Make sure you’ve all the required documents in order before you buy or sell a used car—here’s a handy checklist

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Process of Transferring Vehicle Ownership in Canada

You’ve found a new vehicle you’re interested in, so it’s time to sell your old car. Or you’re looking for a vehicle, and have decided to buy second-hand from a private seller. Either way, there’s more to buying or selling a used car than simply finding the right buyer or the right vehicle. There’s a process behind transferring ownership from the registered owner to the new owner, and it varies from one province to the next across Canada.

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Here’s a look at the documentation you’ll need to transfer ownership of a used car, province by province. Note that this list outlines what you’ll require to complete a private sale. If you buy from a dealership, they’ll take care of much of this process and paperwork for you.

Required Car Ownership Documentation

1. Vehicle registration form or Vehicle ownership

Regardless of where you live, the seller will need to supply the buyer with part or all of the vehicle ownership or registration form. This is a document that usually lives in your glovebox. It proves that the seller owns the vehicle and is therefore entitled to sell it. Occasionally, you’ll see this referred to as the “vehicle title.”

To sell a vehicle, you’ll need an original version of this document. Buyers can use it to confirm that the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches the vehicle being sold. This is a key step in avoiding fraud.

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2. Car Safety Certificate

If a used vehicle is being imported from abroad or from another province, a safety certificate is required in nearly all situations. This involves taking the car to a licensed mechanic for an inspection. If the vehicle passes, you’ll receive a certificate you’ll need to provide to the local Ministry of Transportation so that the vehicle can be registered. Some provinces also require this for all transfers of ownership as outlined below.

A used-car buyer signing a bill of sale
A used-car buyer signing a bill of sale Photo by Getty

3. As-Is Declaration for Buying an As-Is Car

And regardless of the province where you live, if you’re selling your vehicle in as-is condition, you’ll need a declaration. “As-is condition” may mean your car is unregistrable because it can’t pass a safety inspection, or it’s been written off. It may also mean you’re aware of significant issues requiring major repairs that you won’t resolve before the sale.

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In either case, you’ll want to draft an as-is declaration and have it signed by both you and the buyer. This way, the buyer can’t take you to court over claims you misrepresented the car’s condition during the sale.

4. Proof of Car Insurance

Finally, all provinces require the buyer to either have proof of insurance before registering the vehicle, or to acquire insurance during the registration process, depending on the province’s insurance system. It’s up to the seller to remember to cancel insurance on the vehicle after it’s sold, or to transfer that policy to a new vehicle. In most jurisdictions, you have seven days to secure insurance and complete the transfer of ownership.

A used car with a for-sale sign in the window
A used car with a for-sale sign in the window Photo by Getty

How do I write a Bill of Sale for a car in Canada?

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In most provinces (but not all, as noted below) you’ll need to draft a Bill of Sale to transfer ownership of a vehicle. You can draw this up on your own if you like, or you can download a template online. To be valid, a Bill of Sale needs to include:

  • the full names and contact information for both the buyer and seller
  • the date of the sale
  • the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • the car’s make, model, and model year
  • the agreed-upon price
  • signatures from both parties

You may also wish to include the odometer reading; the payment method and whether the amount is paid in full; warranty or liens information, copies of personal identification; or signatures of witnesses. Your province’s requirements may vary slightly, so check with your registration authority to find out what’s needed before completing the document.

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It’s considered best practice to prepare two signed copies of this document, one for the buyer and one for the seller. If any changes are required to a bill of sale, do not use white-out. Simply cross out the information that needs to be changed, write the new information online, and validate the change with an initial.

Provincial Requirements to Sell A Used Car

British Columbia

Traffic on on Lions Gate Bridge at Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C.
Traffic on on Lions Gate Bridge at Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Getty

B.C.’s documentation requirements for selling a used vehicle are different than in other provinces. To sell a used vehicle in B.C., you’ll need two documents. One is the insurance and original vehicle registration, which are found together on the ICBC form APV250. You’ll need to have both parts of the form to complete the transfer of ownership.

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The second form is the Tr​ansfer/Tax Form, ICBC document APV9T. In B.C., this acts as the Bill of Sale. You can pick one up from an Autoplan broker, or download it from the ICBC website in PDF. You must complete all four pages of the form and have it signed by both parties for it to be valid.

Alberta

In Alberta, you need a Bill of Sale to transfer ownership of a used vehicle as noted above. No other documentation is required.

The seller should remove and keep car’s licence plate. The buyer can register an existing licence plate to the vehicle; or request a new plate from a registry agent.

Saskatchewan

A blue and white classic pickup truck sits in a field in Robsart, Saskatchewan
A blue and white classic GMC pickup sits in a field in Robsart, Saskatchewan Photo by Getty

To sell or buy a used vehicle privately in Saskatchewan, both parties will need to complete a Bill of Sale as outlined above. The seller must also supply the buyer with a signed copy of the Transfer of Ownership form, which can be found on the car’s ownership certificate. Sellers will need to remove and retain the plate from the car. Buyers can register an existing plate to the vehicle; or request a new one, if needed, from SGI or a motor-licence issuer.

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Manitoba

In Manitoba, three documents are required to transfer ownership of a vehicle from a seller to a buyer. One is the Transfer of Ownership Document, which is found on the back of the vehicle registration card. The second is a valid Certificate of Inspection from a registered vehicle inspection station in Manitoba. The third is a Bill of Sale completed as outlined above.

Ontario

Ontario’s system for buying and selling used vehicles privately is different from the rest of Canada.

In Ontario, a seller is legally required to supply a buyer with a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP), which can be purchased from ServiceOntario. This document contains information about the vehicle such as its condition, any liens owing, the ownership history, the estimated wholesale price (and the minimum sales tax owing in a sale), and a Bill of Sale template.

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To complete the sale, the seller will need to provide the buyer with the completed Bill of Sale from the UVIP, and the Application for Transfer document found on the back of the vehicle ownership permit. A Safety Standards Certificate is also required. The seller and buyer will need to agree on who will have the vehicle inspected at a registered inspection site and pay for the certificate so that it can be presented to ServiceOntario by the buyer at registration.

The seller will need to remove and keep the vehicle’s existing licence plates, which can then be registered to a new vehicle. The buyer can register the vehicle with an existing set of plates or request a new set from ServiceOntario while registering the vehicle.

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Quebec

Technically, even a Bill of Sale is not required to transfer vehicle ownership in Quebec, though it is highly recommended. To complete the transfer, the buyer and seller can complete most of the process online through SAAQclic, then go to a SAAQ Service Outlet to show identification. The buyer will also need to provide the vehicle’s current odometer reading.

New Brunswick

To transfer ownership of a vehicle in New Brunswick, the seller must sign the back of the vehicle’s Certificate of Registration and give it to the buyer. Both parties will also need to complete a Bill of Sale as outlined above. The vehicle must have a valid inspection sticker, meaning it needs to have passed inspection within the previous two years.

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Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the seller is required to sign the back of the Certificate of Registration in the section titled Transfer of Ownership. The seller also must complete the section under the heading Transfer of Title Certificate of Sale (Part 1) and give this to the buyer. Finally, the seller must sign the notice of sale portion of Certificate of Registration with the name of the buyer and immediately return it to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

A valid motor vehicle inspection sticker is also required. This can either be in the name of the seller within 30 days of the date of the sale, or it can be obtained by the buyer prior to the ownership transfer.

There’s more to buying or selling a used car than simply finding the right buyer or the right vehicle

The buyer must also complete an Application for Certificate of Registration, which is found on the Certificate of Registration supplied by the seller.

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A Bill of Sale is not required in Nova Scotia, but it is highly recommended. The seller keeps the licence plates from the vehicle and can register them on a new vehicle. The buyer can register the vehicle with an existing set of plates or request a new set at the time of registration.

Prince Edward Island

To transfer ownership of a vehicle on Prince Edward Island, a seller must complete the Notification of Transfer form on the vehicle registration permit and submit it to the Register of Motor Vehicles. The seller must also complete Vehicle Permit section on the registration certificate and supply it to the buyer. The buyer will need to present this form and a valid Bill of Sale to register the vehicle. A valid motor vehicle inspection certificate from within the last year must be applied to the vehicle. The plate stays with the seller, and the buyer can register the car using an existing plate or request a new one.

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A used-car buyer is handed the key from the seller

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, a used vehicle seller is legally required to notify the province’s motor registration division that the vehicle has been sold within 10 days of the transaction. The Notice of Sale document is on the back of the vehicle registration permit.

When the buyer notifies the motor registration division of the change of ownership, they will need to supply the seller’s version of the vehicle registration permit, a valid Bill of Sale as outlined above, and a motor vehicle safety inspection certificate acquired at an official inspection station.

Unlike in other provinces, the licence plates stay with the vehicle in Newfoundland and Labrador when ownership is transferred. The seller must keep the plates affixed to the vehicle and will receive new plates upon registering their next vehicle.

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Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut

A Bill of Sale is all that’s required to transfer vehicle ownership in the territories. The only exception is in the Northwest Territories, where the seller must also sign the back of the Certificate of Registration and give it to the buyer.

Optional Documentation

Maintenance Records, Vehicle History Report, and Warranty Documentation

Maintenance records, a vehicle history report, and warranty documentation are often requested by buyers and supplied by sellers. However, these documents are not legally required for a used car sale in any Canadian province.

Stephanie Wallcraft picture

Stephanie Wallcraft

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