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Dealership hours of operation
Mon - Fri 8:00am - 5:00pm
Sat - Sun closed
Dealership hours of operation
Mon - Fri 8:00am - 5:00pm
Sat - Sun closed
2800 Barlow Trail NE, Calgary, AB, T1Y 1A2

Best Ways to Buy a Used Car in Calgary: Our Tips and Advice

Best Ways to Buy a Used Car in Calgary: Our Tips and Advice

Buying a used car in Calgary doesn’t have to be complicated! Here’s your complete guide to finding and purchasing the best vehicle to fit your needs, in a city where convenient life depends so heavily on personal vehicles.

We’ll cover everything from researching and comparing prices to inspecting the car and a step-by-step guide to getting you into our used auto dealership and off the lot with your newer used find.

Quick Used Car Buying Process

  1. Start your used car buying journey in Calgary with thorough research to compare prices and find a vehicle that fits your lifestyle.
  2. Opt for dealerships like Sunridge Auto for a wide selection, consumer protection, and trade-in options, while being aware of the higher costs compared to private sellers.
  3. Conduct a detailed inspection of the vehicle’s exterior, interior, and mechanics, and take it for a test drive to assess its condition.
  4. Lean on services like CARFAX for comprehensive vehicle history reports to ensure transparency and avoid future liabilities.
  5. Consider financing options like auto loans for manageable payments but be mindful of the total costs of ownership over time.
  6. Complete the purchase by accurately finalizing paperwork, paying necessary taxes and fees, and securing insurance as soon as you buy used.

The Best Way to Buy a Used Car in Calgary: Expert Tips and Advice

concept of car payments with toy red car driving over calculator buttons.

Used cars come in all shapes and sizes. The process isn't quite the same as buying a new vehicle, so let's look at strategies and principles to get you on your way and thinking confidently about the used auto market.

When it comes to buying a used car in Calgary, having an experienced-based set of pointers can make all the difference. A poor used car is a burden, but a good one enriches your daily commutes and weekend getaways.

This buyers' journey is all about aligning your needs with the right car at the right price, without any unwanted surprises along the way. Knowledge is power. Let's start the process there!

Researching Your Options

When you’re in the market for a used car in Calgary, thorough research is a great first step. It’s the groundwork that informs your decision-making and helps you navigate the buying process with confidence.

Calgary is a city where we’ve experienced both surplus and shortages in used vehicles. It’s best to approach this arena with knowledge of how our unique market works, and then set about getting out there.

Compare Prices Online

The first step in your car-buying journey is to compare prices online. A quick look at the first set of prices you see gives you a clear overview of the market and helps you identify the best value for your money. It also helps you set a budget and what your price ceiling or floor might be.

Determine Your Budget

Before diving into the search, determine your budget. Know what you can afford and stick to it, ensuring you make a financially sound decision. A great concept in car buying is known as total cost of ownership.

It’s helpful to treat all factors as a sum of purchase price, interest costs, out of pocket repair costs, fuel costs, insurance costs, and a few other line items.

Used autos have a total cost of ownership just as new cars do! Where you might save on purchase price, you might pay more on insurance costs and repair costs. And since used autos are in shorter supply thanks to better build quality in vehicles, your interest rate and principal down payment are different when buying used.

Identify Important Lifestyle Factors

Selecting a vehicle that aligns with your lifestyle is key. Consider how you’ll use the car and what features are most important to you, ensuring your choice is a practical one for your daily needs. Fuel efficiency might be top of mind for people who stick to the city year-round, while passenger and cargo space are better for those with adventurous spirits and National Parks passes.

Where to Shop for Used Cars in Calgary

Calgary’s pre-owned vehicle market offers a variety of choices, each with its own set of advantages. Whether you’re visiting dealership lots or browsing online marketplaces, understanding what each option brings to the table is key to a successful purchase.

Dealerships vs. Private Sellers

concept of used car variety with a deep focus side profile shot of multiple cars parked side-by-side.

Our used car dealership focuses on the advantages of buying used vehicles from a bigger business, so you're not exposed to the same risks as you would be with private sellers. A big part of our offering is peace of mind, and vast selection.

When purchasing a vehicle from a private seller, private sellers might offer lower prices and a more personal touch, but they lack the safety net of warranties and detailed vehicle checks. Dealerships, also including used auto centers, offer several benefits. Let's look at the pros and cons.


  • Consumer protections and reputation-based accountability
  • A wide selection of makes and models to test drive
  • Financing options with competitive interest rates
  • The opportunity to trade in your old car for cash or cash value


  • Higher Prices due to overhead, which can include a modest markup

Private Sellers: The Personal Approach


  • Lower Prices: Private sellers sometimes give good deals, but many would like to make a nice profit just like any business would.
  • Direct Negotiation: You can deal directly with the seller, who may even be your neighbour, friend, or family member.


  • Limited Consumer Protection Mechanisms: Private sales lack the consumer protections you get with a used auto dealership like ours.
  • Vehicle History: It may be harder to verify the car’s history and condition—or you may trust the seller more than the vehicle.

Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are another way to shop for used cars. They offer a vast selection at your fingertips, with tools to filter and compare options from the comfort of your home. But where they save legwork, they lack the physical shopping experience that so important to customers like ours.


Treat auctions like a gamble; only play the game if you’re prepared for any outcome. After all, auctions can be thrilling, offering the chance to snag a deal.

However, they require risk analysis skills, extensive knowledge of the vehicle market, trust in the auctioneer, and a bit of risk-taking, as auctioned vehicles are often sold as-is. There are creative ways to find a used car, if you know where to look; did you know you can even buy used rental cars?

Inspecting the Vehicle

what to look for when buying a used vehicle

A vehicle inspection can be formal or informal. But our process for buying your used car is more on the formal side, so we can sell it to our other valued customers.

Finding a car that catches your eye is just the beginning. Now comes a very important step, a thorough inspection. Every aspect, from the luster of the paintwork to the wear on the tires, offers insights into the vehicle’s history and what it promises for your future ownership of it. When you buy from us, you can ask for the results of our own mechanical inspection!

Exterior and Interior Inspection

Start your inspection with a walk around the car. Look for any signs of a rough life, such as dents, uneven paint, or rust spots. Inside, check for wear and tear on the seats and ensure all the gadgets and gizmos work as they should, including the warning lights. Keep the following at the front of your personal inspection checklist:

  • Body Condition: Look for dents, scratches, and rust. These can indicate past accidents or neglect.
  • Paint Quality: Check for fading or mismatched colors, which might suggest repairs.
  • Tire Health: Examine tread depth and wear patterns for signs of alignment issues.

Mechanical Inspection

You can look at a car’s health with a mechanical inspection. This step is where a professional comes in handy. They can spot the early signs of engine trouble or past damage that the car might have sustained. And remember the following first-look checklist:

  • Engine: Listen for odd noises, check for leaks, and examine the belts and hoses.
  • Fluids: Verify that oil, coolant, and transmission fluids are clean and at proper levels.
  • Battery: Look for corrosion and ensure the battery has sufficient charge.

Test Drives

Man handing keys to happy car buyer in vehicle for test drive.

Test drives of used cars are easy and productive at Sunridge Auto. Our sales advisors can get you up to speed, and answer questions you have as you go. Inspection reports are one thing, but the feel of a test drive is something else!

A test drive is the moment of truth. It’s your chance to feel a used car’s rhythm, perform a health check, and see if it suits your driving style. Pay attention to how it handles, brakes, and accelerates. It's best to bear the following in mind:

  • Listen: Pay attention to engine smoothness and any unusual sounds.
  • Feel: Notice the car’s handling, braking response, and acceleration.
  • Observe: Watch the dashboard for warning lights or gauges acting up.

Checking Vehicle History

A vehicle’s history is the most key information written down, and a packaged report like the one you can get from Carfax can and should influence your purchasing decision. It provides essential details about the car’s background, including any previous incidents or financial obligations that may affect your ownership.

Services for Vehicle History Reports

Leverage the power of vehicle history report services like CARFAX to uncover the car’s past. These reports can reveal a history of accidents, service records, and even if the car was ever declared a total loss. A vehicle history report contains a few critical pieces of information, including:

  • Detailed Records: Carfax compiles extensive histories, documenting service records, accident history, and more.
  • Mileage Checks: Ensures the accuracy of the car’s odometer, protecting against potential fraud.
  • Previous Owners: Reveals the number of previous owners to help gauge vehicle reliability and care.

Lien Search

Another must-have checklist item is whether the car has any outstanding debts against it. It’s an important step that ensures the car won’t come with any unwanted news. A lien search can save you from taking over someone else’s financial burdens—ensuring that the vehicle is free of outstanding financial liabilities and giving you confidence in your investment.

Negotiating the Best Deal

closeup shot of two hands shaking with automobiles out of focus in background.

Our sales advisors are always happy to help you down the path to buying a used car. Get a feel for its book value and you'll have a starting point to talk about price and how to pay for it.

Armed with your research and knowing a lot more about any given used vehicle’s particular history, you’re ready to discuss pricing.

Negotiation is a part of the car buying process, but it doesn’t have to be complex. Talk to our sales advisors about pricing to learn more about the best used cars to buy as well as the benefits you’re trading for. The professionalism in our staff is what makes a fair price easier to settle on!

Using Canadian Black Book

The Canadian Black Book provides a reliable benchmark for vehicle values, helping to inform your discussions and ensure a fair price. Approaching the negotiation table with knowledge and a clear understanding of the car’s value can lead to a satisfactory agreement for both the seller and the buyer.

Financing Your Purchase

Navigating the financial aspects of buying a used car is a significant next step —indicating that you’ve found a trustworthy used car that’s a match. Financing, especially in used vehicles, can be a smart strategic choice if you’re looking to spread the cost over time.

Auto Loan vs. Cash Purchase

Debating between an auto loan and a cash purchase? It’s a decision that hinges on your financial situation and long-term goals. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. An auto loan allows you to spread the cost over time, and, as they say, cash is king. Let's look at some pros and cons.

Auto Loan

concept of car loan with hand receiving car key from another hand with money and toy cars in background tabletop.

Used car loans are a key part of the buying experience for many used car shoppers. Used cars come in different budget ranges, and if you're looking at $20K and over, financing might be something you prefer!

  • Pros: Allows you to manage cash flow by spreading payments, especially for vehicles not under $20K
  • Cons: Interest accrues over time, increasing the total cost.

Cash Purchase

  • Pros: No interest charges, and often a stronger negotiating position.
  • Cons: Requires a significant upfront payment, which may not be feasible for all buyers.

Getting Pre-Approved

Securing pre-approval for used car financing, even with bad credit, fast-tracks you on a pass in an auto loan bearing buyers' journey. This preliminary step, which you can take right before you visit our used car lot, streamlines your shopping experience, provides a clear budget.

  • Advantages: You’ll know your budget and can shop with confidence.
  • Process: Involves a credit check and financial assessment by a lender.

Understanding Monthly Payments

A car loan calculator can help you visualize how changing the loan term or interest rate affects your payments, allowing you to plan your budget accordingly. Calculating monthly payments includes:

  • Financial Factors: Loan amount, interest rate, and loan term.
  • Impact: Determines your monthly financial commitment and the total interest paid over the life of the loan.

Finalizing the Purchase

You’re on the verge of ownership! Finalizing your car purchase is a detailed process that requires diligence and precision. It’s all about crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, ensuring that all the paperwork reflects the carefully negotiated terms of your deal. At Sunridge Auto, this process is a pleasure thanks to our practiced hands.

Completing Paperwork

Ensuring all documents accurately represent the terms of your agreement is a great paper trail. This checklist includes the bill of sale, warranty documents, and any other agreements related to the purchase.

Paying Taxes and Fees

When it comes to Alberta buying, the financial road doesn’t end with the purchase price. Remember to factor in the federal GST, which stands at 5%. Thankfully, there’s no provincial sales tax on private sales, but always double-check for any additional fees that could drive up your total cost.

Be prepared to handle the additional costs associated with buying a car! Taxes, registration fees, and any other mandatory charges join the bottom line upon purchase; used vehicle isn't exempt from GST just because it's a great find!

Registering Your Vehicle

Registration is the formal step that marks the transition of ownership. It involves submitting the necessary paperwork to the local vehicle registration authority. Here in Calgary, that’s just a building that says Alberta Registry, and there are conveniently located ones all over the city.

Visit Sunridge Auto for Your Next Used Car

Image of used cars lineup up on used auto centre sales lot at sunset.

Our used car buying process is easy and even fun. When you come through Sunridge Auto's doors, you're in good hands. Let's get you into your next used car!

From the importance of comparing prices to matching vehicles to your lifestyle —you now know what to look for, both inside and out, to ensure quality.

Call Sunridge Auto for financing on your purchase with the financial strategies that work best for you, checking vehicle history as you go along. When it comes time to finalize the purchase: you’re ready to complete our used dealership’s paperwork —to register and insure your new ride.

Now, we invite you to Sunridge Auto, where our selection meets your expectations, and our service exceeds them. Come test drive our range of quality used cars and experience firsthand the value and satisfaction we promise. Your next car awaits—let’s make it a journey to remember!

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between buying from a dealership and a private seller in Calgary?

Dealerships like ours in Sunridge offer a structured buying experience with the assurance of warranties on newer used vehicles and a legal obligation to meet consumer protection standards. Private sellers may have good deals or may not. Auctions are a good place to look for retired fleet vehicles, which might have the commercial application you need.

Are online marketplaces safe for buying used cars?

While online marketplaces expand your options, they’re also a place you need to exercise caution. Verifying seller credibility and vehicle condition is the only way to avoid lemons and scams.

It’s better to find review systems and secure payment methods however you can. But security is traded off for in-person buying experience, where you can climb into a vehicle and see it for yourself.

Why is it important to get a vehicle history report?

A vehicle history report is an important tool that uncovers the car’s maintenance records, prior accidents, and ownership changes, which are essential indicators of its current status title (active or rebuild), recall notices for the make and year, and potential future issues.

What are some tips for negotiating a deal?

Leverage valuation tools like the Canadian Black Book (see their built-in valuation tool, on our homepage) to understand the fair market value and anchor your price expectations. This preparation empowers you to make informed offers and recognize when a deal from an auto seller aligns with the car’s true worth. Our sales experts certainly take a look at this resource when selling to you!

What are the necessary steps to register a used car in Alberta?

Gather the required documents! You’ll need a proof of ownership document, such as a bill of sale, a lease, or a probated will. Our used auto dealership will give you a bill of sale!

Proof of valid insurance for the vehicle is mandatory, with the names of the person(s) requesting the registration. A registration agent can take over from there! You’ll pay fees and get documents and a license plate in exchange.

It’s important to note that if you’re registering a vehicle for the first time in Alberta that was purchased outside of the province, an inspection may be required. All the more reason to buy a used vehicle right here in Calgary!

Categories: Used Vehicles