Buying a vehicle — either new or used — can be a big thrill; however, there are many things to consider before making a purchase.

General Tips

Before you start looking for a car, van or personal-use truck, think about what you need. Keep in mind the distances you typically travel, the road conditions (highways versus unpaved roads) and the types of loads you carry. No matter how good the vehicle looks, you’ll end up unhappy if it doesn’t do the job you need it to do.

Don’t forget that the cost of driving includes maintenance, parking, insurance and fuel, all of which should figure into your budget. In major urban centres, many Canadians find that renting a car only when they need one is more cost-effective than buying a car. A number of Canadian cities have car-sharing programs that, for a fee, allow participants to have access to vehicles parked in various locations. The fees are based on distance driven and time.

Remember that the contract you sign with a dealership or used vehicle seller is binding. As soon as both sides have signed, the seller is usually not obliged to let you out of the contract if you change your mind. There may be no cooling-off period. Check what the policy is in your area before making any purchases.

Choosing a Dealer

Take the time to check potential dealers and always comparison shop. Each dealer may offer you a different combination of price and options on the same make and model. Options are generally sold in packages, which are often predetermined by the car maker. Dealers may try to sell you add-ons like rust proofing, fabric and paint protection, anti-theft and extended warranties. When you buy near the end of the model year (typically the late spring or summer), you may not be able to get all of your choices in terms of vehicle colour, etc.

Unfortunately, high-pressure sales tactics are still a problem. Don’t let yourself be talked into buying a vehicle that you don’t want or can’t afford. If you’re not satisfied, walk out.

Comparing Prices

Certain non-profit consumer organizations such as the Automobile Protection Association provide their members with important information and services, such as the list prices that dealerships pay for new vehicles. This may be helpful to know when you are negotiating the selling price of a vehicle. Note that consumer organizations may require a one-time membership fee to access these services, and/or additional user fees but it may be money well invested if the information you have obtained allows you to negotiate a lower price for the vehicle. Consumer Reports and Protégez-Vous (in French only) are also good sources of information when shopping for a vehicle.

Should You Lease or Buy?

Carefully consider whether to buy or lease. You can’t beat an outright purchase paid in full, but few people today can afford to pay cash in full for a vehicle. You may instead choose to finance the purchase of the vehicle or choose to lease a vehicle rather than buy. Whatever you decide, read the contract carefully. The difference in interest rates and down payments may surprise you. To help you decide which option is best for you, try to determine the total price you will have paid at the end of the loan or lease. Consider not only monthly payments, but get the dealer to disclose all upfront charges. Take a look at the Vehicle Lease or Buy Calculator, which is designed to give you a comparison of the costs of various vehicle ownership options.

Buying a Used Vehicle

When buying a used car, you can opt to purchase from a dealer or from a private seller. Either way, make sure you have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle and make sure you test drive the vehicle before you buy. Always check the vehicle’s history – note that there is usually a cost associated with this. Sometimes maintenance records are available, so ask to see them.

Buying from a Private Seller

Ask where they had the car serviced and ask to see service records if they have them.

If buying a used car from a private seller, some provinces require that the seller provide a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP). This package contains:

  • vehicle registration history, including all present and previous owners as well as the municipality of residence;
  • odometer information;
  • vehicle lien information (i.e., if there are any liens registered on the vehicle);
  • the fair market value (Red Book) on which the minimum tax payable will apply;
  • consumer tips;
  • vehicle safety standards;
  • inspection information;
  • retail sales tax information; and
  • forms for bill of sales.

Contact your provincial or territorial ministry of transportation to see if these packages are required in your area.

Buying from a Dealer

If buying a used vehicle from a dealer, ask if they have accessed the vehicle’s history and if you can have a copy.

Educate yourself on the cost of the vehicle by doing some comparison shopping. Search through the Auto Trader in your region or look at pricing from the Canadian Red Book Vehicle Valuation Guide or the Canadian Black Book.


Curbsiders are sellers who pose as private sellers, but are actually unlicensed dealers. They specialize in off-loading substandard vehicles with tampered odometers or poorly repaired vehicles. Watch out for multiple ads with the same phone number. There is no recourse against a curbsider. You may think you are getting a good deal, but more than likely you will end up with a problem vehicle.

What can a Vehicle Identification Number Tell You?

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique serial number consisting of 17 characters used by the auto industry to identify individual vehicles. To get a used car’s vehicle history you will need to provide the VIN, which is located on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car and is usually visible through the windshield. Many used car advertisements give the VIN.

Remember that even if the vehicle history comes back clean it may have been in an accident that wasn’t reported. Always get the car checked by a mechanic you trust.

Solving Problems After a New Vehicle Purchase

You have different options to get redress depending on the type of problem you may have with your vehicle.

If you have a problem with a new vehicle, first try to work it out with the dealer. If your problem is related to a manufacturer’s defect in assembly or material or how the manufacturer is applying or administering its new vehicle warranty, and you cannot resolve the issue with the manufacturer directly, you can use the services of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP).  This plan provides binding arbitration that may be an alternative to court. If the problem you are having with your vehicle is related to an issue of misrepresentation at the point of sale, you can contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.

The organizations listed in the “contacts for this topic” tab at the top of this page can help you if you are having difficulty resolving your problem, or if you have other vehicle-related information questions.

If you cannot resolve the complaint, consider fixing the vehicle at your own expense and using the Small Claims Court to recover the cost of repairs or to rescind the contract. If you decide to proceed with this option, you should obtain legal advice first and bring an independent mechanic with you in cases where the dealer and you do not agree on facts related to the condition of the vehicle.

Every so often someone buys a vehicle with a manufacturer’s defect (sometimes refered to as a ‘lemon’) that may affect its safety, use or value. If you think your vehicle has a factory defect, check with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office to see whether they can help.  CAMVAP provides binding arbitration that may be an alternative to court. The Office of Consumer Affairs’ information sheet on “lemons” is another source of information.

Environmentally Responsible Consumer Tip:

You can conserve energy, save money and help save the environment when running your vehicle. Visit Natural Resources Canada – Energy efficiency for transportation and alternative fuels for information about choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle and about fuel-efficient driving practices, vehicle maintenance, idling and vehicle fuels..

Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP)

Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP)

Toll Free: 1-800-207-0685


Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council
Suite 303
9945-50 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T6A 0L4

Telephone: 780-466-1140
Toll Free: 1-877-979-8200 (Investigations)
Toll Free 2: 1-877-979-8100 (Licensing)
Fax: 780-462-0633


Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council
Suite 205
Southland Tower
10655 Southport Road SW

Calgary, Alberta  T2W 4Y1

Telephone: 403-301-2744
Fax: 403-252-4636

Alberta and Northwest Territories

Alberta Arbitration and Mediation Services Inc.
Suite 605
10707-100 Avenue
University of Lethbridge Building

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 3M1

Telephone: 780-439-9359
Fax: 780-433-9024


British Columbia

Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
151 West Esplanade

North Vancouver, British Columbia  V7M 3H9

Telephone: 604-661-2800
Toll Free: 1-800-663-3051

British Columbia and Yukon

Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.
Suite 404
788 Beatty Street

Vancouver, British Columbia  V6B 2M1

Telephone: 604-682-6280
Fax: 604-681-1544



Manitoba Finance
Consumer and Corporate Affairs
302-258 Portage Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 0B6

Telephone: 204-945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: 204-945-0728



Better Business Bureau of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario
1030B Empress Street

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3G 3H4

Telephone: 204-989-9017
Fax: 204-989-9016



Ministry of Consumer Services
Suite 1500
5775 Yonge Street

Toronto, Ontario  M7A 2E5

Telephone: 416-326-8611
Toll Free: 1-800-889-9768
Toll Free 2: 1-800-268-7095
Phone (TTY): 416-325-3408



Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council
Suite 800
789 Don Mills Road

Toronto, Ontario  M3C 1T5

Telephone: 416-226-4500
Toll Free: 1-800-943-6002
Fax: 416-226-3208


Suite 255
55 St. Clair Avenue West

Toronto, Ontario  M4V 2Y7

Telephone: 416-921-2686
Fax: 416-967-6320



Soreconi Inc.
Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan
35-3107 des Hôtels Avenue

Québec, Quebec  G1W 4W5

Telephone: 418-649-9292
Fax: 418-649-0845



Better Business Bureau of Saskatchewan
201-2080 Broad Street

Regina, Saskatchewan  S4P 1Y3

Telephone: 306-352-7601
Toll Free: 1-888-352-7601
Fax: 306-565-6236



Department of Community Services
Third Floor
Andrew Philipson Law Centre
2130 Second Avenue
PO Box 2703

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2C6

Telephone: 867-667-5111
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408
Toll Free 2: Local 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609


Automobile Journalists Association of Canada

PO Box 398
Main Post Office

Cobourg, Ontario  K9A 4L1

Toll Free: 1-800-361-1516


Automobile Protection Association

Suite 1319
2 Carlton Street

Toronto, Ontario  M5B 1J3

Telephone: 416-204-1444
Fax: 416-204-1985


292 St. Joseph Boulevard West

Montréal, Quebec  H2V 2N7

Telephone: 514-272-5555
Fax: 514-273-0797


Canadian Automobile Association

Alberta Motor Association

Administration Office
10310 G. A. MacDonald (39A) Avenue NW

Edmonton, Alberta  T6J 6R7

Telephone: 780-430-5555
Toll Free: 1-800-642-3810

CAA British Columbia

4567 Canada Way

Burnaby, British Columbia  V5G 4T1

Telephone: 604-298-2122

CAA Manitoba

870 Empress Street
PO Box 1400

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3G 3H3

Telephone: 204-262-6166
Toll Free: 1-800-222-4357


CAA Maritimes

378 Westmorland Road

Saint John, New Brunswick  E2J 2G4

Telephone: 506-634-1400
Toll Free: 1-800-561-8807
Fax: 506-653-9500


CAA Niagara

3271 Schmon Parkway

Thorold, Ontario  L2V 4Y6

Telephone: 905-984-8585

CAA North and East Ontario

500 Hazeldean Road

Ottawa, Ontario

Telephone: 613-820-1890
Fax: 613-820-7382


CAA North and East Ontario

1224 Wellington Street

Ottawa, Ontario

CAA South Central Ontario

60 Commerce Valley Drive East

Thornhill, Ontario  L3T 7P9

Telephone: 905-525-1210
Telephone: 416-221-4300 (Member Care Cent
Toll Free: 1-800-268-3750


CAA Québec

CAA Building
1180 Drummond Street

Montréal, Quebec  H3G 2R7

Telephone: 514-861-5111
Telephone: 514-861-1917 (Member Services
Toll Free: 1-866-827-8801
Fax: 514-861-9896


CAA Saskatchewan

200 Albert Street North

Regina, Saskatchewan  S4R 5E2

Telephone: 306-791-4321
Toll Free: 1-800-564-6222
Fax: 306-949-4461


CAA North and East Ontario

Suite 200
1145 Hunt Club Road

Ottawa, Ontario  K1V 0Y3

Telephone: 613-247-0117
Fax: 613-247-0118

Transport Canada


Tower C
Place de Ville
330 Sparks Street

Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0N5

Telephone: 613-990-2309
Phone (TTY): 1-888-675-6863

Natural Resources Canada

Office of Energy Efficiency
18th Floor
580 Booth Street

Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0E4

Telephone: 613-995-2943
Phone (TTY): 613-996-4397
Fax: 613-943-1590

Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices


Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
3rd Floor Commerce Place
10155-102 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Telephone: 780-427-4088
Toll Free: 1-877-427-4088


British Columbia

Consumer Protection BC
#307-3450 Uptown Blvd
PO Box 9244

Victoria, British Columbia  V8W 9J2

Telephone: 604-320-1667
Toll Free: 1-888-564-9963
Fax: 250-920-7181



Consumer Protection Office, Manitoba Justice
302-258 Portage Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 0B6

Telephone: 204-945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: 204-945-0728


New Brunswick

Financial and Consumer Services Commission
225 King Street, Suite 200

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 1E1

Toll Free: 1-866-933-2222
Fax: 506-444-4494


Newfoundland and Labrador

Service NL
PO Box 8700

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador  A1B 4J6

Telephone: 709-729-2600
Toll Free: 1-877-968-2600
Fax: 709-729-6998


Northwest Territories

Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
5201-50th Avenue, Suite 600
PO Box 1320

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories  X1A 2L9

Telephone: 867-767-9161 ext 21022
Fax: 867-873-0309


Nova Scotia

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
Mail Room, 8 South
Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3J 3K5

Telephone: 902-424-5200
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0720



Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
3090 – 9th Street
P.O. Box 440

Baker Lake, Nunavut  X0C 0A0

Telephone: 867-793-3303
Toll Free: 1-866-223-8139
Fax: 867-793-3321



Consumer Protection Ontario, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Box 450
1201 Wilson Ave, Station A

Toronto, Ontario  M3M 1J8

Telephone: 416-326-8800
Toll Free: 1-800-889-9768
Phone (TTY): 416-229-6086
Phone (TTY) 2: 1-877-666-6545
Fax: 416-326-8665


Prince Edward Island

Consumer Services, Department of Justice and Public Safety
Shaw Building, 4th Floor
95 Rochford Street
PO Box 2000

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  C1A 7N8

Telephone: 902-368-4580
Telephone: 902-368-4550
Toll Free: 1-800-658-1799
Fax: 902-368-5283



Office de la protection du consommateur
400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard, Suite 450

Québec, Quebec  G1K 8W4

Telephone: 418-643-1484
Toll Free: 1-888-672-2556
Fax: 418-528-0976


Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
307 Black Street

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2N1

Telephone: 867-667-5111
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609