Buying a car in Canada

Chapter 1: Assessing your needs

Published: 13-02-2023



Assessing your needs

Despite what you’ve heard about North America and car culture, plenty of locals and backpackers live a happy life without owning a vehicle or having a driver’s licence. So, start by assessing your needs—do you really need to buy a car to enjoy Canada?

It’s probably worth buying a car if…

You live in a small town or in a remote area without a public transportation system.

  • You live in a suburban area without easy access to the existing transit system.
  • You live in a big city but work shifts and there’s no public transit early in the morning or late at night.
  • You’re planning to spend a lot of time exploring the region during long weekends and holidays. To mitigate costs and reduce your environmental impact, you may want to consider renting a car from Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, etc. Car sharing can also be a more cost-effective solution for occasional trips.
  • You’re planning a road trip to explore Canada—taking the Greyhound or crossing the country by train with VIA Rail is doable but these options are less flexible and possibly more expensive.

You probably DON’T need to buy a car if…

  • Your budget is very tight—beyond the basic and obvious initial purchasing cost, you also have to register and insure your vehicle, then there’s maintenance, gas, parking fees, etc. Car ownership is a big responsibility and a daily expense some of us just can’t afford.
  • You live in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver and you feel there’s enough to keep you busy in the area. These three cities have a reliable transit system that can take you beyond the downtown core.

Don’t rush into buying a car as soon as you land in Canada. Take a few days or weeks to make the best possible decision. Assess your needs, figure out your budget, test the local transit system if available and get used to the cost of living before going for the big-ticket item—or not!

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