Buying, registering and insuring a car in Canada as a foreigner is surprisingly easy! You only need to follow 3 steps to get your new wheels.
Find a car
Register the car
NOTE: The information in this article focuses on buying a car in Alberta. Every province has a different set of rules so may differ depending on your location.
HOW TO FIND A CAR
The easiest places to find cars for sale are in the local Facebook by and sell groups, Kijiji (Canada’s version of Gumtree) and simply keeping an eye out for “for sale” signs in car windows.
TIP: Most travellers don’t want to spend money on mechanical upkeep so it’s possible the “perfect” car needs a crazy amount of work done on it. Sometimes it better to be safe then sorry by getting a mechanic to have a look first, it could end up saving you some serious money in the long run.
Once you’ve found the perfect car and agreed to buy it with the seller, you will need to organise to get it insured. In Canada, it is illegal to drive an uninsured car so they will not register a car without it.
Insurance in Canada is expensive, they will view you as a new driver as they have no driving record of you. However, this is an easy fix! Contact your insurer back home and get them to send you a “Claim History Letter” which details any past claims you’ve made. You will also need your “Driving History Record”. If you’re from NSW Australia you can get this online for a small fee through Service NSW. With these letters, my insurance dropped in price by over a $1000.
Not all companies will insure foreign drivers so do some research to find the best company for you and your car. Depending on the age of your car the insurance company may want a safety inspection before they will insure you. This age differs from company to company. Also if the car you’re wanting to buy isn’t from the province you’re living in you will need an out of province inspection done. Personally Intact offered us the best deal.
When you find the best provider they will send you a pink slip which you will need to show when registering your car. They can send you an electronic version which you can show the registry office on your phone while you wait for the paper version to arrive in the mail. Make sure you keep this in your glove box because if you are pulled over the police officer will ask to view it.
REGISTERING YOUR CAR
The best way to do this is to get the seller to meet at your nearest registry office to change over ownership of the vehicle. By having the seller there with you, you escape having to pay any unpaid fees if the seller has been dishonest. It’s a simple matter of filling in some paperwork and getting your new number plate. Unlike in Australia where the number plate stays with the car, in Canada, the number plate goes with the owner.
Once you’ve done this last step and handed over the money to the seller your now the proud new owner of the car!
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