Car Buying Tips

Car Buying Tips for Back to School

The summer will be over soon and class will be back in session before we know it. Whether a bright young scholar is heading off to high school, trade school, college or university there is a way to get to and from school in style without breaking the bank.

With over 18,000 vehicles under $5,000 listed on there is plenty available to help Canadians cut their bottom line.

To help narrow the list, here are some of our recommended back to school buys, and some tips for new drivers.

We’ve done the leg work so students can focus their attention on their studies. Class is now in session. Top Picks by Category:

In order to help you narrow down your search, the team has assembled a list of their Top Picks for rides under $5,000 based on five common reasons people choose their car:

Safety: 2004-2008 Volvo S60

Think Volvo and safety automatically comes to mind. In typical Volvo fashion, the S60 sedan offers an unmatched level of occupant protection thanks to technology like the anti-whiplash (WHIPS) and the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), not to mention the countless other safety technologies included as standard equipment. It’s like driving a tank, only safer.

Utility: 2007-2009 Subaru Outback

Perfect for the active student who needs room for sports equipment, teammates or capability and cargo space to hit the ski hill on the weekends, the all-wheel-drive Outback makes for a rugged companion.

Reliability: 2008-2010 Toyota Corolla

Topping both JD Power & Associates Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and Initial Quality Study (IQS) over the years as well as receiving countless other accolades for reliability, the Corolla has a well established reputation for being a smart purchase decision with low operating costs.

Fuel Economy: 2009-2010 Honda Fit

Recognized by Natural Resources Canada as the most fuel efficient vehicle in its class, the small displacement engine sips fuel while the Fit’s proportions are surprisingly accommodating for passengers and luggage. Inexpensive to purchase, insure and operate, the Fit is a great choice for the budget-minded consumer.

Driving Enjoyment: 1999-2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The MX-5 (nee Miata) has long been one of the best kept secrets in the automotive world. Offering respectable fuel economy numbers and an established reputation for reliability, it’s well-balanced handling dynamics make it an absolute blast to drive without having enough power to get its driver too deep in over their head and into any real trouble.

Shopping Tips: Three Tips for Getting the Best Bang For Your Buck

Visit a Mechanic:

A Pre-Purchase Inspection, or PPI, typically costs $150 or less at your local garage or dealer service centre, with some as low as $49, so call around! A PPI may save you enormous money, since it can reveal potentially pricey problems with the used car you’re considering. Once you’re set on a particular used car, arrange a pre-purchase inspection at the shop or dealer of your choosing, having the seller meet you there (it takes about an hour), or, asking if you can bring the ride in for a check-up yourself.  For maximum peace of mind, a mechanic will check all vehicle systems quickly and effectively, and report back on any concerns. Your investment in a PPI could save you thousands, or keep you from spending the next several years of your life with a car that’s a total heap. And, if the mechanic gives the machine you’re considering a thumbs up, you’ve got added peace of mind, and one less thing to worry about.

And remember: a safety or certification is NOT a guarantee that the vehicle is in good shape, has been well maintained, or will be reliable. It’s also not a warranty. A certification simply means that the vehicle has met some basic minimum standard on the day it was inspected, and likely won’t fall apart going down the road.

So, read this twice: Do NOT accept a safety certification as a guarantee that the vehicle is in good shape.

Shop Around for Insurance

When purchasing a car in this category insurance can be a large percentage of your budget so be sure to shop around: sometimes, coverage pricing varies wildly from company to company. Insurance shopping can be daunting, but shopping around helps guarantee you’ll find the best possible price.

Know the Rules

Make sure you research your province’s rules and regulations for registering a used car in your name. Safety inspections, emissions tests and licensing fees are some of the costs and requirements you need to be aware of before buying a pre-owned vehicle. Also research which fees are legitimate and which add-ons you should be wary of.

Best general advice? Regardless of your province, don’t shop in a rush. Do your homework, read up on any regulations applicable in your locale, and look into any consumer protection bodies or regulations that are in place to help you during and after your purchase.

Tips for Teens: how to keep a vehicle road ready

It has often been said that experience is the best teacher. Rather than learning the hard way, the team at recommends setting kids up for success by giving them the tools and training required to deal with those unexpected situations that can come with vehicle ownership.


Police officers running routine traffic stops, speed traps and R.I.D.E. programs will often ask for proof of insurance, registration and a valid driver’s license. The owner of the vehicle should have all of these elements in a safe place and be able to access them quickly upon request.

Weather Ready:

Inclement weather is inevitable, but it is amazing how many people aren’t prepared for it. Ensure the vehicle has a decent snow brush in the winter and is topped up with windshield washer fluid.

Be Prepared:

Vehicles are complicated machines with many moving parts. Being prepared with a charged cell phone and jumper cables will make an unexpected situation safer and less stressful. It is not enough to have a spare tire on board, we recommend teaching your young driver how to actually install it. Better to learn in the driveway than on the side of the road.