Montreal, Quebec – A majority of used car dealers and “curbsiders” visited in Toronto and Vancouver rated poorly in an undercover investigation by the Automobile Protection Association (APA).

Posing as ordinary consumers, APA mystery shoppers visited 34 used car dealers and eight curbsiders (unlicensed dealers selling vehicles that appear to be for sale by private owners) in the two cities to shop for a used vehicle. The visits were recorded on hidden camera by television show W5. The report can be viewed at CTV.

The sellers were evaluated on the accuracy of their advertising and their verbal representations, as well as on the condition of the vehicles offered for sale. Overall, two-third of the used-car dealers visited in Vancouver, and all but one dealer in Toronto received failing grades. The full report can be found at APA.

In Toronto, the APA found the best selection of vehicles at good prices in any Toronto survey. Even small used-car dealers working from a trailer had a good selection of well-priced lease returns, at no more than five years old. However, Toronto had the highest number of extra fees of any mystery shopper survey undertaken by the APA, including marking up safety certification or emissions test fees and representing them as remittances to government or regulatory bodies, and excessive charges for completing paperwork and administration.

Five of 18 used-car lots visited in Vancouver specialized in re-marketing ICBC write-offs. By far, the most serious reasons for dealership failures were misrepresentation and deceptive practices related to the sale of these severely damaged and repaired vehicles. The APA said that sellers rely on the ICBC brand and reputation to lull shoppers into believing the vehicles have been rebuilt and inspected to consistent standards, but that was not always the case here. As well, two Vancouver-area dealers failed to disclose used daily rental cars for sale, with one dealer misrepresenting three vehicles as one-year-old lease returns when they were actually former daily rentals.

Claim histories on vehicles are more complete and widely available in years past, creating more pressure on dealers to report collision damage accurately. In most cases, damage not reported by the dealer was listed at least partially in Car Proof’s information, meaning that the dealer was taking a chance that the APA shoppers would not look for the information. One dealer in Toronto declared that a Toyota Corolla had sustained prior collision damage to the rear fender, but the APA determined the Corolla was actually two half-cars cut and welded together, and reported to have passed a Ministry of Transportation inspection.

Two dealers in Toronto and three in Vancouver prohibited a pre-purchase inspection at the buyer’s garage, which earned them a failing grade.

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