4 car buying tips from Lemon-aid's Phil Edmonston

For 45 years Phil Edmonston has written Lemon-aid, a guide to buying new and used vehicles, but he is about to hang up his keys.

After 45 years, Edmonston has published his last Lemon-aid

Phil Edmonston put out his last Lemonaid guide book in November.

Phil Edmonston is hanging up his car keys after 45 years. 

The author, who has penned dozens of versions of his book Lemon-aid, a guide to buying new and used cars, released his last one in November of last year.

"Well I think I said everything, and maybe they better take my keys away before I get too dangerous," Edmonston joked with CBC Radio's Blue Sky host Garth Materie. 

Here are a few of the tips he left. 

1. Buy Canadian-made cars

With the dropping loonie, Edmonston said bargains and haggling could still be possible with Ford, GM Chrysler and even Honda models that are made in Canada. 

"If you don't buy those vehicles, many times you'll be asked to pay about 20 to 25 per cent more for the car or van … than what it would cost in the states," he advised.

Edmonston said buyers should go to the manufacturer's official site and see how much it's charging in both the U.S. and Canada, then go to the dealership armed with that information. 

2. Avoid sunroofs

'I'm saying don't do it,' Edmonston said about getting a sun or moon roof for your new car. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

When speaking with a caller about purchasing a new car, Edmonston was adamant against getting a sun or moon roof. 

"There's a lot of complaints," he said. "Where they suddenly explode or implode from inside out. I don't have anybody injured but I have a lot of people [saying they have] to pay from a lot of different automobile manufacturers." 

Edmonston said that most dealers will tell customers to make an insurance claim, leaving them to pay out of pocket and possibly face an increase in insurance premiums. 

3. New car recommendations

Edmonston has several recommendations if you are in the market for a new car this year. He said GM has upped its quality in the last few years, and recommended both the Malibu and the Impala. 

"The bestselling small car in Canada is the Honda Civic," he said. "It's pretty good, but certain years you've got to watch the engine."

Edmonston doesn't recommend a used Civic unless the engine and front brakes have been checked and are in good working order.

The Mazda 3 is a good option for a second car, or one you might purchase for your son or daughter, he said.

"It looks good, it runs well and it's fairly reliable."

Meanwhile, those in the market for a truck would do well to get a Chrysler. However, he recommends getting the truck with a standard transmission as the automatics have had "decades" of issues with their transmissions. 

As for minivans, Edmonston does not recommend buying used at all. If you're looking for a new minivan he suggests the Chrysler if you'd like a domestic. However, Edmonston feels Japanese minivans generally outclass the American ones.

4. Buying used

When looking at buying or selling a used vehicle, looking at the mileage is good place to start, the author said.

About 20,000 kilometres per year the vehicle is old is the average someone should look for.

"Above that or below that you can increase or decrease the price," he said. 

As for when you should consider bailing on that aging vehicle in your driveway? He recommends about 8 to 10 years. 

Edmonston's final book is available online and in stores now.


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