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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Be Brand Conscious!

Nov 16

Friday, November 16, 2018  RssIcon

Brand Conscious Man

Admit it. Most of us can be a little superficial.  Maybe your winter coat is Canada Goose, your boots are Sorel and your fleece is Arc’teryx; you order double ristretto venti half-soy nonfat decaf organic chocolate brownie iced vanilla double-shot gingerbread Frappuccino extra hot with foam whipped cream upside down double blended, one Sweet'n Low and one NutraSweet, and ice because it’s Starbucks and no one drinks ‘coffee’ anymore, and; you want to buy that ruggedly sexy SUV you’ve seen on safari travel shows; the one all the celebs drive, cuz you know, it  will undoubtedly impress your friends.  Yes, about some things – we can be brand snobs.

And while this uber-brand awareness may be a sign of the times due to the hyper-consumerism society is bombarded with, it may not always be superficial: there are some purchases in which failing to be brand aware can cost you thousands.

Take buying a used vehicle: and believe it or not, we’re not talking about BMW, Range Rover, Mercedes or any other manufacturer’s brand out there. What we’re talking about is Ontario’s mandatory branding program designed to identify salvage and rebuilt vehicles. Understanding these brands is one of the keys to understanding the history of a used vehicle; it may help you determine a vehicle’s value and whether or not that once written off rugged and sexy SUV is worth buying.

What You Need to Know About Ontario’s Mandatory Branding Program

Every vehicle registered in Ontario is branded: irreparable, salvage, rebuilt or none. Yes, none is a brand. You’ll find the brand listed on the vehicle ownership card.

What each brand means:


A vehicle with the brand Irreparable has been written off as a total loss by an insurer. It suffered damage so severe that it can only be used or sold for parts/scrap. It cannot be plated or put on the road again.


A Salvage branded vehicle has been involved in a collision, undergone structural damage and has been written off as a total loss by the insurer. In its salvage branded state it cannot be plated or driven on the roads.  However, if the vehicle is repaired, undergoes a structural inspection at a licensed Motor Vehicle Inspection Station and is issued a Structural Inspection Certificate (and regular Safety Standards Certificate), the vehicle is deemed roadworthy again. At this time the brand can be changed from Salvaged to Rebuilt.


A Rebuilt vehicle was previously written off and branded as Salvage. It has been repaired and a Structural Inspection Certificate has been issued from an authorized technician at an MTO-licensed Inspection Station. This vehicle can now be plated and driven on Ontario’s roads.


The fourth (and most common) brand is None. A vehicle branded None generally falls into one of two categories: 1) it has never been involved in a collision; or 2) it was involved in a collision or incident, but the degree of damage did not warrant it being branded Salvage. Note: it is possible for a vehicle to be declared a total loss by an insurer without it being branded Salvage. For example, an older vehicle that sustained no structural damage in a collision, but required repairs exceeding the insurer’s deemed value would be a total loss, not salvage.

Educate Yourself

Dealers in Ontario are required to disclose if a vehicle has been branded as Irreparable, Salvage or Rebuilt. If a dealer sells a vehicle without disclosing that it has been branded (and how it was last classified) the customer can cancel the contract within 90 days of delivery. Note: Dealers are also required to disclose if a vehicle has been declared a total loss or if it was involved in a collision that resulted in more than $3,000 damage though failing to do so does not trigger rescission rights.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous private sellers and curbsiders (illegal, unlicensed dealers who pose as private sellers) often sell rebuilt vehicles without disclosure.

When You Need to be Extra Cautious

OMVIC is especially concerned about curbsiders who purchase write-offs from salvaged auctions, fix them up and sell them to unsuspecting consumers,” explains Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications for Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, OMVIC, “So learn to spot curbsiders and where to find branding information.” In addition to the ownership document, this information may be found on a CARFAX Canada report and the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) that a private seller is supposed to provide.

Go One Step Further

OMVIC is not suggesting all rebuilt vehicles are unsafe – many are properly repaired and provide reliable transportation. But there have been instances when, Structural Inspection Certificates have been issued even though repairs were substandard or incomplete, resulting in unsafe vehicles ending up back on the road, so O’Keefe cautions that if you’re considering purchasing a rebuilt vehicle, even one that has been properly disclosed to you, have it inspected first by a mechanic or facility that understands body and frame repair.

Where to Find a Reputable Mechanic

Finding a trustworthy mechanic is imperative for a car buyer and subsequent car owner. But where can you find one?  Try Car help Canada or the Automobile Protection Agency; two consumer protection groups that provide recommendations for mechanical and body repair shops for their members. Each charges a nominal fee.

So remember, when you go out used car shopping it’s understandable to be a bit brand name conscious, but it’s also prudent to be “brand” aware! 

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