Are you shopping for a used vehicle? The following tips may be of interest to you before you make a purchase from a dealer.
If you are planning to purchase a used vehicle, you should:
- determine the price you can afford to pay for a vehicle. Take into consideration the cost of insurance and the vehicle’s fuel consumption;
- decide which type of vehicle suits your needs;
- consult the classified ads to get an idea of the price of used vehicles on the market in your region;
- find out which makes of vehicles are considered good choices. You can do this by consulting magazines, guides or specialized organizations. For example, you can obtain information from Éditions Protégez-Vous (in French only) or from the Automobile Protection Association.
The Office de la protection du consommateur does not test products. We cannot make recommendations on makes or models of vehicles to purchase.
Is the merchant selling a vehicle to you holding a license from the Office de la protection du consommateur? This license is mandatory for all motor vehicle merchants.
In order to obtain a license, a merchant must provide a deposit. This money can be used to compensate you if the merchant does not comply with their obligations. The deposit could be used, for example, to refund a down payment you made to purchase a vehicle if the merchant were to go out of business before the vehicle could be delivered to you.
To make sure the merchant you are doing business with has a valid license, refer to our tool Get information about a merchant. The merchant must also:
- display the license on their premises;
- include their license number in the contract they are providing you.
It is also advisable to take the following precautions before purchasing a used vehicle:
- Carefully inspect the car in the daytime.
- Check that the accessories work properly (headlights, turn signals, etc.).
- Test drive the vehicle for a sufficient length of time.
- Have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic.
- Request the previous owner’s contact information.
- Make inquiries about the vehicle history, either from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec, or from other companies specializing in this service on the Internet. The vehicle history provides information including the number of owners and previous uses of the vehicle.
- Consult the Canadian Police Information Centre to make sure the vehicle has not been stolen.
- Consult the Registre des droits personnels et réels mobiliers (RDPRM) to make sure the vehicle has been paid for in full.
Merchants are required to affix a label on each used vehicle they put up for sale or long-term lease. This label contains details that will help you make an informed decision.
Information listed on the label
The label must contain the following information:
- the price of the vehicle;
- a complete description of the vehicle (year of manufacture, vehicle identification number, make, model, cylinder capacity);
- the number of kilometres indicated on the odometer and the actual of number of kilometres the vehicle has travelled, if different;
- the vehicle category (A, B, C or D), for the warranty of fitness the merchant must provide, under the Consumer Protection Act;
- details regarding the manufacturer's or merchant’s warranty, if it is still valid;
- a description of any repairs made since the vehicle has been in the merchant’s possession;
- information regarding prior use of the vehicle if it was used as:
- an automobile to provide remunareted passenger transportation (a taxi or other authorized automobile);
- a driving school vehicle;
- a rental vehicle;
- a police vehicle;
- an ambulance;
- a courtesy or demo vehicle.
The name of the business or public body that owned or leased the vehicle must also be indicated. To find out what this label looks like, see a sample label (in French only).
The merchant's obligations indicated on the label
The label must also indicate the merchant’s obligations:
- to provide you with the previous owner’s name and phone number, upon request;
- to provide you with a mechanical inspection certificate if it is required for vehicle registration, for example if it is from outside Québec or has been declared a total loss.
Delivery of the label
The merchant is required to give you the label when you purchase or lease the vehicle. All the information contained therein is an integral part of the contract, with the exception of the sale price and the warranty details, which may be modified.
Before purchasing a used vehicle, you should test drive it and have it inspected.
Have it inspected by a mechanic you trust. Test drive it for a sufficient length of time: driving around the block is not enough.
The merchant is required to accept your request. Do not go through with the transaction if the merchant does not allow you to test drive the vehicle or have it inspected. This merchant may be trying to hide a serious mechanical problem from you. You could also report the merchant to the Office de la protection du consommateur as this practice is prohibited by regulations.
If the vehicle is being sold without a warranty of fitness (vehicle category D), it is even more important to conduct a test drive.
The consultation with a mechanic is done at your expense. This expertise will allow you to have a clear picture of the vehicle’s condition.
Price of the vehicle
Focus on the problems you have discovered following the inspection and test drive as you negotiate the price of the vehicle.
Before paying for an additional warranty (extended warranty), be aware that all used vehicles purchased from a merchant are covered by warranties provided by law.
Information provided by the merchant
Before offering to sell you an additional warranty, merchants must:
- make you aware of certain legal warranties and their content by reading you the following text: "The law provides a warranty on the goods you are purchasing or leasing: they must serve for normal use for a reasonable length of time." The merchant must also provide you written notice that contains solely the required information;
- verbally inform you of the existence and length of the warranty provided at no charge by the manufacturer, if applicable.
Merchants must, upon request, verbally inform you of how to find out about the contents of this warranty.
Before purchasing a used vehicle, it is very important to verify that it has been paid for in full. Otherwise, you could "purchase" its owner’s debt.
To conduct this verification, you must make a search using the Registre des droits personnels et réels mobiliers (RDPRM). There are fees for this search. It will, however, ensure that you will not pay for the vehicle twice or have it seized by a creditor.
Different options are available if you decide to purchase your vehicle on credit.
Remember that making the lowest possible monthly payments can be tempting, but it is generally more costly. This makes sense as the repayment of the principal is spread out over a longer term, and interest fees will be added.
Financing offered by the merchant
When you finance your vehicle through the credit company affiliated with the merchant, it is considered an instalment sale. You will pay for the vehicle in a series of instalments over a given period of time.
The merchant retains ownership of the vehicle until you have paid for it in full, even though you take possession at the time of purchase.
Before entering into an instalment sale contract with you, the merchant must evaluate your ability to reimburse the credit applied for. To find out more, refer to the evaluation of your ability to pay page.
If merchants offer you "0% financing" or "0% interest," ask them if the interest rate is identical to the credit rate that will appear in the contract. Doing so can help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Credit charges represent the true cost of your loan. They include interest, but also, where applicable, insurance subscribed through the merchant (notwithstanding exceptions), administration fees, the value of the discount granted to consumers who pay cash, etc. The interest rate may therefore be 0%, while the credit rate may in fact be higher.
Fees for insurance in case of death or invalidity are part of the credit charges, if you accept the insurance offered by the merchant. You are not, however, obligated to subscribe to this insurance.
Borrowing from a financial institution
Borrowing from a financial institution can be advantageous. You may be able to take advantage of the discount that the merchant offers to customers who pay cash.
There are differences to consider between taking out a vehicle loan or a personal loan. From a legal standpoint, a vehicle loan generally constitutes an instalment sale and not a true loan. This means that the financial institution retains ownership of the vehicle until you have paid for it in full, even though you take possession at the time of purchase. A personal loan offers greater flexibility, as you can sell your vehicle at any time, without having to ask permission from the lender.
You can use a calculator (in French only) to determine certain amounts, such as the monthly payments or the interest rate.
The merchant must provide you with a written contract. It must contain certain information.
Your signature: a commitment
Take the time to read the contract. Have included in the contract all declarations made by the merchant. The merchant signs the contract first, and then you sign it.
Information to be found in the contract
The contract must contain the following information:
- the merchant’s name and address;
- your name and address;
- the motor vehicle merchant license number;
- the merchant’s license number;
- the place and date the contract was signed;
- the price of the vehicle;
- the amount of the taxes;
- the total amount you will have to pay;
- the warranty details.
If you are conducting an accommodation sale, the related information must be included in the contract.
You can choose to sell your old vehicle to the buyer of your choice through the merchant selling you your new vehicle. This transaction is called an accommodation sale. It must be included in the contract.
Advantages of an accommodation sale
An accommodation sale can often allow you to pay less tax on your new vehicle. The buyer of your old vehicle will have to pay the GST and QST. (Normally, the buyer pays only the QST on sales between individuals.)
Example of an accommodation sale
You purchase a new vehicle for $22,000. You sell your old vehicle to a buyer of your choice for $8,000. You will have to pay tax on the difference between the two amounts, in this case $14,000.
Role of the merchants
Merchants conducting transactions in accommodation sales incur no responsibility. They are acting as intermediaries.
If merchants charge fees for acting as intermediaries, they are bound by the same obligations as used vehicle merchants. In particular, they must offer a warranty of fitness to the buyer of your vehicle.
The Office de la protection du consommateur recommends that you avoid signing any documents until you have decided to purchase a particular vehicle. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have the right to cancel a contract if you change your mind within 10 days.
If merchants claim that your signature does not bind you to any commitment, you can ask them to write "no commitment from the consumer" on the document you are signing.
The Office encourages you to find out more about cancellation terms on used vehicle purchases.
Last update : November 6, 2023
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The information contained on this page is presented in simple terms to make it easier to understand. It does not replace the texts of the laws and regulations.