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How to buy a used car in BC
Learn about requirements and important steps to take when buying a used car in BC.
If you’re thinking of buying a used car in BC but not sure where to start, read this guide to buying a used car in this province to make the process as seamless as possible.
What you need to buy a used car in BC
The process of buying a used car varies by province. Below are steps you’ll need to take in BC:
Required documents when buying a used car in BC privately
- Signed original Vehicle Registration (APV250 form) from the seller. This is the owner’s certificate.
- Transfer/tax form (APV9T), which you can currently download from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) site. This form requires original signatures from you and the seller. Electronic signatures will not be accepted. Here’s a sample of the form.
To complete the process, go with the seller to take these documents to an Autoplan broker. The transfer/tax form is only valid within 10 days of the sale. An Autoplan broker is a licensed professional of the ICBC, providing services like vehicle registration and insurance.
Other documents and information you should get
- Lien search (around $10) from a Service BC centre to check whether there are outstanding debts linked to the vehicle.
- Inspection report from a trusted mechanic to make sure the car doesn’t have problems.
- CARFAX report. This is a comprehensive report of a vehicle’s history, including liens, maintenance history, vehicle ownership, accidents and more. If you’re buying a used car from a dealer, make sure they give this report to you. If you’re buying a used car from a private sale, you can get the report from the CARFAX website if the seller doesn’t provide it to you.
- Check if the car has been reported as stolen by visiting the Canadian Police Information Centre website.
- Check if the car has any safety recalls by visiting the Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database.
Used car tax in BC if you buy from a private seller
If you buy a used car from a private seller in BC, 12% PST applies if you paid less than $125,000 for the car. If the purchase price was above $125,000 and below $150,000, 15% PST applies, and if the price was $150,000 and over, it’s 20% PST.
You must pay PST when you register your used car with the ICBC; on your next PST return (if you have a PST number); or on or before the last day of the month after the month you bought your car (using a Casual Remittance Return FIN405 form)–whichever is the earliest of these three. You do not pay GST for a private sale.
Used car tax if you buy from a dealer
If you buy a used car from a dealer in BC, below is the PST breakdown. This is in addition to 5% GST.
- Less than $55,000: 7%
- $55,000 to $55,999.99: 8%
- $56,000 to $56,999.99: 9%
- $57,000 to $124,999.99: 10%
- $125,000 to $149,999.99: 15%
- $150,000 and over: 20%
PST applies on the price before a trade-in deduction or down payment.
Registering your used car in BC
When you visit the Autoplan broker, bring the original vehicle registration from the seller and the completed transfer/tax form. If you already paid the PST, bring proof of payment. Otherwise, have the money ready to pay for PST.
Compare used car loans in BC
Steps to follow before buying a used car in BC
1. Decide on a budget
Look at your income and current debts to figure out how much you can realistically afford to spend. You’ll also want to factor in additional car expenses such as provincial tax, loan interest, car insurance, registration, maintenance and gas costs. Many experts advise spending less than 10 to 15% of your total income on buying a used car in BC.
Extra costs of buying a used car in BC
You may want to add all of these expenses together to get the total cost of car ownership.
|Expense||Typical cost in BC|
|Purchase price||$1,000 to $40,000|
|Interest rates||Annual APR between 5% and 30%|
|Sales tax||12% for private and dealership sales|
|Car insurance||$700 to $2,000 per year (average of $1,832, though this number has dropped recently)|
|Scheduled maintenance||$500 to $700 per year|
|Emergency repairs||$50 to $6,000|
|Gas||$50 to $200 per month|
|You may pay different prices based on your car type and driving record.|
2. Decide where to buy your car
You can source a used vehicle from a private seller, dealership or online broker. The seller you choose will come with its own list of benefits and drawbacks.
- Dealer. Dealers are often more expensive but can make up for it by being more convenient and safer (as long as you work with a reputable dealer).
- Private seller. You could save money with a private seller if you’re decent at haggling, but you run a higher risk of buying a car with mechanical issues.
- Broker. You can use a broker to compare cars from multiple dealerships and sellers across BC, but you may encounter fraudulent lenders if you don’t do your homework.
3. Decide how to pay for your used car
You’ll need to decide how you want to pay for your vehicle and if you need to secure financing. You can buy a used car in BC with the following payment or financing options:
- Use your own money. You can use your savings to buy a used car or ask friends and family for a loan to avoid paying interest.
- Apply for a car loan. Ask to borrow funds from a bank or private lender if you need cash to buy a used car in BC (you can consider a cosigner if you have bad credit).
- Apply for dealership financing. Get a loan directly from your dealership if you want to cut out the third-party lender, but expect to pay higher rates.
Steps to follow when buying a used car in BC
4. Compare cars and negotiate prices with sellers
Explore many different makes and models to find the car you want. Do your best to negotiate a better price on your car since most dealerships and private sellers will mark prices up to start out. You may also want to do some preliminary research with a broker to find out what the going price is for the type of car you’re interested in before you shop.
5. Test drive and inspect your used car
Make sure your car looks, sounds and even smells like it’s in good working order before you drive away. Do a visual inspection, take the car for a test drive and consider enlisting the help of a licensed mechanic before buying a used car in BC.
You should also check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and make sure there are no outstanding liens on the vehicle. You’ll have to get any lien removed before registering the car, which could be difficult if you aren’t able to get in touch with the seller.
Used car checklist: What to look for when inspecting a used car in BC
Make sure to inspect the following elements before buying a used car in BC:
- Car exterior. Look for dents, dings, scratches, leaks or signs of rust or paint chipping off the outside of the car.
- Car interior. Inspect for rips or stains on interior fabric, scuffs on plastic, strange smells or other noticeable cosmetic defects on the inside.
- Electrical systems. Make sure electrical systems such as power lights, windows, heated seats and sunroof work properly.
- Heating and cooling systems. Check that vents open easily and heater/air conditioning work well.
- Engine, brakes and steering function. Test drive the car to make sure the engine sounds good and check that the car brakes and turns easily.
- Tires. Make sure that the tires have tread and see if there’s an extra set of winter tires.
- Miscellaneous parts. Confirm that miscellaneous parts are in good working order including wipers, gauges, speedometer, odometer and radio.
Steps to follow after buying a used car in BC
6. Pay for your car
You can use your savings or a car loan to buy a used car in BC. You’ll own the car outright and you won’t be required to pay interest or loan payments if you use your savings. You can also apply for financing from the bank or a private lender if you don’t mind paying back a loan. The downside is that you may not qualify for a car loan unless you have good credit.
7. Register your used car
- Government issued ID. Show your licence or other form of acceptable ID.
- Vehicle registration. Provide the original vehicle registration with the previous owner’s signature on it (the seller should give you this).
- Transfer form. Fill out and sign the transfer/tax form along with your seller.
You’ll need to provide original signatures on all paperwork and it’s highly recommended that you go into the registration office with your seller to make sure there are no issues with the sale.
8. Organize insurance
You could pay an average of $1,832 for car insurance in BC through ICBC, though costs have decreased in 2021. You’ll need the following documents to get insurance in BC:
- Government issued ID. Show your licence or other government issued ID.
- Proof of registration/ownership. You’ll need to show that the car belongs to you with registration documents.
- Driving record. Give consent for your insurer to pull your driving record.
Where can I buy car insurance in BC?
You can buy car insurance in BC with a licensed ICBC broker. Basic insurance is mandatory for all drivers in BC and must be purchased from ICBC. You can choose to buy additional optional coverage through ICBC or other private insurers such as BCAA.
How to choose a used car that fits your needs
You’ll want to shop for a vehicle that makes sense for your lifestyle and budget. Consider the following features when buying a used car in BC:
- Does it fit my lifestyle? Make sure you choose a car that will be a good fit for your personal style, work/passenger needs and extracurricular activities.
- Can I afford it? Shop around to get the lowest prices and make sure you can pre-qualify for financing before you start shopping if you need a bit of extra cash.
- Will it last for a long time? Look for the lowest mileage possible and make sure you get an inspection to check that the car’s in good condition.
- Do I really need a car? Think about how much you need a car and figure out if other forms of transport might be more suitable or cost-effective.
How to buy a used car in BC if you live out-of-province
You’ll need to follow a couple of extra steps if you want to import a car from BC into another province.
- Book an out-of-province inspection. You’ll usually need to get a special inspection on any vehicle you bring into your province from BC.
- Provide paperwork. You’ll have to show proof of ID and ownership for the car through a bill of sale or signed registration documents.
- Pay taxes. You’ll need to cover the taxes required by your province to import a vehicle from BC (usually between 5 and 15%, depending on the province).
Get more information on what steps you need to take to buy a used car in BC. Learn where to shop, how to pay, what to look for in an inspection and what you need to register/insure your car. You can also refer to our guide on how to buy a used car in Canada for general tips and information on finding the right vehicle for your needs.
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