Adjusting intro

Doing laundry

Car maintenance

Changing tires

Being liked

Making friends

Dining right

Best meals

Being safe

Safe campus

save up to 60%
Tell a friend about this page

Adjusting to Your New Life In Canada and the USA
Buying a vehicle

This is written for international students, but the information has value for everyone.

Most new students have no plans to purchase a car, but once they find out how inexpensive pre-owned vehicles are in Canada and the U.S., they want one.

The first step in maintaining a vehicle is to purchase one with as few problems or potential problems as possible.

Get help when buying

As mentioned in the Renting/Buying cars lesson, places that sell used cars do not enjoy a high ethical reputation in North America, although this is changing. See the excellent film "Breaking Away" for a typical view of this industry.

Every library has copies of automobile price and quality guides, or you can check on line with sites like Edmund's. Ask your librarian for suggestions. Also—and this is very important—check out the reputation of a car dealer with the Better Business Bureau (with links to offices in both Canada and U.S.) Contacts for local bureaux are found on the web site.

If buying, you may wish to join your provincial or state chapter of the American Automobile Association or the Canadian Automobile Association prior to your purchase, as these associations often refer to reputable dealers.

Once a member you also receive referrals to honest and fairly priced repair shops anywhere in North America. Membership includes some towing and minor help where you have broken down.

Do not abuse these services (by for example getting service for the cars of friends), or your membership will be cancelled.

Members, too, receive discounts on automobile insurance, which must be purchased in most jurisdictions to avoid fines and even jail in case of accidents.

Although your AAA or CAA chapter will come and change a flat tire for you, learn how to this yourself for your safety and for not be stranded in isolated areas while waiting for service. In most cases, you'll be on your way quicker if you do this things yourself. You'll learn how below.

Inspect before buying

Before buying, have a knowledgeable person inspect the car after you have made a preliminary inspection.

Look for extreme wear on the gas and brake pedals that belies low mileage. Have the tires been painted black? When cool, rub the inside of the tailpipe outlet. Are your fingers left covered with soot? Are any leaks visible in the engine compartment or under the vehicle? How does the passenger compartment look? If all stained and torn, the previous owners may not have taken very good care of the working parts either.

Look out for flood damage

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, you must watch out for flood-damaged vehicles.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller warned, "There may be half a million vehicles that were severely damaged in the hurricanes. The threat is that a vehicle may be repaired only cosmetically . . . and offered for sale without indication of the prior damage."

Watch for these signs of flood damage:

  • Check inside the trunk, including around the spare tire, for evidence of moisture, silt, or corrosion.
  • Check the engine for signs of moisture damage, such as rust or silt or grass.
  • Give the vehicle a smell test - inside and out - if it smells musty, it could have been flood-damaged.
  • Examine the underside of the vehicle for signs of excess moisture.
  • Check inside dome lights, glove boxes, and other places where water might have been trapped for signs of moisture, mold, rust, or silt.
  • Check the interior for signs of mismatched items such as carpeting or seat covers.
  • Test all electrical components, including lights, signals, switches, and audio system.

"Perhaps the most important thing to do is take a vehicle you are considering to a mechanic you trust. Never buy a vehicle from a seller who won't let you take the vehicle to someone you trust for an inspection before you agree to buy," Tom Miller said.

You can also check a vehicle's history on a service such as Autocheck or Carfax before buying. This tells you if a car or truck was used in a suspicious area and other key information.

For more tips on adjusting to life in the USA and Canada:

Go to >> Adjusting Introduction

Go to >> Doing your laundry

Go to >> Maintaining your car

Go to >> Changing your tires

For more discussion about interacting with Americans and Canadians:

Go to >> Interacting with Americans and Canadians

Go to >> Making friends

Go to >> Handling complaints

Go to >> Dealing with prejudice

Go to >> Avoiding sexism

Back to Top

homecontactsprivacy policy
© Copyright 1999-2016 Nadeau eSolutions, LLC. All rights reserved.