Are you shopping for a used vehicle? The following tips may be of interest to you before you make a purchase from a private vendor.

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.

Some merchants do not reveal the commercial nature of their activities. They are considered "false private vendors". They pose as private vendors, in other words, people who are not owners of a vehicle buying or selling business.

Risk of being denied your rights

If you purchase a vehicle from a false private vendor, you could be denied several of your rights. This is part of the reason why merchants try to hide the true nature of their activities.

In addition, these merchants often cover up the poor quality of the vehicles they sell. Be vigilant!

How to recognize false private vendors

If you are looking for a used vehicle in the classified ads, check to see if the same phone number appears several times. Many classified advertisement sites offer a function that allows you see all ads from the same person. This tool can help you to recognize false private vendors.

Here are some other clues to help determine if the seller is a false private vendor:

  • they claim to be selling a vehicle for another person;
  • they are reluctant to meet you at their home;
  • they have more than one vehicle for sale;
  • they offer to do the transfer of ownership themselves.

Hidden merchants

False private vendors are:

  • merchants who do not have a motor vehicle merchant license from the Office de la protection du consommateur;
  • merchants who have a license, but sell some of their vehicle through classified ads;
  • people who are selling vehicles for merchants who have a license, but omit to mention this fact.

It is advisable to take the following precautions before purchasing a used vehicle from a private vendor:


If the vehicle has an obvious problem such as damage to the body, have the repair costs evaluated. This could allow you to negotiate a lower price.

Before purchasing a used vehicle from a private vendor, 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.

Test drive

If the vendor does not allow you to test drive the vehicle, do not go through with the transaction. This vendor may be trying to hide a serious mechanical problem from you.

Mechanical inspection

The inspection by mechanic is done at your expense. This expertise can guide you in your decision whether or not to purchase the vehicle. It will allow you to have a clear picture of its condition.


Focus on the problems you have discovered following the inspection and test drive as you negotiate the price of the vehicle.

The Consumer Protection Act does not regulate transactions between 2 individuals. As such, the Office de la protection du consommateur gives you advice but cannot provide you with a model of a written contract. For any assistance in this regard, we recommend you seek legal counsel. 

To protect yourself against problems after making a purchase, write down all the details of the transaction in a contract. This contract is not mandatory, but it can be helpful in the event a problem should arise.

If you give the vendor a deposit, be sure to get a receipt or a copy of the contract indicating the amount paid at the time of this payment.

Important information to include in the contract

Make sure to have the following information in a written document:

  • the vendor’s contact information;
  • your contact information;
  • the date the contract was signed;
  • the details of the vehicle sold (make, model, year, kilometrage, prior use, condition of the body and mechanical components, additional equipment, warranty details, etc.);
  • the amount of the deposit paid;
  • the total amount of the transaction.

Vehicles "sold as is"

Be wary of phrases such as "vehicle sold at the buyer’s risk", "vehicle sold with no warranty" or "vehicle sold as is". They can mean that you waive your claim to compensation from the vendor if a problem, such as a hidden defect, should arise.

A hidden defect is a significant problem that, had you been aware of it before making the purchase, you would:

  • not have acquired the vehicle; or
  • have paid a lower price.

A hidden defect is present before the sale, but cannot be detected by a consumer who carefully examines the goods.

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.

If you are considering purchasing a vehicle on the Internet from a private vendor outside the country, you should be aware that several cases of fraud have been reported in such circumstances. Some vendors require you to send a down payment... that you could lose.

Last update : November 14, 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.