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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Homework for Car Buyers

Feb 28

Friday, February 28, 2020  RssIcon



When it comes to buying a vehicle in Ontario, it is crucial consumers do their research before making a purchase. Whether buying from a private seller or an OMVIC-Registered Dealer, homework will help prepare consumers to buy a car. Here's a handy mnemonic to help you remember some of the most important aspects of buying a car in Ontario.

H as in the HISTORY of the vehicle. Has it been in a collision? Was it used as a rental? Is it from out of province? Dealers must provide information about the past use, history and condition of a vehicle in writing on the contract. Private sellers are not required to provide any of this information so if you’re buying privately, get a CarProof history report and have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic! 

O as in OMVIC. OMVIC is Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator. It enforces consumer protection laws for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. All dealers and salespeople must be registered with OMVIC, abide by the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) and adhere to a legislated Code of Ethics. OMVIC publishes information related to all charges/convictions and discipline decisions here. 

M as in Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund. The Fund is a consumer protection program financed by Ontario's registered motor vehicle dealers. If a consumer suffers a financial loss as a result of a purchase/lease/consignment with a registered dealer, they may have access to the Fund. Consumers who are eligible for compensation may qualify for up to $45,000 per vehicle transaction.

E as in EDUCATION. Educate yourself about the vehicle you’re considering; will it meet current and future needs? Is it reliable? Will it depreciate (lose value) quickly? Are there incentives or special finance rates available? Does the dealership have a good reputation? Do you know the law about all-in price advertising? Do you know how long you have to cancel a contract once it’s signed?  Trick question! There is NO cooling-off period when you buy a car. An educated consumer is a protected consumer, and OMVIC has resources to help you educate yourself. You can even take this quiz to test your knowledge.

W as in WRITING. Ensure all promises and disclosures are made in WRITING on the contract, before the contract is signed. Verbal promises are nearly impossible to prove and verbal disclosures do not satisfy the law. When everything is in writing, problems are far less likely.

O as in ODOMETER. Odometer tampering is a favourite ploy of Curbsiders. Curbsiders are illegal, unlicensed dealers who commonly pose as private sellers pretending to sell their personal vehicles. Often the vehicles they sell are rebuilt wrecks or are odometer tampered; tampering that is easier and more common today than many people realize. Learn more about, and how to spot, Curbsiders here. Note: dealers are required to disclose the true distance a vehicle has travelled. If that isn’t known, there are specific statements that must be written on the contract. Failure to do so can trigger cancellation rights for the buyer.

R as in RECISSION. In Ontario there is no cooling-off period once you’ve signed a contract with a dealer. However, if a dealer fails to make certain specified disclosures (like  the true distance a vehicle has travelled), a customer can rescind (cancel) the contract within 90 days of delivery. Additionally, consumers may have up to one year to rescind a contract if a dealer commits an unfair business practice (ie making a false, misleading or deceptive representation or committing an unconscionable act).

K as in KNOWLEDGE. Know your rights as a consumer! Consumers who buy from an OMVIC-Registered Dealer have the right to:

  • All-in price advertising
  • Full disclosure of vehicle history and condition
  • Cancellation rights (for specified non-disclosures)
  • Access the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund

Consumers who choose to purchase privately have none of these rights. Should something go wrong with a private transaction, the purchaser is on their own with little recourse other than to go to court.
H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K was never more fun!


As the regulator of motor vehicle sales in Ontario, OMVIC’s mandate is to maintain a fair and informed marketplace by protecting the rights of consumers, enhancing industry professionalism and ensuring fair, honest and open competition for registered motor vehicle dealers. Visit to learn more about your car-buying rights as well as additional tips for buying a car in Ontario. For car buying tips, check out the OMVIC Academy. You can view other resources such as multilingual videos and download the OMVIC Car-buying Guide.

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