Calgary

Avoiding a lemon when buying a used car can be simple, Lemon-Aid author says

Doing due diligence before shelling out thousands for a new or used vehicle can be as easy as logging onto the Internet or taking a trip to the local library, says the creator and author of the popular Lemon-Aid guides.

"It may have been checked out by the dealer… but the dealer won't tell you what was on [the inspection]."

Buyers need to do due diligence before buying a used vehicle, says the author of the Lemon-Aid guides. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Doing due diligence before shelling out thousands for a new or used vehicle can be as easy as taking a trip to the local library, says the creator and author of the popular Lemon-Aid guides.

"Either go and take a copy from the library or a book store, stand in the aisle and flip through it and see which year of cars are really good," Phil Edmonston told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

He made the comment after a number of Calgarians came forward to CBC Calgary with complaints against the Gallery of Fine Cars, alleging the major used-car dealership misled them into buying vehicles with undisclosed histories and mechanical problems.

A CBC Calgary investigation found the Gallery of Fine Cars as well as owner Adriano Aprile and several representatives are facing 44 charges in relation to defrauding and misleading customers, and selling vehicles without proper inspection and paperwork.

Five of the 44 charges are criminal while the rest fall under Alberta's Fair Trading Act and Traffic Safety Act, according to court documents obtained by CBC News.

Business owner Aprile disputes said several claims from customers who alleged they never received a CarProof report, saying the dealership provides them to all buyers.

Lemon-Aid author Edmonston urges any potential buyers to have used vehicles inspected by independent mechanics.

"Here's the thing you have to watch out for, it may have been checked out by the dealer… but the dealer won't tell you what was on [the inspection] because it was from out of province or because it had a lot of other problems or had been in an accident," said Edmonston.

High on the list of things to never do when buying a vehicle from a dealer, according to Edmonston, is write a cheaper price into the paperwork to try and save on taxes.

"If you put down, instead of $5,000, $2,000, and you go to court and say, 'I was cheated, this was a lemon, this was a terrible vehicle, I want my $5,000,' you're likely to be charged with fraud because that's not what you wrote down," he said.

Three-year-old vehicles that have been traded in often present a good deal, he said.

"A car that's got a little bit of a warranty," said Edmonston.

"They usually have five-year warranties so you've got two more years to go from the manufacturer, but they've also depreciated their maximum amount. For American cars, after three years, you're looking at about 50 per cent savings, with European [cars] maybe a little bit less. Japanese [vehicles], they're going to hold their value and not have 50 per cent depreciation before the fifth year, so keep that in mind."

Third-party warranties, on the other hand, may sound like good protection — but may not always be.

"They're only as good as how long the company has been in business," said Edmonston.

"And warranties are stacked against you so much, many people have to go to small claims court. Normally you don't want to buy a warranty, bumper-to-bumper for about $2,000, instead buy a vehicle which is recommended."

Buying a model made in large volume can also be a smart move.

"I know you like that exotic Tesla or Range Rover or a lot of the other vehicles imported from Europe, but they can be held to service and your servicing options are very limited," said Edmonston.

As fuel prices continue to rise, Edmonston predicts the cost of used trucks should come down.

"Small cars are finding favour again," he said.

"It's a good market, both new and used, but it's flipping over a bit in the sense that what was overpriced before, like trucks, is getting to be underpriced."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener