How to Privately Buy a Used Vehicle in Ontario

How to Privately Buy a Used Vehicle in Ontario

Written by Kale Havervold
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated October 6, 2020

Buying a car is likely one of the biggest purchases a person will make in their life, outside of buying a home. A lot of thought and consideration should go into this decision, as you will likely be paying for it over a couple of years at least. You should not only consider what you need and want right now, but also what you might need and want in the future.

While it can be enticing to want to buy a brand new car off the lot, that isn’t always a good idea, at least financially speaking. Instead of buying new and spending an arm and a leg on a depreciating asset, why not look to buy used?

Want to know if you should repair your car or buy a new one? Check this out.

Buying used is an awesome way to save money, without sacrificing quality. While your first thought might be to look on used car lots, don’t be scared to buy privately. While you may have heard some horror stories about buying cars privately, if you do it safely and properly, it can be a great way to save some money while also getting a great car. Used lots are fine, but are generally more expensive than buying privately.

With that in mind, this article will walk you through the steps you should take and some tips you should follow when purchasing a used vehicle, privately, in Ontario.

Check out our helpful infographic: New Cars vs. Used Cars

What is a Private Sale?

When you buy a car, there are generally two ways to do it. One is to purchase it from a car lot. You can typically find used and new cars on the lot, and can often get things like an added warranty. You can also sometimes finance the car through the dealer itself.

Trying to finance a used car in Canada? Read this.  

The other way is to buy it from an individual, which is called a “private sale”. There are no salespeople, no marketing team, and no expensive add-ons, simply one person buying a vehicle from another.

While 98% of people selling a car privately are fair and honest people, there are indeed the odd sellers who will try to scam a buyer into buying a car they shouldn’t. We will touch more on this topic a little later, but before that, let’s take a closer look at the steps you should follow to privately buy a used vehicle in Ontario.

Click here to discover 10 things you should know when buying a used car.

Steps to Take When Privately Buying a Used Vehicle in Ontario

While buying a car privately might scare some people and make them nervous, it really shouldn’t. If you follow the steps below, buying a car privately should be an easy and pain-free experience.

Do Your Research and Find a Suitable Vehicle

Before you can privately purchase a vehicle, you need to know what sort of car you want. This will involve doing research on the make, model, and features of several different vehicles, so you ultimately decide on one that will best suit your needs. There are many great review and rating sites online that can give you insight on the reliability, and features of almost any car.

You may also want to look into getting a certified pre-owned vehicle.

Once you have an idea of what kind of car you want (or have narrowed it down to a few) you are ready to start looking for a sale. Generally, online listings are a great place to look as there usually hundreds of cars for sale in most major cities. Normally, people are pretty quick to respond to these ads, so you shouldn’t need to wait too long to hear back if you are interested in a certain vehicle. 

Test Drive, Check the Car, and Negotiate on Price

Once you have been in contact with the seller, it’s now time to choose a date and place to view the vehicle. Not only should you view it, but you should also take it for a test drive and become familiar with its maintenance and accident history. Also, every vehicle that is sold needs to have a Safety Standards Certificate (SSC) before it can be registered to a new buyer. Taking into account the information you find (and whether or not you need to pay for the SSC inspection), negotiate on a price until you come to an agreement with the seller.

To learn how to check the history of a used car, click here.

Get an Insurance and Choose Payment Option

When you pick up your new car from the seller, you need to pay for it. It’s uncommon for a private seller to be paid via installments like you would if you bought a car from a dealership. This means you’ll need to pay the seller in cash (either your own cash or cash from a loan) via a certified cheque. There are also services out there that you can work with that will pay your seller back over time, so the choice is yours. You will need to, of course, get insurance for the vehicle before picking it up as well.

Trying to save money on your car insurance? Take a look at this.

Register and Take Possession of the Vehicle

Once you have the insurance and the money for the car, you can set up a meeting time and place to make the exchange. In addition to transferring the registration, there are a few things/documents you need to have. You will need a bill of sale, vehicle permit with the application to transfer, and the Safety Standards Certificate. Once you have all the necessary documents and the car, you can register it to your name and take possession.

Auto Financing 101Take a look at this infographic of everything you need to know about auto financing. 

How to Prevent Yourself from Being Scammed?

So, now that you are aware of the steps you should take when buying a car, how can you avoid getting scammed during this private sale? Well, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • You always want to ensure you know the history of the car and see proof of this. Don’t just take the seller’s word. Services like CarProof can help you to see vehicle history and ensure the seller is being honest.
  • Be wary if they won’t let you see certain parts of the car, won’t let you test drive it, can’t remember or refuse to provide you with information pertaining to all the maintenance the car has been through.
  • Watch out for ads that are too good to be true, as they have a higher chance of being a scam or a higher chance that the seller hiding something.
  • You need to verify the identity of the seller and ensure the car is really theirs. It is not uncommon for car thieves to sell cars, so be sure check the VIN and vehicle information to make sure that the seller is really the owner.
  • Don’t pay before you get the vehicle. Once the keys and all the forms are completed and signed, that is when you should pay. This way, you’ll ensure they don’t run off with your money.

What’s the difference between leasing a car and buying it? Look here for the answer.

Take Your Time, Make The Right Decision

Take your time, follow the steps we laid for you and you should have no problem privately and safely purchasing a used vehicle in Ontario. Make sure you watch out for the warning signs of fraud, have all the necessary paperwork, and ensure you have checked the car out thoroughly, it should be an easy process. if you’re currently interested in getting financing to purchase a privately sold vehicle, Loans Canada can help. 

Rating of 5/5 based on 28 votes.

In his over six-year career as a professional writer, Kale has focused on writing about finance, technology, cryptocurrency, entertainment, and sports. Kale's work has been published on Yahoo, RentHop, the Regina Leader-Post,, and Kale loves to create a wide variety of personal finance-related content. Including everything from how-to guides to featured articles, to advice pieces and everything in between. Whether he’s writing about the newest piece of technology or providing tips to help people with their finances, Kale is passionate about educating Canadian consumers and making sure they have the information they need to make the best decisions.

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