Category: transport

Tips on buying a used car

A vintage car
Buyer beware when buying a used car

Buying a vehicle is probably one of the things on your list of things to do when you arrive in British Columbia. Many people choose to buy a new car at this stage, but there are good reasons to consider a second hand, used car.

Firstly they are cheaper. The depreciation that hits all new cars has already had it’s evil way. You might also find it easier to buy a cheap used car than to get the credit to buy or lease new.

If you do go for a used vehicle here are a few tips.

1. Dealerships sell used vehicles of all makes. They will be newer and more expensive than from a private seller but you can expect them to have been checked over and have some kind of warranty.

2. Private sellers advertise in a variety of places, most usually craigslist, but also even by putting a sign on the car and parking it at a visible location.

3. Research vehicles before you start looking at them in earnest, especially if you’re new to the country. Buying something too big, or too small, too expensive to run or lacking something you later find you need (4 wheel drive say) can be costly.

4. Valuations for vehicles can be found at Canadian Black Book, VMR Canada, and by looking at the prices people are asking for similar models.

5. Look at the vehicle history. In B.C. where we have ICBC as the mandatory provider of basic insurance you can get a pretty full history of any vehicle that has been in B.C. for its life. ICBC offers two reports: a claims history or a  CarProof report that looks at private insurers and other factors. At about $20 and $70 respectively they are an inexpensive way of verifying the vehicle’s history.

6. Get a full mechanical inspection done. This can be done at Canadian Tire, via BCAA or at most garages. At under $200 these are really worth doing. I recommend that you ask the seller to pay for the report.

7. Test drive the vehicle. Obvious but I had someone interested one of our cars and she never drove it – I simply drove her around the neighbourhood. (Perhaps my driving put her off because she did not buy it!)

8. Negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for money off for whatever defects you find or simply because it is usually a buyer’s market!

9. When it comes to transferring the vehicle into your name, go to an Autoplan Broker with the seller. Beforehand agree on the price you’re declaring – you, as the buyer, will pay tax on this value. If the vehicle is cheap enough the seller can gift it to you.

How green is my city?

Everyone drives big cars
Seriously, this is a small car?

Canada has a reputation for being green – as in eco friendly. The recent survey by Siemens certainly agrees as Vancouver came in as the greenest city in Canada and the number 2 in North America, after San Francisco.

Vancouver was in the top 10 on all 9 measures, and came in number one for CO2 emissions per capita. Other Canadian cities did fairly well with Toronto at 9, Ottawa 12, Calgary 14 and Montreal 19 out of the 27 cities in the survey.

Vancouver is aiming to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. Is that likely?

Despite the reputation, I think there’s quite a hill to climb. One of the biggest issues is transit. It’s going to take a lot to get Canadians out of their trucks, SUV’s and vans. If you look at the traffic we have now there are Ford Behemoths, GMC Giganticas, Chevy Disturbans and the like choking up the roads, often with a single occupant.

It is understandable when the public transit system is straining to cope. Building bike lanes is not going to help for most people’s commutes.

The challenge is to fund and develop a public transit infrastructure with a relatively small population base to supply the money. No one wants to pay for these initiatives.

There’s no easy solution but at least Vancouver has made a start and is already better placed than many other north American cities.

What do you think?

Getting around to it

Fare zone map
The Vancouver Fare Zone Map

I was prompted to write this because one long awaited initiative in Vancouver’s transit system – the Evergreen Line – seems to have a glimmer of hope.

The Evergreen line will eventually extend the existing Skytrain system out to Port Moody and Coquitlam. It’s future has been, and still is, in doubt due to a funding shortfall. The Federal Government, B.C. Government and private investors are providing much of the money, but local municipalities have been stuck with finding the remainder. They are now proposing this is to be raised by a levy on our gas (petrol).

I am not going to debate that issue. Public consultations will air all our many grievances on gas prices, property tax and government inefficiencies!

Since many of our relocation clients come from outside of North America, I often need to educate them on just what commuting might involve here in British Columbia, and Vancouver in particular.

First and foremost the car is still king. And even carpooling is rarer than it could be. The HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes are not very busy, even though a driver with one passenger can count as a high occupancy vehicle in many areas.

If you do want to commute then there is the skytrain. This goes out to the airport and Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby. It is a surprise to many of our clients that there are no ticket barriers at the stations. These are going to be introduced. We are a trusting lot here!

Train services are common in Europe. I spent many years commuting by train in and out of London. So it can come as a surprise that Vancouver only has the Westcoast Express which connects downtown Vancouver to Mission via Coquitlam, Port Moody and Maple Ridge. It may be more of a surprise to find that this service is pretty much only 5 trains in the morning (5:25am to 7:25am) and 5 returning in the evening (3:50pm to 6:20pm). Outside these times there are buses, but stay too late in town and you’re going to be getting home some other way.

Buses are actually the most common form of commuting. What you think of the service depends on your expectation. Many people from rural areas think the service is great. If you are used to a big city, then you might not agree.

Translink has a great trip planning tool on their web site. Have fun finding your way around.

How to save money on your car insurance


Classic car
Classic car

Insuring your vehicle in British Columbia is expensive. I would not be alone in suggesting that the reason for this is the fact that all basic insurance has to come from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). There are other insurance companies but these only provide the optional top up policies. So ICBC has a monopoly on insurance.

If you are moving to British Columbia and want to get a discount on your insurance then you have to convince ICBC of your no-claims record. And to do that you have to do it according to their rules.

The basic requirements are that you provide your claim history record as follows:

  • Be on the insurance company’s letterhead.
  • Show the main driver’s name and the policy number.
  • State the period you had coverage, and the dates of any at-fault claims.

If you have lived in various places, or have shopped around for the best deal every year (as we did in the UK), then you may well have a lot of claims histories to get.

Here are some tips I got from an insurance agent last week.

1. It is definitely worth getting the claim history if you have a good claims record. You will save a lot of money.

2. Phoning works best. He said you’d probably need to call 2-3 times to get what you wanted.

3. Ask the company to fax the claims record, in the correct form, to your Autoplan broker.

4. The ICBC web site says that you have 6 months in which to make your claim for the discount. This is not strictly true. He told me that ICBC will apply your discount but will only back date it up to 6 months. So however long you’ve been in B.C. you can still go back and get some discount applied.

See my page on Car Insurance too.

Preparing for the snow


Snow on the deck is rare in Vancouver
Snow on your deck is rare in Vancouver

This advice comes too late if you are here in British Columbia as the snow came down overnight. We woke up to 5cm and it has continued to snow most of the day.

However if you are planning to come to Canada from a country where snow is a rarity then this might help.

You should make sure that you are equipped for snow even if it comes fairly rarely (by Canadian standards coastal B.C. is not a snowy region).

Here is my list of things to do:

  • Fit snow tires if you are going to be relying on getting around in your vehicle
  • Get a good snow shovel, probably a metal one as our snow is wet and heavy
  • Get salt for your driveway and the sidewalks (which you have to keep clear)
  • Good winter gear is worth having too.
  • Get your furnace and fireplaces serviced before winter comes
  • Insulate pipes and winterize any outside taps (faucets) – again before winter!
  • When snow is expected, make any adjustments you might need to your travel plans
  • For example, if your driveway is steep or your road does not get ploughed early on, then consider moving your vehicle to somewhere more accessible
  • Be aware that “snow days” are called when the weather is bad and this might mean your kids don’t need a ride, but they may need someone to look after them.
  • If you are travelling into work then public transit may be your best bet as their routes are kept clear whenever possible
  • Use the highway and traffic cams to check on conditions if you are driving
  • Have an emergency pack in your vehicle. Warm blanket, cell phone, flashlight, candles, snacks, water and a shovel.
  • If the weather is extreme then better stay home

And if you are in B.C. it is very rare for bad weather to last for more than a few days. Our overnight snow is turning to rain even as I write this!


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