How To Avoid Paying Taxes On Used Car In Canada?

How To Avoid Paying Taxes On Used Car In Canada?

Purchasing a used car in Canada is a wise financial decision for many, offering the benefit of a lower price point while still fulfilling transportation needs. However, the aspect of sales tax on these transactions often brings a level of complexity and confusion. This guide is designed to demystify the sales tax process on used cars, highlighting legal pathways to minimize these expenses and making your car-buying experience as cost-effective as possible.

Understanding Sales Tax on Used Cars

The Basics of Sales Tax

In Canada, the sales tax on used cars varies by province and territory, encompassing the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST), and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Here's a brief overview:

  • GST: A federal tax applied at a rate of 5% across Canada.
  • PST: A provincial tax that varies in rate and application depending on the province.
  • HST: A combination of GST and PST, used in some provinces, which simplifies the taxation process into a single tax.

Tax Application on Dealership vs Private Sales

When purchasing a used car from a dealership, the buyer is typically required to pay either HST or a combination of GST and PST, depending on the province. In contrast, private sales often only require the buyer to pay GST or HST, potentially offering a significant saving by avoiding PST.

Car Sales Tax Rates

Province/Territory GST (%) PST (%) HST (%) Total Sales Tax (%)
Alberta 5 - - 5
British Columbia 5 7 - 12
Manitoba 5 7 - 12
New Brunswick - - 15 15
Newfoundland and Labrador - - 15 15
Northwest Territories 5 - - 5
Nova Scotia - - 15 15
Nunavut 5 - - 5
Ontario - - 13 13
Prince Edward Island - - 15 15
Quebec 5 9.975 - 14.975
Saskatchewan 5 6 - 11
Yukon 5 - - 5

Note: For specific details regarding taxes on used cars, especially concerning private sales or exemptions, please consult the relevant provincial government or a tax professional.

How To Avoid Paying Taxes On Used Car?

How To Avoid Paying Taxes On Used Car

Navigating the tax landscape requires knowledge and strategy. Here are several legal methods to reduce the tax burden when purchasing a used car.

Buying from a Private Seller

  • Advantages: Generally, buying from a private seller only incurs GST or HST, which can lead to savings, especially in provinces where PST is high.
  • Considerations: It's crucial to report the purchase price accurately. Tax authorities may assess the car's value to ensure the declared price is realistic, preventing underpayment of taxes.

Gift or Transfer Between Family Members

  • Procedure: In some provinces, a used car can be gifted or transferred between immediate family members without incurring sales tax. This process involves filling out a family gift or transfer form, available from provincial licensing offices.
  • Limitations: The definition of "immediate family" and the conditions under which the transfer is tax-exempt vary by province. It's important to check specific provincial regulations.


  • How It Works: When trading in a vehicle at a dealership, the trade-in value is deducted from the purchase price of the used car, reducing the taxable amount. This method effectively decreases the overall sales tax payable on a car sale.
  • Benefit: This option not only provides savings on taxes but also simplifies the process of disposing of your old vehicle.

Refunds and Rebates

  • Eligibility: Some provinces offer sales tax refunds or rebates under certain conditions, such as for vehicles adapted for persons with disabilities or for specific environmentally friendly vehicles.
  • Application Process: Applications for refunds or rebates typically require the submission of documentation proving eligibility. Check provincial websites for detailed information and application forms.

Documentation and Accuracy

  • Importance of Accuracy: Ensuring the accuracy of all transaction documents is paramount. This includes the bill of sale, transfer documents, and tax forms. Inaccuracies can lead to audits, penalties, and additional taxes.
  • Keeping Records: Maintain detailed records of the transaction, including communications with the seller and receipts for any related expenses. These documents can be invaluable in case of a dispute or audit.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

When navigating the used car market, buyers can encounter various pitfalls that might not only affect the deal they get but also their legal standing regarding taxes. Awareness and caution are your best defenses against common mistakes when dealing with the tax on a used car.

Under-Declaring the Purchase Price

  • Risk: One common mistake is under-declaring the vehicle's purchase price to reduce sales tax. This practice is illegal and can lead to audits, penalties, and back taxes.
  • Prevention: Always declare the accurate purchase price when you buy a vehicle. If a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. Protect yourself by insisting on a transparent transaction.

Overlooking a Vehicle’s History

  • Importance: A thorough check of the vehicle's history is essential. This includes its maintenance records, any accident history, and previous ownership.
  • Tools: Utilize services like CARFAX Canada to obtain a vehicle history report. This step is crucial for private sales, where the seller might not disclose all issues.

Ignoring Inspection

  • Necessity: Skipping a pre-purchase inspection can lead to unexpected repair costs. Even if the seller provides a recent inspection report, getting an independent assessment is wise.
  • Action: Hire a trusted mechanic to inspect the vehicle. This small investment can save you from significant expenses and complications down the line.

Provincial Variations to Consider

How To Avoid Paying Taxes On Used Car

The sales tax on used cars in Canada varies significantly from one province to another, affecting the overall cost of purchasing a used vehicle. Here’s a look at how provincial variations can impact your purchase.


  • Tax Structure: Alberta does not impose a PST, meaning buyers are only subject to the 5% GST on used car purchases. This makes Alberta one of the less expensive provinces in terms of tax obligations for used car buyers.


  • Unique Considerations: Quebec calculates sales tax based on the sale price or the vehicle's book value, whichever is higher. This approach can affect the tax calculation on used car purchases, especially for private sales.

British Columbia

  • Trade-In Advantage: In British Columbia, the value of a trade-in vehicle is deducted before PST is applied, potentially lowering the taxable amount significantly when trading in your old car for a used one from a dealership.


  • Family Transfer Exemption: Ontario offers a tax exemption for used cars transferred between family members, subject to specific conditions. This can represent substantial savings for families looking to pass vehicles between relatives.

Also Read: How to Buy a Used Car in Ontario?

Understanding these provincial nuances is crucial for any potential buyer. It allows for more informed decision-making and can significantly impact the overall financial aspects of purchasing a used vehicle.


Q1. Can I avoid paying sales tax if I bring a used car from another province?

Generally, when you register a used car in your home province, you are required to pay the applicable taxes according to your province's rates, even if the car was purchased elsewhere. This means you cannot avoid higher provincial taxes by buying in a province with lower rates.

Q2. How do I ensure I'm not under-declaring the purchase price?

Ensure that the purchase price is in line with the market value of the vehicle. Use online tools and resources to research the average cost of similar models and years. Always document the transaction with a bill of sale that accurately reflects the purchase price.

Q3. What if I buy a used car from a family member? Do I still have to pay sales tax?

This depends on your province. Some provinces, like Ontario, allow tax-exempt transfers between immediate family members under certain conditions. You'll need to provide proof of the relationship and fill out the appropriate forms to qualify for this exemption.

Q4. Are there any tax rebates or incentives for purchasing electric or hybrid used cars?

Rebates and incentives vary by province and may change over time. Some provinces offer rebates or incentives for purchasing used electric or hybrid vehicles to encourage environmentally friendly choices. Check your provincial government's website for the most current information.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a used car in Canada can be a financially savvy decision, but it requires due diligence, awareness of provincial tax laws, and an understanding of how to avoid common pitfalls. By educating yourself on these aspects, you can make the decision that saves you money and ensures a smooth transaction.

Remember, the key to a successful used car purchase lies in preparation and knowledge. Whether it's understanding the tax implications, conducting thorough vehicle checks, or knowing your rights and obligations, the effort you put in upfront can significantly impact your satisfaction and financial well-being down the line.

As you embark on your used car buying journey, keep these tips and strategies in mind. They will not only help you navigate the complexities of the process but also empower you to make the best possible decision for your needs and budget.

Categories: Buying Tips