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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Buying a Car Privately? Here's What You Should Know.

Dec 5

Saturday, December 5, 2020  RssIcon

You have many decisions when purchasing a vehicle, but the first will undoubtedly be whether to buy from a private seller or a registered dealer. How will you know what is best for you?

For this first week of December, we'll review what you need to know before buying a car privately; next week we'll discuss the buying process from an OMVIC Registered dealer. In our final December installment, we'll compare both so you can make an informed decision about which one is best for you.

So, let's start with private sellers.

What are the benefits of buying from a private seller?

In a word: price. Private sellers will charge less money for two reasons:

  • they don't have the same overhead charges as a registered dealer.
  • they are usually looking to get rid of the car as soon as possible, meaning they may be more open to negotiations.

What are the drawbacks of buying from a private seller?

There is only one drawback, but it can be a big one: risk. If something does go wrong with your purchase, OMVIC cannot protect you. Minimize as much risk as you can by:

  • running a CarFax vehicle history report
  • asking the seller for the Used Vehicle Information Package
  • taking a thorough test drive
  • getting the vehicle checked by a mechanic you trust
  • asking questions
  • taking your time

  • Where do I start?

    The first thing you should be screening for isn't the car at all: it’s the seller. Buying privately can be risky: if something goes wrong with your purchase, there are OMVIC cannot protect you, so finding a trustworthy seller is essential.

    Where is the best place to look for cars sold privately?

    From Kijiji Autos to, there are several online marketplaces to buy used cars privately. However, when looking online, be very careful about scams.

    Watch for warning signs, like a seller refusing to meet you in person or asking you to wire money. OMVIC’s Telltale Signs of a Car Buying Scam has a complete list of warning signs.

    How do I know to trust the private seller?

    Trusting your gut isn't enough. Be bold: ask sellers tough questions and recognize the warning signs of a scam. If you're not dealing with an honest private seller, you could be dealing with a curbsider.

    What questions should I ask?

    Here are two of the most important:

    1. "Can I see your identification?"
    2. An honest private seller will have no problem showing you their I.D. Once you have asked for it, make sure the name matches the name on the vehicle's ownership papers.

    3. "Can I get my mechanic to inspect the vehicle?"
    4. Getting a mechanic you trust to inspect the vehicle before you buy can offset a lot of risks. Of course, the private seller may say no, which should make you ask:"Do I want to buy a car I can't get inspected?"

    What's a curbsider?

    Curbsiders are illegal, unlicensed dealers who pretend to be private sellers. Curbsiders lure you in with cars priced below market value, but the vehicles they sell are often rebuilt wrecks or have rolled back odometers. Once they sell you the vehicle, they disappear.

    Buying from a curbsider is the biggest risk associated with private sales

    Usually, people who buy from private sellers want to save money, but if you don't ask the right questions, you can end up losing money.

    How can I stay informed?

    Don’t just stop at just two questions. For a comprehensive list, visit OMVIC’s guide on how to spot a curbsiderAnd make sure to check out this short video about curbsiders from the OMVIC Academy.


    About OMVIC

    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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