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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Have Wheels Will…Visit?! Buying a Car for a Student

Aug 17

Friday, August 17, 2018  RssIcon

Back to school You’ve known for a while that this day would come.  And when your kids argued with you about the unfairness of curfews or doing chores, you might have even longed for it, but now that its time for your darling daughter or son to head off to university or college, you realize you’re not prepared for them to leave home. Don’t worry about;them…they’re more than ready. In an effort to stave off empty nest syndrome, you decide to get your offspring a car—nothing too fancy, just a cheap yet decent set of wheels, so they can drive home to visit at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Reading Week, or when they need to get four loads of laundry done.

So let's talk about what you need to consider when buying your budding scholar a vehicle.

Will I Get a Better Deal Buying Privately?

“Many consumers looking for an inexpensive vehicle assume their best bet is to buy privately,” explains  OMVIC’s  Director of Communications and Education, Terry O’Keefe.  “Unfortunately that assumption isn’t always accurate and can lead to serious problems.” That’s because car buyers who purchase privately forgo nearly all consumer protection provided by Ontario law; you’re only protected when you buy from an OMVIC-Registered Dealer.  And of course, the private online classifieds are littered with ads placed by curbsiders, lying in wait for their next victim. Click here for questions to ask when buying a car privately.

What was that Word Again?

Curbsiders are illegal, unlicensed car dealers who pose as private sellers (though some work from small automotive-related businesses). Just as they misrepresent themselves they often misrepresent the vehicles they sell - many 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. Click here for some of the telltale signs you may be dealing with a curbsider.

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.

Homework: It’s Not Just for Kids

Learning how to protect yourself when buying a car has a lot in common with the first-year Philosophy class at your kid’s new school: homework. Remember, there is no cooling off period in Ontario for vehicle purchases, so the more educated you are, the happier you will be with your transaction. As a primer, OMVIC offers the following tips when buying a car privately for that rising academic star:

1. Ask questions: how long was the vehicle owned? Are there maintenance records? Why are they selling?

2. Confirm the seller’s identity and that the vehicle is registered to him/her: check ID and proof of ownership.

3. Take a thorough test drive including at highway speeds.

4. Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic before purchase

5. Do your research: order a vehicle history report (CARFAX Canada) before deciding.

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

7. Ensure there are no liens on the vehicle (the information is usually available on UVIP or CARFAX report).

8. Avoid cash purchases: use a method that proves the payment (cheque, EMT, etc)

9. Don’t avoid taxes, request a receipt that itemizes all aspects of the sale, including the actual price paid, details of the vehicle (including VIN)  and the seller’s information

10. 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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