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June 1, 2020

Buying a used vehicle during the COVID-19 crisis

2 min read


If you’re thinking about buying a car or truck during the current state of emergency, you may find it challenging to get that car on the road. There is currently no way to register your newly-purchased vehicle online, so if you don’t live close to a Service Ontario office that’s open, there may be no way to finalize your registration and get your new plates.

Ontarians are having to adapt to a whole new lifestyle because of the coronavirus outbreak. Working from home, cancelling birthday parties and ordering groceries online are now commonplace. But the fact is that most Ontarians continue to rely on their cars, if for no other reason right now than to get essential supplies. If you’re in the market for a car right now, you may be in for a challenge.

When you buy a car, there are a number of things that you need to do before you can actually drive it:

  1. You need to get insurance. Most insurance providers will provide temporary pink slips based on seeing the seller’s signed ownership, showing that they intend to transfer ownership to you.
  2. You need to register the vehicle in your name. This requires you to go to a Service Ontario office. If you are buying from a dealer, they usually do this part for you before you pick up the car.
  3. You may need to get a safety inspection/certificate. This is usually if you are buying privately, not from a dealer. Dealers usually have their cars inspected prior to sale and will provide the certificate.
  4. You need to get plates for the car. If you need them right away, you need to go to Service Ontario. Again, dealers often take care of this for you.

Currently, 172 out of 280 Service Ontario locations are closed because of the pandemic, and others have cut their hours. Even if an office near you is open, you may be wary of going to a crowded government office right now, and we can’t fault you if you are.

The fact remains that if you’re buying a car, there’s currently no way to register it online. You can order your plates online, but then you have to wait 3 weeks to receive them. So if you are unable to make it into a Service Ontario location, you won’t be driving your new vehicle anytime soon.

The government is doing its best to accommodate people who are running into logistical problems brought on by the pandemic. For example, if your license plate sticker expires anytime after March 1st, it will automatically be extended until the state of emergency is over. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help you if you are buying a new or used vehicle during the state of emergency.

For our part, if you’re buying a vehicle and call Mitch for insurance, we are more than happy to start your insurance coverage immediately based on temporary proof of transfer of ownership, as always. But as is our practice, we will follow up with you to confirm that you’ve registered the vehicle, and if you are unable to do so, the vehicle will not be legal for the road.

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