It's time for a new car, but you need to offload your old wheels first? Selling a used car in Ontario is a detailed process that requires careful planning and organization — there are many documents and legal hurdles to cross. 

To help you through the process, we’ve outlined the necessary steps for selling a used car in Ontario and what to watch out for. We also offer some alternatives to going through the stress of a private sale, which can help you save time and possibly money. 

Pricing Your Vehicle

Before you can try selling a used car in Ontario, you must first determine its price. Without a competitive asking price, you'll either struggle to drum up interest from potential buyers or leave money on the table. 

There are several places you can go to check your vehicle's market value, starting with the Canadian Black Book (CBB). At CBB, enter the year, make, model, trim level, options, and a few other details to get the average asking price in your area. 

For a more detailed pricing guide, go to Kelley Blue Book (KBB). There, you enter the same information as you would in CBB, but you also add the vehicle's condition. With these details in place, KBB will offer you a private party pricing range and a recommended private party value, which you can use as your asking price.

Keep in mind that just because you’ve set an asking price that doesn't mean a buyer will pay that much. Most buyers will attempt to negotiate a lower purchase price, so make a mental note of the lowest offer you’re willing to accept. 

In some cases, this lowest acceptable offer is the balance on the auto loan attached to the vehicle or the amount needed to buy a new car. If neither of those factors applies, the lower end of the private party range on KBB is a good baseline to set as your lowest acceptable offer. 

Listing Your Vehicle for Private Sale

After determining a fair asking price, you need to list the vehicle somewhere. Here are a few listing options for selling a used car in Ontario along with their pros and cons. 

Selling a used car in Ontario: For sale sign with red vehicle

Street Advertising

There's no shame in the timeless method of drive-by advertising. Parking your car near a busy roadway with a sign in the window can attract the attention of many buyers. 

Despite all the potential buyers seeing your for-sale vehicle, there are plenty of downsides to this listing method, starting with safety. A car parked on the side of the road with a "for sale" sign in the window can be a distraction to other drivers and possibly cause an accident. 

Also, as cars zoom by, they may not notice your vehicle is for sale. And even if they see the sign, they may not have a chance to stop and get the information from the "for sale" sign. Plus, you're limiting your potential buyers to only people who drive by. 

Finally, there's the legality of it all. Depending on local laws, it may not be legal to park a for sale vehicle on the side of the road. 

Graphic illustration of a smartphone with  an SUV for sale

Free Online Listings

From Craigslist to Facebook Marketplace and beyond, there's no shortage of free online listing services for selling a used car in Ontario. 

These options let you list your used vehicle for sale with no upfront costs or commissions if the vehicle sells, saving you hundreds of dollars. Plus, they’re extremely popular sites with adequate search features that allow potential buyers to find your vehicle. They also offer the ability to post copious pictures and long descriptions, so buyers can feel confident calling you. 

While there are plenty of reasons to sell a used car in Ontario using a free listing service, some flaws exist, most notably the abundance of scams. Since these sites are free to use, scammers can easily target people for theft or other illicit activities. 

There are other issues, including non-serious buyers and countless “tire kickers” who have no real interest in buying your vehicle. Plus, you'll deal with virtually limitless competition on these free sites, diluting the potential buyer pool. 

Paid Online Listings

Paid online listings take the free listing model and bump them up a notch. Not only are these sites generally more organized, but some also integrate other features, like motor vehicle history reports. These sites also often attract the most serious buyers and connect potential buyers to financing options that can help them purchase your used vehicle.

The big downside to these services is you often pay whether or not your vehicle sells. Plus, you'll still deal with an abundance of competition from private sellers and dealerships alike, often burying your car deep in the search results. 

Various paperwork for selling a used car in Ontario

Paperwork to Gather Before Selling a Used Car in Ontario

When selling a used car in Ontario, Canada, there are specific documents you must have ready for the new owner. Getting them in order right after listing the vehicle will save you the headache of rushing around to find them when someone's ready to buy your vehicle. 

Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP)

The UVIP is a critical component to any private party vehicle sale in Ontario. This package includes: 

  • The vehicle's year, make, model, colour, body type, number of cylinders, and power
  • A vehicle registration history
  • Additional information about the vehicle currently attached to the license plate
  • Vehicle lien information
  • The average wholesale value of the vehicle, which determines the minimum retail sales tax applied
  • Retail sales tax information
  • Vehicle condition and whether it's determined to be mechanically unfit
  • Bill of sale section to fill out when transferring the vehicle to its new owner

You can order a UVIP online for $20. You'll need the used vehicle's vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate number and your Ontario driver's license, registrant identification number, or name and address to complete the order. 

It takes approximately five business days to receive the UVIP in the mail. 

Ownership Permit

While you won't actually need it until you're transferring vehicle ownership, make sure you know where the vehicle's ownership permit (green ownership document) is located. Store this registration permit in a place where you can easily find it, as you'll need to complete the Application for Transfer on the back of it when a buyer takes ownership of the vehicle. 

Safety Standards Certificate

The final paperwork you'll need when selling a used car in Ontario is the Safety Standards Certificate. There's one exception to this rule: If you're selling your vehicle to your spouse, you don't need the safety certificate. 

You can get the Safety Standards Certificate by taking your vehicle to a Ministry of Transportation (MTO)-licensed inspection station and having it complete a safety inspection. 

The Safety Standards Certificate is good for 36 days, so if your vehicle sits on the market for a while, you may have to pay to get several inspections. These generally cost $80-$125, so the cost can add up. 

Some sellers prefer to wait until they make a deal with a buyer before getting the Safety Standards Certificate. This can save you money, but it could also result in delays. 

Bill of sale, transfer of ownership, and safety standards are all forms required for selling a used car in Ontario

Paperwork to Give the New Owner

After the negotiation process and the buyer agrees to purchase your used car, you must ensure they have all the documents they need to transfer ownership and register the vehicle. These documents include:

  • UVIP
  • A signed bill of sale with your name, the buyer's name and address, the date of sale, and the purchase price
  • Complete and signed Application for Transfer, which is on the back of the ownership permit
  • Safety Standards Certificate

When the buyer takes the vehicle, make sure you remove your license plates from the vehicle. Also, detach the "Plate Portion" of the ownership permit, which you'll need to register the plates to a new vehicle or request a refund for any full months remaining on the license plate. 

Risks of Being a Private Seller

Selling a car as a private seller usually means you'll get the most money for your vehicle, but it also comes with a certain amount of risk. Here are some of the drawbacks of selling a used car on your own.

Wasted Time

There are a lot of tire kickers out there. They love to look at cars and test drive them but they aren’t really in the market to buy one. They even make their way into the private sale realm, texting and calling you to ask questions or even coming to see the car without ever planning to buy it. As a result, you can end up fielding a lot of questions and wasting time meeting supposed prospective buyers for in-person inspections and test drives. 

Limited Interest in Your Car

If you have a specialty vehicle with a niche group of potential buyers or a car that's not all that popular, you may run into limited interest in a private sale. This could result in you waiting weeks or months for the right buyer to come around. 

Illustration of a skull and bones with a desktop computer

Car Buying Scams and Safety Issues

Car buying scams are nothing new, but they have risen in frequency with the explosion of online private sales. Whether it's someone paying with a fraudulent cheque or a more elaborate scheme, this is a huge risk when dealing with buyers yourself. 

The other side of the equation is your personal safety. If you invite the buyer to your home, you have no idea what this person’s intentions are. They may be using the “test drive” as a way to get a look at what valuables you may have on your property. If you choose to do a deal in a public parking lot, you could end up a victim of theft or another crime. 

Vehicle illustration with rotating arrows

Benefits of Trading In Your Car Instead

If you're planning to buy a replacement vehicle with the money you make from selling your current vehicle, you may want to consider trading it in at a dealership instead. Yes, you'll generally get more money in a private sale, but there are distinct advantages to trading your vehicle. 

Save Time

Time is a valuable asset, and it's one of the few assets you can't replace. You can spare yourself the headache of dealing with buyers' phone calls, test drives, and questions by simply trading in your vehicle instead. 

Let Someone Else Handle the Paperwork

Gathering all the necessary paperwork for a private party sale can be tedious and time consuming. When trading your vehicle into the dealership, they handle all the paperwork. You simply sign the documents and leave with your new car. 

Tax Savings

Every Ontario car sale at a car dealer is subject to a 13% harmonized sales tax (HST), but that applies only to the cash difference between your trade-in vehicle and the vehicle you buy. 

For example, if you purchased a $30,000 vehicle from a car dealership and received a $15,000 trade-in credit for your vehicle, you'd pay HST on just $15,000. That would add up to $1,950, while HST on the entire $30,000 would be $3,900. 

Depending on the difference between your vehicle's trade-in value and the amount you could sell it for in a private sale, you could save money by trading it in. 

Use Clutch for selling a used car in Ontario

Make Life Easy by Selling or Trading Your Vehicle With Clutch

Clutch, Canada's first online car-buying experience, eliminates the headaches of selling your car with a fully online process. Head to our online estimator to get an estimated trade-in value for your vehicle. 

Once you submit your vehicle via our estimator, you’ll have the option to get a firm price by entering more information and a few images of the vehicle. Within 24 hours of adding the info and pictures, we’ll update your appraisal with a firm offer.

Once you submit the information and images, you'll receive a firm offer for your used car. You can browse our wide selection of quality used cars, choose the one that fits you, and complete your purchase online. We'll even deliver the vehicle to you and pick up your trade-in vehicle. We further streamline the process with quick and easy online financing options.

If there’s no Clutch vehicle that suits your needs, that’s OK. We’ll still purchase your vehicle at the agreed-upon price and pick it up. You can use our firm offer to help shop for a new car elsewhere. Whether you decide to trade it or sell it to us, you can skip all the paperwork of selling your car — we’ll handle it. 

After receiving your Clutch vehicle, you have 10 days to drive it. If you don't love it within those 10 days, contact us for a full refund or to order a replacement vehicle. All Clutch used vehicles go through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process and include a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty, so you know you're getting a quality pre-owned car.