How To Drive A Used Car Home In Ontario

Buying a used car in Ontario can offer all the joys of car ownership at a reasonable price. Since new vehicles depreciate almost immediately when they leave a car dealership’s lot, used car buyers can usually save a substantial amount of money, even if the vehicle is relatively new. But what is the buying process when you purchase a used car, and how do you drive a used car home in Ontario?

How To Drive A Used Car Home In Ontario: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drive a car I just bought?

The short answer is yes; you can drive a car you just bought. But like everything to do with vehicle registration and insurance in Ontario, there are some details you need to understand.

The process is relatively straightforward if you have an existing license plate that will be transferred to the new car and have a valid auto insurance policy already in force.

Your first call once you decide to purchase a vehicle should be to your insurance broker. Advise them you are buying a new car. They will ask for details about the vehicle, such as:

  • Make, model and year
  • Vehicle information number (VIN)
  • Information about any new drivers not currently listed on your policy
  • How you will be driving the vehicle (for example, business, commuting or occasional use)
  • Estimated annual driving distance

Your insurance professional will also discuss your current policy details to ensure the new vehicle has enough coverage.

Your insurance professional will provide you with a quote to insure the new vehicle and ask whether you will be removing your previous car from the insurance policy. Then they will email you a new “pink” slip, known as proof of insurance, documenting that you have coverage on the vehicle.

Suppose you can’t contact your insurance provider before you pick up the new vehicle. In that case, your auto insurance policy may provide you with 7-14 days of automatic coverage for any new vehicle. Still, it’s best to confirm this with your insurer.

Keep in mind that only your current coverage transfers to your new car. For example, suppose you are replacing an older vehicle that just has liability insurance, and your newer vehicle needs collision and comprehensive protection. You won’t be protected with collision and comprehensive insurance until you call your broker to update your policy. If you have an accident before you update your policy, you will only have liability coverage.

Relying on automatic coverage should only be used as a last resort. Being stopped by the police without proof of insurance may require you to supply the bill of sale and other documents to prove the vehicle is adequately insured. Of course, settling the claim will also become more complicated if you experience an accident during this period.

Assuming you have insurance in place or decide to rely on the grace period stated in your insurance policy, you can either swap your old license plate to your new vehicle or apply for a new license plate and sticker.

In Ontario, you have six days to temporarily switch your licence plates and insurance to a new car before needing the ministry’s approval. This grace period is handy for purchasing your vehicle outside regular office hours or on weekends. There are some requirements, however. You will need:

Dealerships usually take care of this transfer. Otherwise, you will need to file to transfer the plates yourself at a ServiceOntario centre.

You can find more information on this topic in our recent article: How to add insurance to a new car.

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How do I get a temporary license plate in Ontario?

In Ontario, temporary license plates are not as common as they once were, thanks to new technologies that allow immediate issuance of new plates. In most cases, when you register a vehicle in Ontario at a ServiceOntario centre, you will receive new license plates once you pay the registration fee.

Temporary license plate “stickers” are usually reserved for vehicles that have not yet met all the requirements for full registration. This could be because the vehicle did not pass the safety standards or emissions tests and needs further work. In this case, you can apply for a temporary sticker that will allow you to drive the vehicle to a garage or dealership for service.

The temporary licence plate sticker must be attached to the upper right-hand corner of your licence plate and will be valid for ten days starting with the date issued. Note that you can only get two temporary vehicle stickers per vehicle each year, so planning ahead is strongly encouraged.

How do you get license plates for your car in Ontario?

If you have just purchased a new car in Ontario and need to register the vehicle and obtain license plates, visit a ServiceOntario centre with the following information:

  • Driver’s license
  • The Used Vehicle Information Package with all completed information
  • Bill of sale
  • A vehicle permit (buyer’s portion with the previous owner’s signature)
  • Plate portion of your existing permit if you want to transfer a license plate
  • Safety Standards Certificate
  • Money for taxes (you will need to pay HST on the Red Book value of your new vehicle unless you are transferring the vehicle to a family member)

Can I drive a car home I just bought without insurance?

In Ontario, every vehicle on the road needs to maintain insurance coverage by law. If you drive a vehicle and don’t have insurance coverage, you will face a substantial fine and vehicle impoundment.

It’s crucial, therefore, that before you drive any new vehicle, you either:

  • Contact your insurance provider and add the new vehicle to your insurance policy or purchase additional coverage. In both cases, your insurance company will issue you a temporary proof of insurance slip almost immediately.
  • If you don’t make arrangements with your insurance provider before driving the vehicle, ensure that you are within the grace period allocated to buying a new vehicle, as outlined in your contract. Be sure to carry your bill of sale, any other documentation related to the sale, and your existing proof of insurance certificate while operating the vehicle.

Planning ahead and arranging for coverage on the new vehicle before you drive it off the lot is always the preferred choice.

How do you drive a used car home in Ontario?

What are the penalties for driving without license plates in Ontario?

In Ontario, you can face fines for not having valid license plates on your recently purchased vehicle. These fines are currently $85 whether you drive without plates or use the previous owner’s plates after transferring ownership.

In addition, as the vehicle is not licensed to operate on Ontario roads, your car may also be impounded until you prove it is properly registered and insured.

Buying a new car can be an exciting and fulfilling experience. Planning ahead to ensure you are correctly registered and insured before driving it home will help make the process manageable so you can enjoy your new ride.


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