How to avoid car buying mistakes

When you buy a used car, you should order an independent inspection and a vehicle history. This can protect you from getting a vehicle with mechanical defects or hidden repairs that lower its resale value.

Sound obvious? Maybe so. But in my experience, many buyers simply take the dealer’s word on the car’s condition.

New cars don’t usually require an inspection or history. But you should do an online search of the make and model, adding the term “complaints” to bring up problems that others have experienced.

I’ll post some readers’ complaints below, along with responses from Viraf Baliwalla of the Automall Network, whose company helps buyers get the best deal when they shop for new and used cars.

Baliwalla says most car buying services are paid for by dealers and generate customer contacts for dealers. His service tries to be more like Consumer Reports magazine:

We conduct independent market price research to determine what the best prices are for all makes and models of vehicles. We sell the data to car buyers and lessees in the form of our Best Price Reports for $75.

Once you know what the best prices are in the market, it eliminates the need for comparison shopping. You can negotiate your best price quickly and painlessly.

For those who don’t want to do any negotiation, we offer our Full Concierge Service for $295. We will negotiate the price of the new car, your trade-in and those unnecessary extra fees, which we can usually get waived if not reduced.

Jim Davidson of Car$mart also runs a car buying service. I’m a customer and I like being able to save time and hassles negotiating with dealers.

Davidson says his fee of $500 (plus HST) is more than recovered in the wholesale pricing he can negotiate for clients:

We start with an initial consultation to determine your best options. Then we provide in-depth market research. Then, there’s our negotiations to secure the best price. And, finally, we deliver the new car right to your door.

We look after all of the details, providing you with a pleasant, hassle-free car buying experience.

So, do your research or hire others to do it for you. You can’t change your mind after signing a contract, a fact many buyers find out only after they are disappointed with a car purchase.

Brush up your investing skills

My course, Investing for Beginners, starts next month. Click the link to register.

This will be my 10th year teaching at University of Toronto’s school of continuing studies. I usually get a large group taking the course (about 50 to 80 students).

The information is aimed at those who want to know more about how to invest in stocks, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. Whether you invest on your own or work with a representative, you need to know the lingo and what questions to ask.

When: Thursday evenings, 7 to 9 p.m.

Where: Downtown campus. No room location yet.

Dates: Sept. 11 to Nov. 13, 2014.

Cost: $370 for nine sessions.

Starting in January 2015, I’ll be doing a second investing course, called How to Value Stocks and Pick the Right Companies. It is open to those who haven’t taken the earlier course. The cost is $250 for six sessions.

Hope to see you there. Please pass this along to anyone who may be interested.