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With gas prices still being relatively high and the demand for used vehicles up, it might be a good time to sell your car as you’ll reduce your expenses while maximizing your return. That said, selling your car is not always a simple process, and you need to have the right reason to do so. Here’s how to sell a car in Canada.

Determine if you can sell your car

If your current vehicle is financed, you need to pay off the loan first before selling it. That’s because you don’t legally own the car when it’s financed. However, once it’s paid off, you have legal title. 

That said, you could technically sell a car that has a lien on it, but it’ll be very difficult to find a buyer. For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that any title loan on your vehicle has been cleared.

Reasons to sell your car

Selling your car may not be top of mind, but there are various reasons why it’s worth considering.

  • High resale value: Supply chain issues have made it tough for manufacturers to meet demand for new cars. That has increased the overall value of used vehicles since buyers can have a car immediately.
  • You want to lower your expenses: When you add up the cost of gas, insurance, and maintenance, owning a car is expensive. Selling your car can free up your monthly cash flow and lower your debt.
  • You don’t drive as much: Perhaps you no longer need a car because you work from home or you’ve moved to an area with good public transportation. If you don’t use your vehicle much anymore, it might be worth selling.
  • You’ve made a lifestyle change: A life event such as a new child, or a new job that requires you to drive more may require you to change vehicles. Selling your existing car can help you offset the cost of your new auto.

How to sell your car in Canada

If you’ve decided that selling your car is the right thing to do, you’ll want to ensure you understand how the process works to ensure you’re getting top dollar. Although selling your car can be done quickly, it will take multiple steps.

1. Determine the value of your car

The first thing you want to do is determine the value of your car. CARFAX Canada, Canadian Black Book, and the Kelley Blue Book are great resources. You would enter all the details about your vehicle, and then it will give you an estimated value.

You could then check online websites such as AutoTrader and Kijiji to see if vehicles of the same make and model are being listed at a similar price. That will give you a rough idea of how much you can get.

2. Get your vehicle ready for sale

The reality is that it’ll be much easier to sell your car if it’s in good condition and you have great photos. Getting some repairs done could help speed up your sale, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more money.

However, cleaning your vehicle on the inside and outside can make a big difference. Once you’ve cleaned your car, remove any personal items and take a bunch of photos from different angles.

You might also want to take a few videos. You don’t need to hire a professional, but detailed photos will allow potential buyers to picture themselves in your car.

3. Have the details of your car ready

Having a used vehicle information package available is essential, and mandatory in Ontario when selling a vehicle. Even if it’s not required in your province or territory, it’s worth putting a package together. The information you want to get includes:

  • Vehicle details (VIN, make, model, year, colour, etc.)
  • Vehicle registration history
  • Accident and collision history report
  • Safety certificates 
  • Licence plate information

Potential buyers will want this information anyways, so having one handy could help you attract more buyers and potentially help you speed up the selling process.

4. Decide where to sell your car

Where you sell your car can have a significant impact on your overall return. Generally speaking, you have two options, sell it to a dealer or do it yourself online.

Selling your car to a dealer

Without a doubt, selling your car to a dealer is the easiest way to get rid of your car. If you take it to their lot, they’ll do a walkaround of your car and likely make you an offer right away without even looking too much into the paperwork.

While there’s no doubt that this is the quickest solution, this also means you’ll get below market value for your car. Generally, dealers might only offer you 25%-50% of the value of your car.

That may seem unfair, but dealers take on additional risk since they need to keep the car on their lots and find a buyer on their own.

Selling your car online

For those looking for top dollar, selling your car online on sites such as Clutch.ca, AutoTrader.ca and Kijiji are popular choices. Listing your ad is free, and it only takes a few minutes. That said, you can also pay to have your ad featured hire in the search results. Either way, you want to be very clear in your description.

List exactly what you’re selling, and where the vehicle is located. Don’t forget to include any photos/videos. One thing you should be aware of is that there’s a lot of potential fraud with online selling. It’s likely best to only deal with potential buyers in person.

5. Agree on a price

Once you have a buyer lined up, they’ll likely want to take the car for a test drive or have their mechanic do an inspection. Even though this is a normal process, you should draft up a liability waiver where the buyer is liable for any damages while they’re driving the car. You’ll also want to take a picture of the buyer’s driver’s licence before they drive the car.

If the buyer is happy, they’ll likely offer you a price below what you’re asking. It’s up to you if you want to stand your ground or suggest a counteroffer. As long as their initial offer wasn’t a lowball, there’s no reason why you can’t come to an agreement.

6. Complete the deal

With the price negotiated, it’s time to complete the deal. To ensure there’s no fraud, have the buyer pay you in cash or go with them to their bank to get a certified cheque.

Don’t use PayPal or eTransfers as there’s potential for fraud.

Create a bill of sale, as it’s needed in some provinces to complete the transaction. In addition, some provinces may require a safety standards certificate before the sale is completed. If you haven’t gotten one already, now is the time to do so.

The final piece of paperwork is to fill out a transfer application so the vehicle permit gets registered to the new owner in your province or territory. Note that some provinces require this to be done within a certain timeframe. In addition, some provinces may require the buyer to pay sales tax.

Final thoughts

Selling a used car in Canada is straightforward and can often be done by yourself. As long as you follow the steps provided above, you can put more money in your pocket. For those looking to buy a used car, but don’t have the funds to cover the entire amount, consider an auto loan to help you complete the purchase.

Selling Your Car- FAQs

Does selling my car hurt my credit score?
It depends. If you have a car loan and you pay it off, it means you successfully paid back the debt. That looks good on your credit report as long as you have other financial products that remain open. Something as simple as a credit card is fine. Also, your credit-utilization ratio might change, which also affects your credit score. If you want to check your free credit score, you can do it with Equifax, TransUnion or with Compare Hub by Loans Canada.
Can I negotiate my car’s selling price?
Yes! You can absolutely negotiate your car’s price when you sell it. You do not have to take the first offer you get. A good way to know what you can get for your car is to know its market and trade-in values.
Why does my car have two values?
Your car has two values. One is a retail/market value that you use to sell it privately, and a trade-in value. The trade-in value is what a dealer will give you for your car. The trade-in value is usually lower than the retail value so that the dealer can make profit when they resell your car.
Can I sell my car for more money in different provinces?
Yes, you can sell your car for more money in different provinces and cities in Canada. A good way to do it is online.
Barry Choi avatar on Loans Canada
Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at moneywehave.com. He makes frequent media appearances where he talks about all things related to money and travel.

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