Lessons in lemons

Dan Kroffat wants to teach people the ins and outs of buying a used car.

Kroffat’s March 28 speech at the University of Calgary "wasn’t intended to promote anything," he said.

The speech focused on rules of engagement for dealing with anyone selling a used vehicle.

Kroffat said dealerships have been given a bad rap, even though they offer enough variety that "one [dealership can] charge $1,000 more than the other." But he added anyone who has done their homework should catch things like this.

He also said the word "sale" has worn thin; that too many dealer-ships use the term for events that aren’t really worth advertising.

According to Kroffat, many people enjoy used car auctions because of their "circus-like atmosphere," but warned if you "scratch an ear, you might buy a car."

Auctions are also a great place to sell, he said. "Feeding frenzies" can happen during intense bidding, causing high sale prices.

When buying a used car from a private seller, "make sure the car has a clean title," he insisted. "Liens (legal obligations placed by banks on property) don’t show up in the registration system for a while, so people who put liens on vehicles try to sell them cheap and fast. Look out for really good deals." Kroffat pointed out an unrealistically good price might mean a car is either stolen or has liens on it.

Kroffat also asked used car buyers to stop expecting dealers to swallow the GST.

"Someone has to pay it," he said, adding "dealers can’t always swallow the GST.

"As a dealer, it’s hard for me to explain that I didn’t implement the GST. The GST can be collected on a used vehicle five or six times."

One of the points he emphasized most was to get an independent inspection done on any vehicle you’re considering buying, because "the dealer mechanic is more willing to give a clean inspection."

According to Kroffat, the best time to buy a car is in December, or in the 30 minutes before closing time.

"Go in a half-hour before they close," he said. "They won’t spend the time to get a better deal. The manager will say ‘what’s the offer?’ and the salesperson will say ‘$1,000 less than average,’ and the manager will say ‘take it!’"

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