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Buying a Used Car: The Sale - Understand your legal rights

Understand your legal rights

Getting the agreement in writing

Whether you are buying a used vehicle from a car dealer or a private individual, it’s best to get the agreement in writing. Having clear, written terms protects both parties from unexpected surprises.

If you are buying from a dealer, they must give you a written purchase agreement. 

Put the terms that you want into the agreement. If the seller has said that they will get the brakes fixed before the sale, write that down in the agreement. See below under "Complete the sale" for more on getting a written agreement.

What the agreement must include

Under the law in BC, a written agreement to buy a used vehicle from a car dealer must include:

  • the make, model and year of the car, and its odometer reading at the time of the sale 
  • whether the odometer accurately records the true distance travelled by the car
  • whether the car has ever had damage that cost over $2,000 to repair
  • whether the car is from out of British Columbia 
  • an itemized list of any repairs needed and the associated cost
  • whether the car has ever been used as a taxi, police car, emergency vehicle, a lease vehicle, or a rental vehicle, or in organized racing
  • everything about the cost of buying the car, including: 
    • any dealer fees
    • documentation and administrative fees
    • cost of taxes
    • licence and insurance fees (separate from ICBC fees)
    • the interest costs if you are financing the car
    • the cost of necessary repairs
    • the cost of any options you choose, and 
    • the total cost

The dealer must give you a copy of the purchase agreement at the time the agreement is accepted. Be sure to keep a copy of the agreement in your records.

If you’re buying from a car dealer, the price you see on a window sticker or advertisement must be the total price. This is the full amount you have to pay to purchase the vehicle (with the exception of taxes). This number needs to include dealer fees, documentation and administrative fees, inspection and pre-delivery fees, and any transportation charges.

Checking the terms of any extended warranty

When you buy a used car, the seller may suggest you buy an “extended warranty”. This is the seller’s promise to cover repairs and maintenance for a given period if there are problems. 

But be aware that an extended warranty may not give you any more rights than you have already through the "legal warranty". (Under the law, a level of quality, performance and durability is implied into every sales contract. Learn more.) If you're thinking about an extended warranty, check its terms:

  • How long is it good for?
  • Where will you have to go to obtain warranty repairs?
  • Does the extended warranty cover parts and service, or just one or the other?

You cannot change your mind once you’ve signed a contract

In BC, there is no "cooling-off period" once you have signed the purchase agreement to buy a used vehicle. A particular car dealership may have a return policy, but there is no law requiring that dealerships have such a policy. This means that you will not be able to cancel an agreement just because you changed your mind or because your situation has changed.

But if there is something wrong with the vehicle, or with the way in which the vehicle was sold to you, you may be able to cancel the agreement. Simply because there is no legal right to return a vehicle does not mean that a vehicle cannot be returned under certain circumstances.