How To Buy A Car in Kingston, Ontario


Buying a vehicle, whether you’re buying brand-new or used, is a huge investment; in fact, it could be the second biggest financial decision you’ll make in your life next to buying property. So it makes sense that customers are reluctant to just show up at any dealership and pick the one in the colour they like the most, as if they were buying a t-shirt. Along with years of being the subject of friend-of-a-friend horror stories and sitcom punchlines—as well as the occasional bad apple—it’s no surprise that the general public is incredibly wary when it comes to buying vehicles. We could tell you all the ways we’re different, until we’re blue in the face, but we’d rather pull back the curtain as it were and give you insight and advice into the best method for buying a vehicle. Your confidence in Autohouse Kingston begins with your own confidence in the process, so let’s educate you on the best way to buy a vehicle in Kingston, Ontario. 

8 Steps To Purchasing A Vehicle

We can’t claim this list to be exhaustive, but we think these are the most important things you need to consider when it comes to purchasing a new or pre-owned vehicle. Check out our list, then keep reading for more detailed instructions.

1 – Research which vehicle is right for you

2 – Get preapproved for a loan

3 – Have your current vehicle appraised for trade

4 – Test-drive the potential vehicles

5 – Research prices and warranties

6 – Review your contract and financing terms

7 – Purchase your vehicle

8 – Accept the delivery of your vehicle

9 – Enjoy! 

Step 1: Research

It might seem like an obvious place to start, but you’ve got to do your research before buying a vehicle. This is a more involved process than just finding the car you like the look of best—you need a vehicle that is right for your lifestyle. some things to keep in mind:

  • How often you drive, and where (city, highway)
  • How many passengers you regularly drive
  • The climate where you drive
  • Budget
  • Important features
  • Do you need to tow anything
  • Parking space

Of course, there can be even more factors that go into finding the right vehicle—sometimes involving a bit of trial and error. But if you’ve got a family of five with two children in car seats, a dog, and plan on hauling a trailer down Highway 17 every weekend, that hatchback might not be for you. Likewise, if you live by yourself in an apartment with a small parking space and have a long commute full of stop-and-start traffic, that big SUV may not be the most economical of choices. 

Step 2: Pre-approval

One easy way to determine your vehicle budget is to get pre-approved with Autohouse Kingston. A simple, safe, and most importantly secure form (found here) that allows us to explore your financing options without affecting your credit score. Of course, it’s always wise to explore your options here, and we also suggest speaking with someone at your bank of choice to ensure you get the best rate.

Step 3: Value your trade-in

If you don’t currently own a vehicle, you can jump to step 4. But if you do have a vehicle, you’ll want to assess its value. There are a number of appraisal tools found online, and it’s wise to use a few of them to get an idea of what your trade-in may be worth. It’s likely that you’ll find different tools will provide different assessments, but it’s good to have a ballpark figure when you are looking to trade your vehicle in. If you find an in-person evaluation at a dealership differs greatly from what you’ve found online, it’s also wise to have it appraised by another dealership or mechanic; but keep in mind that the online appraisal tools don’t usually account for exterior damage, or wear to the engine and its components (another reason why regular maintenance is a huge step toward helping your vehicle retain its value—but that’s a topic for another day).

Step 4: Test-drive the vehicle(s)

A recent independent consumer study had roughly 1 in 6 car buyers skipping the test drive phase all-together, while roughly only a third of customers test drove more than one vehicle. That’s a pretty big gamble to take when you’re spending this much money—no matter how much research you’ve done so far. Remember, you’ll probably be using this vehicle every day for a few years, so it’s important to know that you’re comfortable driving it. Follow these simple steps, and you can get the most out of a test drive—and be confident in the vehicle you choose:

  • Make an appointment to test-drive the model you’re looking at.
  • Keep in mind your normal routines and driving conditions. If your normal commute takes you through bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, you won’t get a good feel for the vehicle by taking it out on an empty highway.
  • Keep your friends and family in mind. If you have regular passengers, it’s a good idea to bring someone along to give you feedback on their experience as well. If your passengers aren’t able to join, you can “test drive” those seats for them too. Sit in the passenger seat or the back seats—are they comfortable? Will there be enough room?
  • Pay close attention to your experience driving the vehicle. Are there any blindspots? Can you reach all of the controls? Is it comfortable? Do you have adequate cargo space? These are all important questions to ask.
  • A test drive is not an obligation to purchase. You shouldn’t feel pressured to purchase the vehicle the same day—take a night to mull the decision over.

Follow these steps, and you will be able to make a more informed decision on the vehicle you decide to purchase. 

Step 5: Research vehicle price & other costs

While you’re almost there, you’ve still got some work to do. Assuming that you’ve found the right vehicle for your lifestyle, and the test drive didn’t raise any red flags, you can focus on ensuring you’ll get a good price (with an appropriate warranty option, if available). The best way to do this is to find three dealerships that carry the vehicle you’re interested in, and to find out how much they’re charging—including any additional accessories or options that have been installed on the vehicle. 

Insurance costs are also a consideration. Get in touch with your auto insurance broker for a quote on the exact vehicle you’re looking at, and the insurance requirements should you choose to finance or lease a vehicle instead of purchasing with cash. Many lenders require you to carry both collision and comprehensive coverage to protect your investment.

Step 6: Review your finance terms & contract

This is a big one—take a very close look at your contract. Were there items that were discussed or promised that haven’t been included? Have there been any added costs you didn’t discuss or agree to? Has the total price of the vehicle changed suddenly? It’s substantially easier to amend the contract—or simply walk away—at this point. If you had applied for financing with your bank and not the dealership, now is a great time to have the dealership run a credit report to see if they can have you approved for a better interest rate than your bank.

Step 7: Purchase your vehicle

So you’ve done your research, found the right dealership and (test-driven) the right vehicle, gotten approved for financing, and reviewed the terms of the deal—now it’s time to close. Whether you finish the sale at the dealership or have the vehicle delivered to your home, you’ll have to sign the contract. You’ll want to go over the contract one more time, and ensure that the price and terms match what you had agreed upon prior to—because once you sign off on the contract you now own the vehicle.

Step 8: Take the keys

This one’s pretty self-explanatory; take the keys from the salesperson—the vehicle is now yours!

Step 9: Enjoy!

Get out there and enjoy driving your new vehicle and the freedom it provides!

Extra Tips On Researching Buying A Car

So there’s something we’d like to add in terms of research, which is: research cautiously. Just as if you were trying to determine what daycare to send your children to, or what hotel you’ll stay at on vacation, it’s important to do diligent research and take in a variety of views—paying extra attention to the professionals. The internet is an exceptional tool when it comes to doing this sort of research, but even the most skilled craftsman can only do so much with the wrong tool in-hand. You can find great information on everything from individual vehicle trims to the dealerships selling them, but you must apply a critical eye when it comes to your research.

If you find a specific dealership has a glowing review from one customer, and an awful review from another, the answer probably lies somewhere in-between; the same applies to when you’re researching vehicles. Unbiased, non-profit companies like Consumer Reports or AJAC (the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) will be able to provide you with fair and accurate assessments of vehicles. Other major automotive sites, like Edmunds, Car and Driver, or Motor Trend, will also provide excellent information on vehicles that takes into account both the pros and cons of each individual model.

As we mentioned earlier, the automotive industry—whether right or wrong—has found itself with quite the challenging reputation over the years. The industry can be perceived as sleazy, with a number of dealership employees looking out for themselves more than the customer; the word adversarial comes to mind. You’ll find similar blogs and articles to this one that paint a “you-vs-them” picture, likening the negotiating process to war, or suggesting you play your cards incredibly tight to your chest. At Autohouse Kingston, we don’t view you as an adversary, and we’re certainly not looking for ways to take advantage of you. We’re simply interested in providing you with a comfortable, pressure-free vehicle shopping experience. We’ve been in the business long enough to know that our success depends greatly on our customers, and on our ability to gain repeat business. We do this by creating trust, and by helping to fulfill your needs.

Buy Your Next Vehicle at Autohouse Kingston

Now that you know how to buy a vehicle, we can get to the fun part—buying a new (or rather, new-to-you) vehicle! We’ve got an exceptional inventory here at Autohouse Kingston, and our team will be happy to work with you regardless of your credit history. You can simply stop by our dealership, give us a call, or fill out the credit application form found above to get the ball rolling on your next vehicle!