Buying a used car in Ontario can be a great way to dodge much of the cost of depreciation. But if you want to make sure you’re not stuck with a lemon or paying more than you need to, there are a few things you should consider first.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has specific requirements around buying a used car. There are a number of documents you’ll need to gather to buy the car and complete your car’s registration in Ontario before you can hit the road.
We’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you navigate the used car buying process in Ontario while avoiding pitfalls and potentially saving money along the way.
Steps to buying a used car in Ontario
From budgeting to shopping to registration – follow these 7 steps for how to buy a used car in Ontario.
- Skip ahead to read about paperwork and registration requirements in Ontario
1. Decide your budget for a used car in Ontario
Do some calculations to figure out how much you can afford to spend before you start shopping. Aside from the purchase price of your vehicle, you should think about additional car expenses such as loan interest, sales tax, car insurance, registration, maintenance and gas costs. You should aim to spend less than 10% to 15% of your total income on buying a car in Ontario privately or at a dealership.
Extra costs of buying a car as is in Ontario
You may want to add all of these expenses together to get the total cost of car ownership.
|Expense||Typical cost in Ontario|
|Purchase price||$1,000 to $40,000|
|Interest rates||Annual APR between 5% and 30%|
|Sales tax||13% on the wholesale value of the car or the purchase price (whichever is higher)|
|Car insurance||$700 to $2,000 per year (average cost in Ontario is $1,445)|
|Scheduled maintenance||$500 to $700 per year|
|Emergency repairs||$50 to $6,000|
|Gas||$50 to $200 per month|
|Registration||Either $32 or $59|
|Actual costs will vary based on your driving record and what type of car you have|
2. Decide where in Ontario to buy the car
You’ll be able to buy a used car in Ontario from a dealership, private seller or online broker. There are pros and cons to each type of seller.
- Dealer. You’ll usually pay more to shop with a dealer, but you’ll be able to take multiple cars for test drives and easily compare a large inventory.
- Private seller. You could save money when buying a used car in Ontario privately, but there’s also an additional layer of risk since you could end up with a lemon.
- Broker. You can use a broker to compare prices and access a large inventory of cars across Ontario, but you may run into fraudulent lenders on this type of platform.
Where to buy a used car in Ontario
You can buy a used car in Ontario from a private seller, in-person dealership, online car broker or online dealer.
|Seller||Where to find||Pros||Cons|
|Private seller||Sites like Craigslist, Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace||Potential for great deals|
Easy to shop in your local area
|Usually doesn’t qualify for financing|
Difficult to test drive multiple cars
Difficult to return the car if it doesn’t perform well
|In-person dealership||Find a dealership near your location in Ontario||You can check online customer reviews|
Dealership may provide financing
Easy to test drive any vehicle you want
|Can be more expensive|
You can only shop from what’s available on the lot
|Online car broker||Sites such as Auto Trader, Canadian Black Book and Carpages.ca||Compare cars from across Ontario and out of province|
Easier to get financing than if you shop privately
|You may end up shopping with a fraudulent seller or curbsider|
Possibility of hidden fees
|Online dealer||Sites such as Canada Drives, Clutch and CarDoor||Shop online and get the car delivered to your door|
“Test own” for 1 to 2 weeks
Potentially lower vehicle prices than in-person dealerships
|Limited to the dealer’s inventory of cars|
Prices are usually non-negotiable
3. Decide how to pay for your used car
The cheapest option for buying a used car in Ontario privately or at a dealership is to pay for it outright with your own savings. This means you won’t be saddled with loan payments for a set number of years. On the other hand, you may want to go the auto financing route if you don’t have enough savings, or if you want to use a car loan in Ontario to build your credit.
You can buy a used car in Ontario with the following payment or financing options:
- Use your own savings. Pay with your savings to cut out monthly loan payments and save on interest.
- Take out an auto loan. Apply for a car loan from the bank or a private lender if you have decent credit and don’t mind paying a higher amount in interest.
- Apply for dealership financing. Pay a little bit more to get financing directly from your dealership if you want a convenient option to pay for your used car over time.
Used car loans in Ontario for a dealership or private sale
4. Compare cars and negotiate prices with sellers
Figure out what type of car you want and compare cars to find the best deal. Feel free to haggle on prices if you want a better deal as most sellers in Ontario, whether private or at a dealership, will mark used car prices up and expect to negotiate. You can also do some research and ask your seller to price match if you find a car in the same condition with similar mileage at a lower price tag.
Tips to negotiate used car prices in Ontario
- Price match in advance. Ask your seller to give you a deal on your used car if you find the same car (in a similar condition and with similar mileage) advertised online at a lower price.
- Get pre-approved for car financing. Find out how much you might be eligible to borrow in auto financing before you shop so you can use this as leverage to seal the deal.
- Know when to walk away. Keep your budget in mind and make sure you don’t go over it for any reason.
5. Test drive and inspect your used car
Take the used car for a test drive and do a thorough visual inspection to make sure it’s in good working condition. You can consult the checklist below to get an idea of what types of damage you should be looking for. You may also want to schedule an inspection with a licensed mechanic and check the vehicle identification number (VIN) before buying a used car in Ontario privately or at a dealership.
Used car checklist: What to look for when inspecting a used car in Ontario
Consult this checklist to get an idea of what you may want to inspect when buying a car as is in Ontario.
- Outside of the car. Look for cosmetic damage (dents, dings and scratches) and inspect the undercarriage for leaks or rust.
- Inside the car. Make sure the fabric and plastic inside of the car looks good and that electrical systems and heating/cooling systems work.
- Tires. Make sure the tires have tread and see if there’s an extra set of winter tires.
- Engine, brakes and steering. Make sure the engine sounds good and check that the car brakes and turns easily.
- Miscellaneous parts. Confirm that miscellaneous parts are in good working order including wipers, gauges, speedometer, odometer and radio.
6. Buy your car
At this point, it’s time to purchase your vehicle of choice. If you’re buying a used car from a dealership in Ontario, simply follow the dealerships guidelines to complete the purchase. If you’re buying from a private seller, you’ll need to take the lead to make sure all appropriate paperwork has been completed.
The process will involve filling out some paperwork and arranging payment or financing. Make sure that both you and the seller sign and date the Bill of Sale. The Ontario Government states that in order to complete the purchase of a used car, the seller must give you the:
- Vehicle portion of the owner’s permit (with the back portion completed)
- Used Vehicle Information Package (including the Bill of Sale showing the seller’s name and the car’s purchase price)
7. Register your used car in Ontario
Register your car within 6 days of the sale at a ServiceOntario centre. Bring your driver’s licence, UVIP, bill of sale, odometer reading, vehicle permit, proof of insurance and safety standards certificate. Skip ahead for more details on these types of documents.
Requirements for buying a used car in Ontario
The process of buying and registering a car in Ontario requires a number of specific documents and reports.
Documents to ask the seller
You’ll need the following when buying a used car in Ontario:
- The vehicle portion of the owner’s permit with the completed portion on the back. Here’s a sample of an owner’s permit (vehicle portion on the left side).
- An Application for Transfer, which can be found on the back of the ownership permit, under the vehicle portion.
- The Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP), including the bill of sale with the name of the seller and purchase price. A UVIP is not required if you’re buying from a registered car dealer or if you’re buying from a family member. However, if you’re buying from a registered dealer, you should get a CARFAX report.
- Safety Standards Certificate (SSC). You can buy and register a used car without an SSC, but you cannot put plates on it without one. The seller isn’t legally required to provide this, but you could ask for it as part of the deal. An SSC shows that the car meets the Ontario government’s minimum safety standards.
Used car tax in Ontario
You’ll need to pay 13% HST on the wholesale value of the car or the purchase price, whichever is higher. Wholesale value is based on the Canadian Red Book, which is a database of wholesale and retail values of used vehicles. It is used by the government. The value can change from the day you get the UVIP to the day you register your vehicle.
You pay the sales tax when you register as the new owner of the used car. You do not pay tax to the seller.
Registering your used car in Ontario
The fee to register your used car in Ontario will cost either $32 or $59. If you’re getting a new licence plate, you’ll pay $59 for the vehicle permit and licence plate. If you’re keeping your current licence plate, you’ll pay $32 for the vehicle permit. Also note that as of March 2022, you are no longer required to purchase or renew licence plate stickers in Ontario for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds.
You’ll need to register your car within 6 days of the sale at a ServiceOntario centre. Bring the following:
- Money to pay for registration fees and the 13% tax
- Ontario driver’s licence
- Used vehicle information package
- Bill of sale
- Odometer reading
- Safety Standards Certificate
- Vehicle permit with the completed Application of Transfer
- Proof of insurance
- Plate portion of your permit if you’re transferring your current licence plate
Light passenger vehicles – which are most cars, vans, SUVs and light trucks – do not require an emission test in Ontario as of April 1, 2019. If you buy a used heavy diesel commercial vehicle older than the current year (like a transport truck, pickup truck, delivery van, or tow truck) that weighs more than 4,500kg and runs on diesel fuel, you’ll have to get a valid emissions test pass.
Tips to choose a used car in Ontario that fits your needs
Just because you’re buying a used car in Ontario, it doesn’t mean you need to settle for a lemon. In fact, with such a large population in some parts of Ontario, you actually have a lot of solid options for used cars.
That’s why you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a quality vehicle you can count on for years to come. Look for a car with the following features to make sure you get a vehicle that fits your needs:
- Suitable make and model. Buy a car that makes sense for your budget and lifestyle, and will suit your individual style or family needs.
- Low mileage. Look for the lowest mileage possible when buying a car as is in Ontario to make sure you don’t get stuck with expensive repairs.
- Vehicle inspection. Use an inspection checklist, take the car to a mechanic and check the VIN to make sure everything is in good condition.
- Priced to sell. Check sites like Kelley Blue Book and Canadian Black Book to figure out how much your car should cost and don’t pay more than that.
- Eligible for financing. Figure out how you can pay for the car and make sure it’s eligible for financing if you don’t have money saved up.
How to buy a used car in Ontario if you live out of province
You’ll need to follow a couple of extra steps if you want to import a car from Ontario into another province.
- Get an out-of-province inspection. Most provinces require you to get an out-of-province inspection before you bring a car in from Ontario.
- Fix identified issues. You’ll need to fix any issues that are flagged in your inspection before you can register your used car.
- Provide paperwork. You’ll be required to provide proof of ID and ownership (such as a bill of sale) to register your vehicle in your own province.
- Pay taxes. You’ll have to cover the taxes required by your province to import a vehicle from Ontario (usually between 5% and 15%, depending on the province).
Learn more about the steps you need to take to get the best deal on a used car in Ontario. Find out important details such as where to shop, what to look for in an inspection and how to secure financing. You can also check out our general guide on tips for buying a used car in Canada if you want more information on how to secure the right vehicle for you.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
Best place to buy used cars in Toronto
Compare the best places to find used cars in Toronto and explore financing options to get the car you want.
Best place to buy used cars in Calgary
Discover the best place buy used cars in Calgary and compare financing options to get started.
Best place to buy used cars in Montreal
Compare a range of sellers to find the best place to buy used cars in Montreal.
Best place to buy used cars in Ottawa
From private marketplaces to online dealers, find the best place to buy used cars in Ottawa.
Buying a used car in BC
Learn about the steps to buy a used car in BC, including taxes you’ll need to pay and documents you’ll need to provide.
How to buy a used car in Alberta
Get information on province-specific rules and requirements when buying a used car in Alberta.
How to buy a car at an auction
A step-by-step guide to how to buy a car at an auction.
Pre-purchase inspections for cars
Use an independent mechanic to ensure you don’t bring home a lemon.
Classic car financing in Canada
Here’s how to get an auto loan or personal loan to buy a classic car.