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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Buying a car online? Take extra time and steps to protect yourself

Jul 22

Written by: OMVIC Communications
Thursday, July 22, 2021  RssIcon

Only a few clicks separates you from a new car in today’s digital economy. But before rushing to the digital checkout, be sure to familiarize yourself with the unique dynamics and potential risks of online car shopping.

In the past few years, more and more Ontarians have decided to skip showroom visits entirely, opting to buy through online dealers instead – sometimes without even seeing a car first. The reach of the internet has also allowed buyers to look for cars far outside of their hometowns.

This newfound convenience and freedom can come with potential risks. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe when buying from an online dealership:

Do your homework on the seller

  • Online buying can expose you to sellers around the world. Start by determining if the online seller is a dealership located in Ontario.
  • If the dealership is located in Ontario, verify whether the dealership and its sales staff are registered with OMVIC by visiting our find a dealer/salesperson search page. Like traditional dealerships, all online dealerships in Ontario must be registered with OMVIC. Buying from OMVIC-registered dealerships offers you a number of protections, like access to OMVIC’s Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund.
  • If you decide to go with an online dealership based outside of Ontario, be aware that OMVIC cannot protect you for any out-of-province purchases.
  • If you choose to buy from a private seller online instead of a dealership, OMVIC cannot offer any assistance because we have no jurisdiction over private sales.
  • Ask questions about what health and safety measures the dealership has in place for each step of the buying process, from test drive to final delivery.

During the test drive

  • Dealerships may arrange to bring a car to your home or workplace for a “remote test drive.” Do not sign any sales contracts during a test drive. It is illegal for a dealership to present you with a sales contract during a remote test drive.
  • Ensure health and safety measures are in place for each step of the test drive.
  • If you do decide to buy the car, the dealership must send you the contract afterwards by email.

Ask for time to change your mind

  • In Ontario, car sales are final. There are no cooling-off periods to change your mind. But because you may be buying a car without first seeing it, you may wish to negotiate a cancellation condition in the contract. This would allow you to return the car if you decide the car is not a good fit. However, the dealership does not have to agree to this.
  • If they do agree, make sure the cancellation conditions are clearly spelled out in writing in the sales contract, noting any restrictions like time limits for refunds, mileage restrictions, how much notice you must give before returning the car, and who is responsible for returning the vehicle to the dealer.

Keep in mind that many of our tips for in-person buying can also keep online car buyers safe. For a more comprehensive list of tips on how to buy cars online safely, visit OMVIC’s website.


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