GS I drove, I found out that lumbar support is only available when stepping up to the GT model! My lower back was fine on the shorter test drive, but I suspect on a long-haul trip I’d be glad to have some lumbar support… adjustable or otherwise – and I don’t want to have to buy the GT just to have it equipped.

I didn’t drive the manual transmission, but I gave it a throw in a GX on the showroom floor and that is one sweet 6-speed! Nice crisp, short throws. Rarely would I consider buying a stick shift on a SUV (excuse me… still getting used to this “crossover” moniker), but in this case I’d be seriously tempted. The auto trans performed reasonably well, but the added performance and fuel economy of the manual paired with the enjoyment such a sweet 6-speed reminiscent of the much-loved gearbox on the MX-5 / Miata makes for a compelling argument.

Cabin noise was pretty average. At times it seemed rather quiet as the engine and tires aren’t particularly noisy until thrashed. But noise from other vehicles was more perceptible. This is likely a result of the SkyActiv approach to creating an extremely efficient design which includes weight reduction measures, probably sacrificing extra insulating material in the doors. But it’s far from being too noisy to put me off owning one.

My test drive was at Gyro Mazda on Laird Dr. a little south of Eglinton in Toronto (I will always hold a soft spot for Gyro Mazda as they tirelessly sponsored hockey teams in the league in which I played growing up at Leaside arena) and a nice young rep named Ziad kindly accompanied me on my test drive and toured the vehicle’s features and specs in a no-pressure, informative fashion. Worth asking for Ziad if you’re not going to be using Car Compass‘ services – he was very amicable and courteous.

This new contender from Mazda is an amazing choice as a practical, efficient, affordable (this certainly doesn’t mean “cheap” in execution) and enjoyable urban crossover. I really love its design, both inside and out. Ergonomics are good and everything has obviously been well thought out. Starting at around $23K, it’s an outstanding offering. And what gets me the most excited about the CX-5 is the 2.2L turbo diesel that might be sold here in Canada down the road – an engine that will prove more powerful (with waaaay more torque) and even more impressive fuel economy. It’s about time we (North Americans) shed our outdated and preconceived notions about diesels and realize that contemporary diesels are absolutely amazing. They’re not noisy like a rattling tin can, they don’t spew plumes of dirty-looking black smoke out the tailpipe, and they are not hard to find fuel for (especially when you’re only filling up half as often as a petrol counterpart!). And they’re grin-inducing with their abundant torque. Sign me up for the diesel when it lands in about a year or so!

Angus McComb

Founder, Car Compass – Steering you in the right direction

855-STEER-ME (783-3763) or 416-477-9328

Car broker compensation

car broker compensationHow are car brokers compensated? Well, there are a couple of methods that can be employed (and a third, illegal option sometimes used by unethical, unregistered brokers). The car broker can either be compensated by the client who has commissioned them to assist with their vehicle search, or they can be compensated by the dealership that is selling the vehicle. Car brokers cannot, however, legally be compensated by both their client and the selling dealership. This is highly illegal in Ontario and absolutely prohibited by law. But that doesn’t mean all brokers play by the rules!

Car brokers that collect from the selling dealership may offer what appears to be a “free” service to their client, but in reality their fee is still being paid for by the client; just in a round-about way. The car broker’s fee comes from the vehicle’s negotiable profit margin – an amount that could have otherwise been passed forward to you as savings. For example, if a broker negotiates a potential discount of $3,000 on a vehicle with the selling dealer, they could pocket $2,000 paid directly to them by the selling dealer allowing you to realize only $1,000 of negotiated savings. And it’s possible you’d never know how much you’ve actually paid for their services!

Those that are compensated directly by their clients (provided they’re not double-dipping!) should be acting on behalf of their client rather than as a commissioned salesperson on behalf of the selling dealership. I personally find this the more appropriate way to ensure consumers’ best interests are looked after. But of course, not all brokers are created equal.

Remember to perform your own due diligence to ensure you’re commissioning an OMVIC-registered and regulated auto broker who will not double-dip by collecting from both you and the selling dealer. Use OMVIC’s online search tool or call OMVIC (800-943-6002) to check if the broker is indeed registered – don’t just take the broker’s word for it or believe their website! It’s your hard-earned money, so ensure you’re not unwittingly giving it away! Be sure you’re hiring a registered broker operating within the confines of the law.

As always, I’m available to help with your vehicle needs. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Angus McComb

CarCompass.ca

416-477-9328 or toll-free at 855-STEER-ME

 

Car salesmen finally held accountable for their unconscionable actions

I’m thrilled to see that justice is being brought to predatory salesmen who engage in illegal and unconscionable sales practices. They need to be held accountable for their unethical actions. Time to clean up this industry!

Originally posted by thestar.com (The Toronto Star)

by: Tony Van Alphen

A car salesman who sold a vehicle to an elderly widow for about $24,000 more than she expected has become one of the first auto dealership employees in Ontario to be jailed under current consumer protection legislation.

Naheed Ali Ramji was sentenced in a Belleville court Tuesday to seven months behind bars for “unconscionable representation” and “unfair practice” under the Ontario Consumer Protection Act, and falsifying information under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act.

“Mr. Ramji targeted female customers who he deemed gullible to take advantage of,” said Justice of the Peace Deanne Chapelle. “He used and took advantage of them both. He used unfair practice by making unconscionable representation to both.”

Chapelle convicted Ramji last November after hearing evidence from six witnesses including customers Doreen Waites, 80, and Barbara Fournier, in her mid-fifties, regarding transactions at Bob Clute Automart and Bob Clute Motors in Belleville in 2010.

“It’s his own fault,” Waites said after hearing about Ramji’s sentence. “We had dealt with him before and he was fine. We never thought he would try to do this to us. I was dumbfounded.”

Court heard Ramji called Waites from Bob Clute Automart about the pending expiry of a lease and she signed what she believed was another one for a new Pontiac model at a cost of about $18,825.

Waites moved and took the car to Michael Boyer Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC in Pickering for a small repair and informed the dealer about her unhappiness with the lease. Staff checked the paperwork and found she had actually bought the car and financed it for eight years at a total cost of $43,065.

The dealer alerted the sector’s regulator, the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, which investigated and eventually laid charges. The Clute dealership immediately unwound the deal, took the car back and later fired Ramji.

In a second transaction, Fournier contacted Bob Clute Motors and indicated she wanted to buy out a pickup truck whose lease had nearly ended. Evidence revealed Ramji told her that to consummate the deal, she would have to “put up” $5,000 in cash for General Motors to finance the purchase at a whopping 19 per cent despite an excellent credit history. Ramji described the cash payment as “shut-up money.”

Fournier’s husband discovered the terms and contacted the dealer who found the dealership had not received the money. A dealership probe revealed the manager’s signature on the purchase contract was not original and had been forged. The dealer returned the money to Fournier.

Although auto sales people have been jailed after convictions under the Criminal Code, the Ramji case is the first in the province involving the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council and consumer protection legislation, said council executive director Carl Compton.

The consumer ministry may have successfully prosecuted auto sales people under previous legislation, he said.

“It appears the courts in Ontario are assigning a higher level of importance to offences involving consumer harm than we’ve traditionally seen in the past,” added Compton. “This is good news for consumers and good news for legitimate businesses.”

In 2010, the regulator charged a Mazda dealership in Orangeville and two senior employees for “engaging in unfair practices by making an unconscionable representation” under the act after the sale of a car to a woman for more than $25,000 above its value.

The regulator is still pursuing the case which could mean a maximum fine of $250,000 for the dealership and penalties of $100,000 plus jail time of up to two years if a court convicts the employees.

Mazda Canada quickly pulled the dealer’s franchise agreement for breaching the automaker’s business practices in that case and other incidents. The store is now under new ownership.

Admin fees, etching and Nitrogen – are these fees legal?

I’ve come across a lot of discussion recently from disgruntled car shoppers regarding dealer-added fees and extras such as admin fees, theft recovery etching / stickers like Globali, and nitrogen filled tires. Consumers are often surprised when they are about to purchase a vehicle only to find hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars of extra fees tacked on to the selling price. And understandably they are not too happy about it! Without properly understanding what these fees are or if they’re even legal, you could end up paying much more than necessary. So being informed and well-equipped before going to buy a vehicle is essential.

If you’ve ever looked at a vehicle’s bill of sale, you’ve likely seen fees for line items described as “admin fees”, “theft recovery etching”, “freight”, “PDI”, “nitrogen filled tires” etc. These charges aren’t necessarily illegal, but they can be. Due to ambiguity and a general lack of transparency regarding extra fees and “value added” extras (I use quotation marks as not all consumers will perceive added value), I’m going to share my understanding of the subject in hopes of helping others understand their rights as consumers and what the dealer can and cannot charge.

First and foremost, I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I’m just sharing information based solely on my understanding of various laws and my experiences as a car broker.

The first piece of powerful information to be aware of: “all-in pricing laws”. Per the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC – the regulatory body responsible for administering and enforcing automotive law within Ontario) and the MVDA 2002 (Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, 2002 – the automotive legislation OMVIC enforces), if a dealer is advertising a unique vehicle with its own VIN (vehicle identification number) at a specific price, the price stated must be the all-in price except for HST and licensing if the ad illustrates this in a clear and comprehensible manner (e.g. “price excludes HST and licensing”). This means any and all charges associated with selling the vehicle must be built into the advertised price, including freight, inspection charges, safety inspection and emissions testing (unless there is a disclosure stating the vehicle is being sold “unfit” or “as-is”), and any administration fees, other fees, levies and HST. So, if you’re looking through Trader.ca or a similar vehicle listing source and a price is advertised by the selling dealer, by law it should be the all-in price, save perhaps HST and licensing if clearly specified. But be aware if the price you’re looking at is in an ad attempting to sell a specific unit within a dealer’s inventory, or if the ad is simply promoting a make and model and listing the MSRP. If it’s just a generic manufacturer ad promoting a make and model, the stated base MSRP may not accurately reflect a dealer’s current inventory which may have value added extras already equipped (more on this in the next paragraph). But if you’ve done your homework, you won’t be surprised by any extra fees.

The next powerful piece of info? Being aware of “coercive” or “tied” selling. To my knowledge, our consumer protection laws cover coercive or tied selling: the act of tying one good or service to the sale of another. You cannot be told you must buy product or service X in order to obtain product or service Y. This is an illegal practice. So, it’s at this point we need to be clear about what constitutes tied selling and what does not. If a dealer already has a vehicle within their inventory and they’ve chosen to equip it with something like theft recovery etching, they have every right to price the extras accordingly and as they see fit (as long as it’s built into the advertised price). This is a value added option they’ve elected to install, much in the same way they could with other value added options like larger wheels, window tinting, a better sound system etc. and raise the asking price accordingly. And consumers have every right not to purchase that vehicle! However, if you’re placing an order for a new vehicle that will be factory built specifically for you, the dealer cannot tell you that something like theft recovery etching is mandatory, as this would constitute tied selling. The same would be true for a vehicle within inventory that you know does not currently have value added extras already equipped. Basically, it is tied selling if the value added extra is not yet installed but you are being told you must purchase it; and it is not tied selling if the vehicle already has the value added extra installed prior to you placing a deposit and/or signing a bill of sale. In either case, the advertised price must be inclusive of all of all fees and extras. You cannot be presented with unexpected extra fees at the time of sale.

So, the big distinction is: “is the vehicle already equipped with the value added extra, or not? If it’s not, you cannot be told it’s mandatory to pay for the extra. But if the dealer has already fitted the vehicle with value added extras, they can ask for more money accordingly. Odds are, if you’re going to walk away from a deal over a few hundred dollars, they’ll likely reduce or waive the fee altogether. If you feel they’re breaking all-in pricing laws or utilising tied selling, mention this to them and let them know that you intend to report the incident to OMVIC – this can be very persuasive!

Unfortunately, not every dealer is ethical, operating legally, or in compliance with all-in pricing laws or the MVDA 2002. A phone call to the selling dealer before going to see the vehicle in the flesh can prevent you from wasting your time if the advertised price is not inclusive or if their inventory already has undesirable or expensive value added options installed you do not want. And if the dealer isn’t registered with OMVIC, don’t set foot in the dealership as they’re operating illegally. The same goes for car brokers like me – we must be registered with OMVIC. Any business operating in the automotive industry within Ontario that deals with consumers must be registered with OMVIC, by law. This includes dealership salespersons, too. Don’t just trust the dealer’s or car broker’s website that they’re registered with OMVIC – call OMVIC or use their online search tool (and pay particular attention to the “status” of their registration within your search results) to ensure the dealer or car broker is indeed currently registered and operating legally. There are reasons (forty-five thousand reasons to be exact) you should want to deal exclusively with legally operating OMVIC registered dealers and brokers, but perhaps I’ll get into that in more detail in a future post.

As for nitrogen filled tires, their benefit for consumer application is dubious at best, as the air around us is about 78% nitrogen anyway! So is it worth paying for nitrogen filled tires? Well, do you believe the party responsible for filling the tires with nitrogen has managed to create a complete vacuum within the tire and successfully voided it so pure nitrogen can be pumped into the tire? I’m not so sure, and even if they could I doubt the alleged benefits warrant the price. If you drive on properly inflated tires you’ll be just fine.

I hope this helps clarify dealer added fees and value added extras. I’m always available to assist with your vehicle purchase and to help you attain the lowest possible price. Feel free to leave a comment or question below and I’ll do my best to help!

Angus McComb

Owner, Car Compass. 416-477-9328 or toll-free at 855-STEER-ME

Top 10 tips for buying a used car

Originally posted on Wheels
By: Mark Toljagic

There’s no St. Lucius, Patron Saint of Loose Tie Rods, looking out for you.

Finding a great second-hand vehicle shouldn’t be a matter of good luck or even divine intervention.

There’s an abundance of used cars and trucks in the GTA — Toronto has one of the highest concentrations of automobile dealers in North America — so scoring a good one is not an insurmountable task.

It just takes a bit of homework and some patience to locate the right model at a reasonable price. No good comes from rushing into things. Follow these steps and you’re bound to end up with a good experience and an even better vehicle.

Research your purchase

The proliferation of automotive websites that offer professional reviews and post owners’ experiences is a helpful trend, and an excellent way of gaining insight into the second-hand models you’re contemplating. Online forums frequently discuss reliability concerns, things like jerky transmissions and short-lived air conditioners. New-car reviews rarely mention these issues, but many owners aren’t shy about spilling the beans. Look for any angry buzz online regarding your model before you step on the car lot. If nothing else, documented problems can help you negotiate a lower price.

Shop the less popular brands

Everyone knows the leading brands that command premium second-hand prices. But why surrender to these unkind market forces? There are other, lesser-known competitors that for a variety of reasons didn’t sell well — models that can give you similar quality and features for less dough. Automakers such as Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Kia made some very good models that were undersold and overlooked. Keep an open mind rather than fixate on one model. Knowledgeable bargain hunters familiarize themselves with all of the segment models and are often rewarded with a great vehicle for a considerably lower price than the big-selling brands.

Word of mouth

Don’t underestimate the value of letting your friends and colleagues know you’re looking for a used car. Someone always has an elderly aunt who wants to sell her mint-condition Buick Lucerne to the right buyer. If you’re not picky, these often make the best deals, since sellers may not know the exact market value of their vehicle, or may not be motivated to go through the tedious rigmarole of prepping their vehicle for sale. That’s not to say these sellers are ripe for the picking — some may harbour unrealistic notions of what their car is worth, unaware of the precipitous depreciation than can ravage their net worth.

Have a budget in mind

It’s smart to know how much money you can spend on your next car. What is your trade-in worth? Unless your present ride is a recent model, chances are the dealer will be wholesaling it to another retailer, and the wholesale value is all you’re going to get. Consider selling your present car privately. With a bit of spit and polish you may get a couple thousand dollars more than the dealer would give you. That money can go a long way in helping you leverage your next automobile purchase. Having cash in your pocket gives you the upper hand when it’s time to negotiate.

Dealer or private sale?

New-car dealers are the best source for late-model used cars, since they have first dibs on lease returns and trade-ins. Notoriously fickle (and expensive), they’ll send anything dubious or with high mileage to a wholesaler or to auction. Independent lots buy their inventory at auction, which can be a hodge-podge of good and bad. If the price is low, chances are it’s had an accident repair. Private sales are the wild card: you could get a dud from a curbsider (who sells multiple vehicles posing as a private seller) or a creampuff from someone who was insulted by the dealer’s lowball offer on his trade-in.

Take a close look

Used cars are like snowflakes: no two are exactly the same, so scrutinize each one carefully. Look for paint overspray on door seals, mufflers and wheel-well liners — a sure sign of collision repairs. You may find shattered glass fragments under the seats. A mildew smell indicates a stubborn water leak. Fresh undercoating may be masking recent structural repairs. Lit warning lamps may be a portent of expensive engine repairs. Motor oil that resembles a frothy milkshake often means there’s a blown head gasket or worse. The transmission fluid should be bright red or reddish brown; any darker and there may be problems.

Drive it like you own it

Rather than a five-minute spin around the block, tell your sales rep you’re going to be on the road for a good 45 minutes. It’s usually enough time to take the vehicle on the highway as well as on some potholed roads where you can test the car’s structural integrity. Keep the radio off and listen carefully to various noises. Pay attention to how the transmission shifts and test the air conditioner. To assess it properly, drive it like you already own it; don’t baby it. If the rep isn’t agreeable to giving you the vehicle for a good hour, then take your business elsewhere.

Get a history lesson

CarFax, CarProof and AutoCheck history reports recognize rebuilt or salvaged vehicles, but beware: they may not disclose collision repairs if the previous owner chose to do them without going through their insurance — and up to half of all collisions go unreported. Avoid vehicles from out of province. Use the VIN number to search provincial records and ask your insurance agent to do a history search, too. While you’re at it, find out how much it costs to insure your model. A steep premium may compel you to look at something else.

Befriend a technician

Settled on the vehicle you want to buy? Have it mechanically inspected by someone you trust. Vehicles that have been repaired after a collision aren’t always easy to spot, which makes a professional inspection on a hoist all the more critical. A good technician can detect creases in the unibody and paint overspray. There are garages that only do vehicle inspections and do not perform repairs (vintage car collectors use them). Many shoppers won’t invest the half-day to take the car for a third-party assessment, which pretty well negates all the careful shopping they’ve done. It’s like dropping the ball at the 10-yard line.

Drive a hard bargain

New-car dealers love used cars. Profit margins on popular new models are razor-thin (luxury cars and SUVs are more lucrative), while used vehicles remain a bonanza for dealers who can lowball customers with trade-ins, recondition them, then “remarket” the vehicles for a lot more. The average profit on a used car is $1,800 to $2,200, while a high-volume new compact only earns $1,000 to $1,200 for the dealer. So don’t be afraid to play hardball. And watch for extra fees sneaking into the sales contract: administration fees are now part of the advertised price by law. If you’re not happy with the way negotiations are going, head for the door.

Source: Wheels