How to Avoid Costly Mistakes When Buying a Used Car in Ottawa

When buying a used car, there are many things you need to take into consideration. Pre-owned vehicles might seem fine at first glance, but problems can begin to present themselves if you look more closely. There is a great selection of pre-owned cars in Ottawa waiting to be snapped up, but how do you avoid mistakes as a buyer?

Here are some tips for avoiding expensive mistakes when buying used cars in Ottawa!

Research the seller

If you’re buying a used car for a dealer, do your research before giving them your money. Is their business longstanding? Does it have reviews on Google and Yelp? Do the reviews seem genuine? It’s normal to have a few disgruntled customers who aren’t happy about minor issues, but if lots of people are complaining about the business, it’s not a good sign and you should probably stay away.

Buying used cars from individuals is risky because there’s not much you can do to research them beforehand. If you’re buying a vehicle from another citizen, perhaps ask to see the vehicle’s documentation and ask whether the car has been inspected/serviced recently and ask for proof if so. Don’t take any chances – there could be problems even they don’t know about.

Check the engine

Moteur De Voiture, Moteur, Voiture, Véhicule, Auto

First things first, is the engine okay? Lift the hood and check the level of brake fluid, power steering fluid, and engine coolant – if they’re low, it could indicate a leak or show that they need replacing soon. These costs need to be taken into account.

Also, check the oil level and see whether the oil appears sludgy, foamy, or has metallic flakes in it. If you spot any of these tell-tale signs with the oil, it’s a sign of bad things to come.

Turn the engine on and listen to how it sounds – many problems can be indicated by unusual noises when you turn an engine on! If there are any high-pitched squeals or unusual chugs, locate the source of the noise and try to decipher the problem. It might be a small and easy fix, or it might be a major problem waiting to cost you tonnes of money.

Look for leaks

Leaks are some of the easiest things to spot when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle. When you pop the hood, observe whether the engine is dusty or if it has been cleaned. A freshly-cleaned engine makes fluid leaks harder to spot, while a dusty engine shows wet patches more obviously. You actually kind-of want the engine to be dirty so that leaks are easily spotted.

Naturally, if any of your fluid levels are suspiciously low compared to the other fluids, it might indicate a leak. For example, if all of the car’s fluids are topped up but the brake fluid level is far down, it suggests that there is a problem.

Also, don’t forget to get down on the ground and check for any fluids dripping from the bottom of the car. If the vehicle has many thousands of miles on the clock, it’s natural for minor seeping to occur, but major drops and leaks should not be ignored.


The weather gets pretty cold here in Ottawa, so it’s crucial to make sure that the car’s engine is topped up with antifreeze – don’t assume that the previous owner took care of it.

Ideally, your engine coolant should be around 50% water and 50% antifreeze, but check the recommendations for your particular car and region.

Tyre Condition

Tyr, Roue, Pneu, Voiture, Automobile, Véhicule

The condition of the tyres is incredibly important, especially given the harsh winter weather. Make sure that the tread depth of the tyres is at least 1.6mm or 1/16th of an inch. If the tyres on a used car are below this limit, they will need to be replaced or it is illegal to drive and especially dangerous to drive in icy conditions.

One of the easiest ways to measure tyre depth is with a 25¢ Canadian coin. Insert the coin into one of the tyre grooves with the caribou facing down. If you can see the tip of the caribou’s nose, then the tread depth is probably too shallow.

Look up insurance rates

Before purchasing a used car, ask your insurer how much it will cost for you to switch over to this new vehicle. If it proves to be expensive, shop around with other auto insurers to see how much the insurance would cost with them.

Depending on the age of the car, the model, and how available spare parts are in Canada, the insurance premium for this new vehicle could be differently priced from your current one. Regardless, insurers love to find any reason to raise your premium, even if the new vehicle is safer/better than your current one.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to avoiding costly mistakes when purchasing a new car in Ottawa! For more advices, you can also check this article that will give you 10 tips to avoid making mistakes when buying a used car. With this advice, hopefully you’ll be able to keep pricey mistakes to a minimum.

Author: Brandon Park