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I want to buy a car from the man down the street. What do I need to think about?

Question
I want to buy a car from the man down the street. What do I need to think about?

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Reviewed: 
December, 2016
Answer

Buying a car from a private seller can be more risky than buying from a registered used car dealer. There are no consumer laws to protect you when you buy from a private seller. This means that you have fewer options if something goes wrong.

If something goes wrong in a private sale, you cannot complain to the agencies that would help you if you bought from a registered dealer. Your only option may be to go to court.

If you are buying a used car from a private seller, they must provide you with a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP). It is also a good idea to get a vehicle history report from CarProof or Carfax.

You should also ask the seller for information like:

  • the car’s accident history
  • copies of service records, including maintenance and repairs
  • a copy of past emissions tests (if applicable)
  • proof that they own the car
  • proof that there is no money owed on the car
  • proof that there is no lien on the car

Try to get this information in writing.

Check to see if the information the seller gives you matches what is in the Carproof or Carfax report. To check that the seller owns the car, look at the vehicle registration and compare the name to the seller’s driver’s licence or other official document.

If it turns out that the seller lied about the car, this can help you in court.

You may also want to:

  • ask why the person wants to sell the car
  • take a test drive
  • have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic before you buy it

Try not to pay for the car with cash. Pay with a cheque so that you have evidence of what you paid and who was paid. Ask for a receipt that includes seller’s information. The receipt will help you figure out how much tax you will have to pay.

You should also be aware that some unlicensed motor vehicle dealers pretend to be private sellers. This is illegal, and these dealers are called curbsiders. If you buy from a curbsider, you are not covered by the consumer protection laws that protect you if you buy from a registered dealer.

Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc.

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