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How to buy a car as a newcomer in Ontario, Canada

When you are a newcomer and have to start from scratch in a new country, there are some milestones you will usually want to reach.

In our case, one of those milestones was getting a car. We started this year by taking the first step of this milestone: getting a driver's license, allowing us to drive in Ontario.

In this post, I will tell you what the process of buying a used car is like, as a newcomer to Ontario, Canada.

This is the step-by-step process we went through to get our car after 1.5 years living in Canada without one.

Table of contents

1. New or used car

First, you must decide whether you want a new or used car.

This is a personal decision and, in our case, we decided on a used car for the following reasons:

  • Car insurance is expensive in Ontario, so we wanted to pay for the car in full to focus only on the monthly insurance payment.

  • Our work permits expire in the short term, so we can't plan for a long-term debt if we are unsure of our processes.

  • We did some research, and generally, used cars are in good condition in Ontario.

2. Set your budget

If you decide to buy a used car, set a budget so that, from the beginning, you can narrow your search to that amount of money.

Your budget must consider the car's value, taxes (13%), license plates and registration.

We also narrowed our search, identifying which make we wanted, what mileage limit was acceptable to us and another consideration you need to make is whether you want a car with manual or automatic transmissions. In Ontario, most cars are automatic.

We decided on these characteristics first, because new cars appeared every day and our search was becoming endless.

3. Research your ideal vehicle

A used car can be purchased from a private seller or a dealership.

During our process, we learned that sites like Auto Trader are a good option for buying a used car.

In our case, we used the Kijiji platform and Facebook Marketplace, where we added our defined filters and searched for the car we wanted.

Kijiji (cars & vehicles) is an option to search for used cars.

4. Visit and inspection

Once you have found a couple of options for the car, contact the owner and schedule a visit, so you can check in person if the car is in good condition.

If you have the possibility to contact a mechanic, that would be great.

In our case, we did not have a mechanic, but a friend who works in the auto repair business accompanied Aldo to visit and look at the car.

Make sure that when you visit, you have the opportunity to test drive the vehicle so that you feel more confident. Another thing is to check the VIN physically with the documentation and check the oil dipstick and tire inspection.

Test drive the vehicle to that you feel more confident | Photo by Media from Wix

5. Paperwork

Once you visit the car or cars, make sure you can compare between two or more to be sure of your purchase.

Connect with the owner and confirm that you are buying it, and also make sure to check the following documents beforehand:

  • Safety Standards Certificate (SSC): this document contains information about the inspection results. It has a checklist with 36 points that are checked; if the vehicle passes this inspection, they issue the certificate. It is not mandatory, but it will give you an idea of whether the car meets the minimum safety requirements. The certificate shows the company that performed the inspection, the vehicle details and the inspection date. It is only valid for 36 days from the date of issue.

Here is an example of the document:

Example of Safety Standards Certificate

  • Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP): This is the history of the car, and this document contains the following sections:

    • Section 1: Vehicle Details - This section shows the vehicle specifications such as VIN, plate number, make, model, colour, etc.

Example Section 1: Vehicle details

  • Section 2: Current Owner - This section contains information about the last owner (for whom you are buying). You must confirm that this person is the person you are purchasing the vehicle from.

Example Section 2 - Current registrant

  • Section 3: Ontario Vehicle History - This section shows all previous car registrants, including name, address, registration date and odometer.

Example Section 3 - Ontario Vehicle History.

  • Section 4: Lien Information - This section shows if there are any liens against this vehicle.

Example Section 4 - Lien information

  • Section 5: Bill of Sale - This section contains blank fields for the owner to fill in information when purchasing the car. It is used as proof of payment from you to the owner. It includes the selling price, seller's name, seller's signature, buyer's name, buyer's signature, and the sale date.

Example Section 5 - Bill of sale

  • Permit: This document contains two parts: the vehicle's permit portion and the permit's license plate portion. Normally, this is the only document the owner has on hand. For the other two certificates, you will have to negotiate with them, but the recommendation is to ask for them. The document proves that whoever sells you the car is the owner and is in charge of the registration.

Example of Permit

6. Finalize the purchase

Once you have checked the documents, arrange with the owner that he/she/they can drive to your home (you will not be able to drive as the owner has to remove the plates) and make the payment as agreed with the owner.

Unlike in our country, where the license plate belongs to the car, and if you sell it, it takes the license plate with it. In Ontario, the license plate belongs to the owner, and you put it from car to car every time you need it.

The owner has to give you the registration certificate with his/her/they signature, and the UVIP has to include the amount of money you have paid.

Close the deal ensuring you received all the documentation | Photo by Media from Wix

7. Get car insurance

In Ontario, it is mandatory to have car insurance; to get it, you have to look for the most convenient one. To get it, you will need your driver's license and registration.

We bought ours online at the website for the best price we found.

8. Register ownership

If you are purchasing a used vehicle, you must register the vehicle within six days of the sale at Service Ontario.

To register the car in your name, you must go to Service Ontario; you can schedule a time or go directly and wait in line.

At Service Ontario, you will need to present the following to register the car:

  • Permit filled out and signed by the owner

  • UVIP showing the amount you have paid

  • the car insurance

With that information, Service Ontario will give you the plates, a new permit with your name on it and a breakdown of the taxes you must pay (13% of the value you paid).

Let me know if this information has helped you and if you have any questions about this process, feel free to send me a message on Instagram

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1 Comment

Nigel M. Nassar
Nigel M. Nassar
Nov 16, 2023

Very informative article written in a really simplified way. I now feel ready to go buy my used car. Thank you very much.

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