When it comes to shopping for a second-hand vehicle most buyers are wary of smooth-talking used car salespeople who may try to sell you a lemon. So what can you do to ensure that you and your hard earned money aren't being taken for a ride?

That's where the Automobile Protection Association (APA) comes in. Each year the APA conducts a survey of the used car industry and W5 reports on their findings. Through the use of secret shoppers and hidden cameras, the APA gets a snapshot of what car buyers experience when they go shopping for a used vehicle.

For this year's survey the APA visited 20 car sellers in the Greater Toronto Area. APA secret shoppers along with an undercover mechanic visited 11 used car dealers; 2 new car dealers and met with 7 people who were posing as private sellers.

The secret shoppers looked for popular models such as Toyota Matrix and Corolla as well as Honda Fit and Civic at bargain prices. The APA evaluated sellers by their representation of the vehicles (either in ads or verbal descriptions) as well as their overall integrity.

This year's findings were a mixed bunch. Although 8 of the 13 dealers visited failed the survey, none of them attempted to sell the APA mystery shoppers a rebuilt wreck- a first in the history of this survey. The dealers failed for things like underreporting of collision damage and advertising violations.

All 7 individual sellers that the APA shoppers met with failed the survey for misrepresentation. One common deceptive tactic was sellers trying to unload vehicles that were branded by the Ministry of Transportation as "salvage."

This means that the vehicles may have been mechanically unfit and that licence plates could not be attached to them unless a structural inspection and a Safety Standards Certificate was provided to the Ministry.

The APA identified 6 of the 7 individual sellers as "curbsiders". They describe curbsiders as people who claim to be selling a personal vehicle but in reality are actually unlicensed sellers looking to make a profit off of vehicles they have generally owned for a very short time.

In some cases a curbsider may not even be the registered owner of the vehicle.

Bob Beattie is the Executive Director of the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario. He told W5's Seamus O'Regan that curbsiding is at an all time high in the Toronto area.

"Twenty-nine percent of all of the ads that said they were private sales were actually for people curbsiding" Beattie said.

George Iny is the President of the APA and he oversaw this year's survey. He says that buyers need to be diligent and do their homework to ensure that they are buying a roadworthy vehicle at a fair price.