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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Don't Get Schooled...Get Educated! Back to School Car-Buying

Aug 18

Friday, August 18, 2017  RssIcon

Sending a “child” off to university or college can be traumatic – for the parents of course; the kid will be just fine. So to make it easier to keep ‘em coming home for more than just Thanksgiving and spring break, some parents will head out with their teens on an elusive hunt for a decent, but cheap, set of wheels. It’s worth noting decent and cheap can be difficult to find in peaceful coexistence in the automotive jungle.

The dangers of buying privately
“Many consumers looking for an inexpensive vehicle assume their best bet is to buy privately,” explained Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications and Education for OMVIC – Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator. “Unfortunately that assumption isn’t always accurate and can lead to serious problems.” That’s because car buyers who purchase privately forego nearly all consumer protections provided by Ontario law; you’re only protected when you buy from an OMVIC-Registered Dealer.  Should something go wrong with a private car purchase, consumers are basically on their own with little recourse other than the court system.

A safety certificate is not a warranty

One mistake car buyers often make is assuming that because a vehicle has passed a safety inspection, it has no defects—that is not always the case. “The issuance of a safety certificate indicates items such as brakes, tires, steering components, lights, wipers and the exhaust have met the minimum standards of safety (set by the Ministry of Transportation) on the date of inspection,” says O’Keefe. “But it is not a guarantee that nothing is wrong with the vehicle.” Vehicles that pass a safety inspection could still have issues unrelated to safety items (e.g. engine/transmission/air conditioning) that require expensive repairs.

Learn how to recognize a curbsider
Wading into the private vehicle sales marketplace also exposes consumers to curbsiders. Commonly posing as private sellers (though some work from small automotive-related businesses) these illegal, unlicensed car dealers often sell vehicles that are rebuilt wrecks with undisclosed accident repairs or rolled-back odometers. According to O’Keefe, curbsiders are the chameleons of car sales. “They prey on unsuspecting consumers. Often the vehicles they sell aren’t registered in their names (or have only been registered to them for a short time); some even use phony ID.” If a consumer buys from a curbsider and later discovers issues with the vehicle, that seller will be nearly impossible to track down.

Homework: it’s not just for kids
So, whether you’re planning on purchasing privately or going through a registered dealer, it is crucial that you do your homework. There is no cooling off period in Ontario, so the more educated you are, the happier you will be with your purchase. We’ve put together a list of what to look out for when looking for a used car.

Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle in Ontario
Ask questions: how long was the vehicle owned? Are there maintenance records? Why are they selling?

Confirm the seller’s identity: check ID and proof of ownership.

Take a thorough test drive—check for smooth acceleration, crisp steering. Try the highway at off peak hours, so you can get up to highway speed.

Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic before purchase

Do your research: order a vehicle history report before deciding.

Carefully review the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) – seller must provide it with all pages intact.

Ensure there are no liens on the vehicle, check with the warranty and financial institution (the information is also available on UVIP).

Avoid cash purchases: issue cheque to registered owner

Don’t avoid taxes, request the receipt that includes the seller’s information

If you choose to buy privately, educate yourself and don’t fall victim to a curbsider. Click here to learn the telltale signs of curbsiders.

If you have questions, you can contact OMVIC’s consumer inquiries line, before you buy: 1-800-943-6002 x3942 or


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