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How to Buy a Used Car in British Columbia

When driving from sea-to-sky in beautiful British Columbia, you need a safe and reliable used vehicle to get you from point A to B. There are some unique steps you must take when buying a car out west, so this used car buying guide for British Columbia will take you through everything you need to know, as well as some general tips for buying a car in BC.

Specifics to purchasing a used car in BC.

When buying a second-hand car in BC, there is one major difference to account for that other provinces don’t have: British Columbia has a mandatory insurer called Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). There are few other small things to note if you’re purchasing a used car in BC privately, but most of them will be taken care of if you’re purchasing from a dealership.

Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC)

In British Columbia, any vehicle that’s registered and is driven or parked on public streets by law must be covered by ICBC's basic insurance package, called Autoplan. You can purchase this from independent brokers across BC. There are varying packages available, and you can read more about them here.

Unique steps to a private sale in BC

There are a few steps that, if you’re buying a used car privately in BC, you’ll need to do before you can finalize the purchase.

  • Transfer the ownership of the used vehicle in British Columbia; the person selling the car must pick up a Transfer/Tax Form from an Autoplan broker.
  • The person selling the vehicle should remove the license plates from the vehicle. They should also remove the insurance and registration.
  • It’s recommended that the seller and the buyer go together to take the registration and the Transfer/Tax form to an Autoplan broker. At this point, the buyer can register the vehicle, license it and insure it all at the same time.

Winter Tires

In British Columbia, winter tires or chains are mandatory on most roads from October 1st until April 30th. You’ll know which roads require them as they’ll be marked with signs. Read more about the requirements and see maps of which roadways need them here.

Common tips for buying a used car

No matter which province you’re buying a second-hand car in, there are many steps in the used car buying process that are similar province to province, but knowing what to look for and what to ask when buying a used car can relieve stress during your search. For a more in-depth look into these steps, read our Used Car Buying Guide.

  • Choose the kind of vehicle you want. Think about which features are necessities, and which are luxuries. Evaluate a car’s make/model, fuel economy, safety rating, size, driving experience and resale value.
  • Set a budget. How much are you willing to spend monthly, or at once? See what the vehicle’s value range is so you will know what is a fair price.
  • Start looking. Research your next vehicle by looking at dealership websites, online marketplaces, and public auctions. Figure out whether you want to buy a used car from a dealer or privately. Look into specifics like “how many kilometers is too much for a used car” or “how old is too old for a used car”.
  • Test drive the car. Get a feel for the car’s accessories and ensure they work. A 30-minute test drive is important to see how a car runs in a realistic setting.
  • Know the history. Our Vehicle History Report + Lien Check provides you with information that’s critical to understand when buying a used car. You can find out if a vehicle has prior accidents, money owing, missed recalls and much more.
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection. Getting the car inspected is important to know the cosmetic, mechanical and safety condition of a car. This is a critical step and can help provide negotiation opportunities.
  • Check the VIN. VINs have details about a specific car like year, make, model and where it was made. A VIN is typically found on the inside of the driver’s door jamb and windshield. To decode it, you can enter it into our free decoder tool.
  • Ask questions. Why they are selling the car? Is it up to date for maintenance? Is it still under warranty? There are plenty of questions to ask when buying a used car, make sure you know what you should be asking!
  • Negotiate. Before you start, get the vehicle’s Value Range, and learn what could influence the vehicle’s value. This will help you make a confident offer based on your research and budget. Keep your emotions in check and be prepared to walk away – a successful agreement will benefit both parties.
  • Get insurance. You’ll need to update your insurance before finalizing the sale, and as mentioned previously, ICBC will be the way to go. Be sure to look at all the options they offer and find the one that best suits you.

Knowing the steps involved in buying a used car in British Columbia can help with speeding up the purchase and keeping the stress-levels down during the entire process. If a new car is in your future and you’re not sure what to do with your old one, check out our Used Car Selling Guide and our Trade-in Guide to see what option best suits you!