Slow and steady wins the race: Don’t make a speedy decision when buying your first car


BBB helps students and first-time buyers navigate the roads of car ownership

With more than 130 complaints and more than 37,000 inquiries about auto renting and leasing companies and car dealerships so far this year, BBB is cautioning students who are looking to buy their first car about the sometimes not- so- smooth road to freedom.

“It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in the excitement of buying their first car,” says Sandra Crozier-McKee, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “But it’s crucial to take your time and figure out your budget and what kind of vehicle  suits your needs first. That will help narrow things down when you’re ready to start shopping.”

Avoid roadblocks and detours with these BBB car-buying tips:

  1. Determine your budget, and stick to it: Buying a vehicle, whether new or used, is a major investment. To help determine your budget, figure out what kind of vehicle you’ll need. A full size car, mini-van, pickup, intermediate, compact, or a sub-compact?  Be realistic with your budget and plan for additional costs such as maintenance, detailing or snow tires.
  2. Start your search with trust: Check BBB Business Reviews for trustworthy car dealerships and sellers. Also check the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council to make sure you’re dealing with licensed automotive businesses. In Alberta, all car sales, lease, service and repair, agents and brokers, consignment and wholesale automotive businesses are legally required to be licensed by AMVIC.
    Compare features: Consider the safety features, fuel economy, operating and maintenance costs and storage space. Also consider theft rates with different vehicle models.
  3. Check reports: Pull a vehicle history report at This will tell you if a vehicle has been in a collision, stolen or has any liens against it. Liens are any outstanding money owed for purchase or repairs.Check Transport Canada for vehicle safety standards and to see if certain vehicles have been recalled.
  4. Always test-drive the vehicle: No matter how good a vehicle looks or sounds, you can never be sure how it behaves on the road unless you take it for a spin. Drive the vehicle on the routes you will travel once you’ve made the purchase. Remember to examine all features to ensure they are working properly.
  5. Know the different kinds of warranties: A full warranty will repair or replace any part of the car itself during the specified warranty period. A limited warranty, just as the name implies, does not cover all parts but usually covers the most expensive components.  Keep in mind that you have responsibilities under the warranty too, such as having the car serviced and inspected at specified times, and using recommended products.
  6. Figure out the financing: If you have to finance your vehicle, there are a few ways you can do it. You can get a direct loan from your bank or a dealer’s loan from the car dealership. Be sure to compare interest rates before deciding on your financing option. Remember, the better your credit is, the better your chances of loan approval.
  7. Get everything in writing:
  • The title: This is your proof of ownership. It is issued by the province and is usually filled out by the dealer and signed by you at the time of purchase.
  • Registration certificate: Shows that the new car has been legally registered in a certain province. Always keep the registration handy when you are driving, in the glove compartment.
  • License plates: May be transferred from your old car to your new car, but some provinces require new plates for a new car. If you can transfer the old plates, the dealer will fill out the necessary papers to do so.
  • Don’t just drive off the lot when picking up your car: Be sure to inspect the vehicle before driving away. Make sure there is no damage and that all of the features are working properly. Take it for a short test drive to ensure it is performing to your satisfaction.Ask the dealer for a signed service form and to sign and date all applicable warranties.

For tips you can trust, visit