It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the time and research that goes into buying a used car. And if you’ve never purchased a used car before, you might not know the right steps to take. 

Whether you want to buy privately or from a dealership, this used car buying guide will teach you everything you need to know about purchasing a used car in Ontario.  Plus, read until the end to download a free checklist to make sure you don’t miss a step! 

Questions we’ll answer in this article:

What's the best type of used car to buy in Ontario?

To not get confused by all the vehicle options available, the first step is to determine your needs as a driver. The best type of used car is going to vary from person to person and depends on what is available in your area at the time.

Here are some considerations to make before shopping for a used car:

  • Size – Think about how many passengers you’ll need to transport as well as any cargo, such as groceries, or larger items.
  • Lifestyle – Some cars perform better for city driving and some are more suitable for rural roads. Consider where and how often you’ll be driving. In Ontario, you should also consider the weather conditions for each season, including how the car will drive in the snow.
  • Aesthetic – You may have specific requests for the way your car looks, which can help filter out the cars that don’t match your style.
  • Fuel economy – Fuel economy means how far your car can go on a single tank of gas, which also determines how often you visit and how much money you spend at the gas pump. You may also want to consider hybrid or electric vehicles (EVs) if they suit your lifestyle.
  • Safety defects and recalls – Always double check that the make and model doesn’t have any safety defects or recalls.
  • Mileage – Make sure you know how far the car has been driven by previous owners. In Ontario, the average car is driven 16,000 km per year. You may want to determine the maximum mileage that is acceptable for you before shopping or consider asking the seller for a discount if the mileage is above the annual standard.
  • Cost – Calculate your budget early in the shopping process, so you don’t get swayed to purchase a vehicle that isn’t a good deal for you. Be sure to include additional costs that come after paying the ticket price in your calculation.
  • Type of transmission – Would you be more comfortable with a standard or automatic transmission?

Once you’ve determined the best car type for you, youll need to determine whether you’re going to make your purchase at a dealership or through a private seller. There are pros and cons to each of these options, so make sure to do your research.  

How to buy a used car privately in Ontario

Purchasing a used car privately in Ontario can be a great option for a savvy negotiator or a bargain shopper. If you’ve never bought a used car privately in Ontario, here are our tips to get you started:

Where to buy a used car privately in Ontario:

There are many websites and forums to connect you to private used car sellers in your Ontario neighborhood. Some of the most popular and reliable sources are:

  • Kijiji Autos – You can filter your search for only private sales. 
  • Ebay Motors - You can filter your search for only private sales. 
  • Facebook Marketplace - You need a Facebook account to access Marketplace. 
  • Autotrader - You can filter your search for only private sales.  
  • CanadaDrives - Buy 100% online and get the vehicle delivered to your door.  
  • Reddit – You can connect to sellers and other buyers to learn best practices for used car shopping in Ontario. 

Buying a car privately in Ontario can be a good way to get a deal but beware of scams. Before you make a purchase from a private seller, make sure they can answer all your questions, and we recommend that you perform an inspection before you pay. Also, be prepared to negotiate the price.

What are the pros of buying a used car privately in Ontario? 

  • Cheaper – Buying from a private seller typically means that you'll get a cheaper vehicle price as there won’t be any dealer fees and there’s more opportunity for price negotiation.
  • Location – Private sales mean you can determine where you go to purchase the vehicle and meet the seller. You’ll avoid the process of going into a dealership all together.
  • Vehicle options – Searching through multiple private sale forums can expose you to more vehicle options than what would be available on a dealer’s lot.

What are the cons of buying a used car privately in Ontario? 

  • Risk – Make sure you do a lot of research into the vehicle and get the seller’s personal contact information to avoid an issue. You should always get a full vehicle history report from the previous owner (more on this later in the article). If you’re unsure about the vehicle’s condition, you should read our FREE guide: How to check if a used car is a lemon. 
  • No warranty Warranties act as protection for your wallet if your car breaks down. While a manufacturer’s warranty typically expires after five years, extended car warranties will kick in after to protect you from expensive repair bills. There are different providers in Ontario, like GuardTree with used car warranty subscription plans starting at just $49.95/month 
  • More effort Private sales can take more time and patience than dealership sales. Be prepared to do the research yourself and compile all the necessary documents for the sale (more on this later in the article). 

How to buy a used car from a dealership in Ontario

There are two main types of dealerships that sell used cars in Ontario: new car dealerships with a used car lot and used car-specific dealerships. Don’t know where to start? These are our tips for buying a used car from an Ontario dealership: 

Which Ontario dealership to buy a used car from:  

Buying a used car from a new car dealership in Ontario: 

Almost all new car dealerships also have a used car lot on their property. This is a collection of used cars that they have bought back from previous owners. The dealership experience can feel more comfortable and reassuring than a private sale as experts are on-site to answer your questions.  

Buying a used car from a used car dealership in Ontario: 

There are also used car dealerships in Ontario that specialize in selling previously driven vehicles. These used car dealerships have no affiliation with automotive original equipment manufacturers, so, they typically offer unbiased opinions about brands. Their lots can also offer more variety in terms of the makes and models available. 

What are the pros of buying a used car from a dealership in Ontario? 

  • The dealer One of the major pros of purchasing your used vehicle at a dealership is the dealer themselves. Dealers are required to be knowledgeable and help you find a vehicle you’ll be happy with. Further, in Ontario, there is less risk of being scammed by a dealership than a private seller because the dealer is required to check the vehicle for previous damage before selling it.   
  • Certified Pre-Owned Many Ontario dealerships offer Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles, which are pre-driven cars that typically have low mileage and have gone through a standardized quality check. CPO vehicles may also undergo repairs and reconditioning in order to meet the certification’s standards. This is a nice option for someone who is more apprehensive about the quality of their used car and willing to pay more for the dealership rate.  
  • Warranty - Dealerships will often offer you optional financial protection when you purchase from them. This optional coverage can prevent you from having to pay for repair bills if your vehicle breaks down in the future. As part of the warranty, they may also offer regular maintenance and servicing. 

What are the cons of buying a used car from a dealership in Ontario? 

  • Vehicle options – Used car dealerships can only sell you the cars they have available on their lot. This means you’re not guaranteed to be exposed to as much variety as a private shopper would. 
  • The “pushy salesman” - Used car dealers can get a bad rap for being pushy and using harsh sales tactics. While most dealers will do their best to give you a great car buying experience, it is important to do your research (and read this guide!) to make sure you walk into the dealership feeling confident and informed.  
  • Warranty – While warranties and financial protection products are great for keeping away hefty repair bills, most used car warranties sold at a dealership require you to continue to have servicing done only at their location. The dealer warranty can also lock you into a long-term contract that is non-transferable, meaning that if you decide to sell your car during the warranty period, you won’t be able to transfer the warranty to the new owner. It’s important to always read the full terms and conditions before you sign a contract. If the dealership warranty does not fit with your needs and budget, compare your options with a third-party extended warranty. 

Other common questions from Ontario used car buyers

How do I register a used car in Ontario? 

Ontario drivers who purchase a car privately must register their car within six days of the sale. To register your car in Ontario, you must go to a ServiceOntario location. Make sure you bring all the required documentation to your appointment.  

What documents will I need for a private car sale in Ontario? 

Mandatory documents for purchasing a used car privately in Ontario: 

Optional documents to consider having when purchasing a used car privately in Ontario: 

  • CARFAX Vehicle History Report – CARFAX will do a full report based on the vehicle’s VIN number. This can offer additional peace of mind for private car buyers.  
  • Proof of Car InsuranceWhile some dealerships require proof of insurance, at others it is just recommended. Having proof that you’re insured can help speed up the process and get you on the road asap! 

Do I need insurance to buy a used car in Ontario? 

It is mandatory that you have car insurance before you drive in Ontario. In Ontario, car insurance is privately mandated, meaning you have options of which insurance provider you’d like to choose. Consider also getting proof of insurance, especially if you plan to purchase from a dealership.  

What are the fees associated with buying a used car in Ontario? 

Buying a car can be expensive, especially when you add up the extra fees associated with the purchase. 

  • Retail Sales Tax – Depending on the vehicle’s average wholesale value, you’ll have to pay Retail Sales Tax on top of the ticket price. This is typically around 13% RST.  
  • Registration and licensing fees – You should also be prepared to pay for registration and licensing fees, which can vary depending on which part of Ontario you’re from. 
  • Documentation fees – Some of the documents mentioned for the sale and transfer of the vehicle have small fees attached to them. Typically, the seller will take on paying fees for documents like UVIP.   

On top of the above fees, additional cost will arise once you own the vehicle. Read our FREE guide to understand the true cost of owning a car. 

Do I need a pre-purchase inspection before buying a used car in Ontario? 

While it’s not required to get an inspection before buying a used car in Ontario, it is highly recommended 

You can either pay to have the vehicle inspected by a licensed mechanic, or you can inspect the car yourself with our FREE 76-point used car self-inspection checklist 

What if I notice a problem with the vehicle I want to buy during the inspection? 

Your negotiation skills will need to kick in if you happen to notice an issue with the vehicle while you’re inspecting it. This is the chance to ask the seller to reduce the price based on the repairs that need to be done. We recommend that you get this in writing from the seller to avoid issues in the future.  

Do I need an extended warranty for my used car? 

An extended car warranty is an optional protection product that can help you cover the cost of expensive car repairs that may arise while you own it. It will essentially extend the type of protection that one would receive from a manufacturer’s warranty.  

Extended car warranties aren’t mandatory, but they can save you money when your car breaks down, which is more likely to happen the older the car is. 

Some extended warranties also include additional benefits like roadside assistance, and cover extra breakdown expenses like lodging, rental cars, etc. As a used car buyer, you should consider if an extended car warranty is worth it for your lifestyle and budget.  

Used car? New warranty.

The first of its kind in Canada, GuardTree is a comprehensive, online extended warranty subscription that you can cancel at any time.  

Plans start at $49.95 per month. And in addition to protection from most major electrical and mechanical repairs, our subscriptions include additional benefits like roadside assistance, car rental, and trip interruption costs. 

See what’s covered and use our price calculator to decide if an extended car warranty is right for you. 


Disclaimer: This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute mechanical or other professional advice as it relates to your vehicle. Each person must consult a qualified professional with respect to matters referenced in this post. GuardTree Inc. assumes no liability whatsoever for actions taken (or not taken) in reliance upon the information contained herein. 

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