Looking ahead: Understanding five industry trends to make your car-buying process easier in 2024

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Introduction

Ontario's automotive landscape is at a crossroads, where various factors converge to shape the present and future of car ownership. In this article, we explore the multi-faceted effect of auto theft, the persistence of high-interest rates in car loans, the scarcity of cars, and the transformative impact of online car shopping. As we navigate through these intersecting trends, it is clear that the province's car enthusiasts and everyday drivers alike are facing a complex set of challenges and opportunities that demand a closer examination as we move into 2024.

Ongoing concerns surrounding auto theft for buyers and sellers In the first half of 2023, car thefts in Ontario saw a substantial 31 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022, posing a significant concern for both car buyers and sellers. The prevalence of vehicle theft is expected to remain a major issue impacting communities throughout the province in 2024. This past November, the Ontario government announced a three-year, $18 million investment, aimed at assisting police services in combating and preventing auto theft.

For those navigating the vehicle market in 2024, exercising due diligence is paramount when dealing with private sellers. Prospective buyers are strongly encouraged to make purchases through registered dealers. When buying from a registered dealer, in the unfortunate event of unknowingly purchasing a stolen vehicle later seized by police, individuals may have direct access to the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund (MVDCF).

Continuation of high interest rates

As we move into 2024, it’s expected that interest rates will remain at high levels. This raises concerns within the motor vehicle sales industry about the prevalence of negative equity. The relentless high interest rates have prompted many individuals to opt for longer-term loans, amplifying the overall interest paid over the loan's duration and substantially inflating the total cost of the vehicle. Because of this, there is a growing occurrence of the outstanding loan balance surpassing the resale value of the vehicle, a situation commonly referred to as "negative equity."

The ramifications of higher interest rates extend to monthly loan payments, posing challenges to affordability. This situation may either restrict the range of vehicles a buyer can consider or dissuade potential buyers from entering the market altogether.

Know your rights with all-in price advertising

An issue throughout 2023 – and one OMVIC anticipates continuing this year - is dealers failing to abide by the all-in price advertising legislation. By law, the advertised price of vehicles sold at registered dealerships must include all fees and charges the dealer intends to collect. Only HST and licensing can be added on top of the advertised price, and the advertisement must clearly state these are extra. As a car buyer, be sure to review the contract and bill of sale to ensure the advertised price is being honoured in the sale with only HST and licensing added to the final transaction. Car buyers should not be charged extra fees and costs on their motor vehicle purchase.

Navigating tied selling and safeguarding your rights

Amidst widespread supply chain challenges causing substantial vehicle shortages in North America, the prevalent trend of requiring car buyers to purchase additional products alongside their vehicle has emerged. This is often presented as mandatory, putting pressure on car buyers to comply, or face outright refusal from the dealer.

It's crucial for car buyers to recognize their right to decline such sales arrangements and if the dealer refuses, walk away and buy elsewhere. As we step into the new year, OMVIC continues to examine these practices and is working with the Ontario government to consider legislative changes that would enhance transparency and the requisite disclosures mandated by the MVDA and the Code of Ethics are adhered to by dealers and sellers.

Shift to online showrooms and digital retailing:

The shift in how Ontarians approach car shopping is experiencing a digital revolution, spurred by recent events. As we look ahead to 2024, prospective car buyers can anticipate a continued trend towards online showrooms, virtual test drives, and digital retail experiences.

While the convenience of online vehicle shopping resonates with many Ontarians, it is crucial to bear in mind that whether you buy a car online or in person, protect yourself by buying from a registered dealer to ensure you are protected by Ontario’s consumer protection laws. Remember: buying from a private seller does not provide any consumer protection.

Car buyers are reminded that whether buying online or in-person, there is no cooling-off period in Ontario. Once you’ve signed a contract, it becomes a legally binding document.

Conclusion

As Ontario's automotive enthusiasts and everyday drivers navigate these complex issues, it is crucial to remain informed, adaptable, and proactive. By understanding the nuances of each trend, consumers can make informed decisions that not only safeguard their investments but also contribute to the ongoing evolution of Ontario's automotive landscape. In facing these challenges head-on, there exists an opportunity for positive change, towards a secure and fulfilling car-ownership experience.