Learn about Ontario's program to brand used vehicles and how to avoid buying an unsafe vehicle.
About the program
Branding is the process of assigning "brand" types that indicate whether a vehicle has been severely damaged in the past.
Vehicles that have been damaged to the point of total loss must be assigned a brand by:
- insurance companies
- auto recyclers
- individual vehicle owners
These vehicles must be reported to the Ministry of Transportation. The brand is recorded in the ministry's Vehicle Registration System.
Brand types are:
"Rebuilt" or "None" are the only acceptable brands for a consumer buying a used vehicle for on-road use.
For Highway Traffic Act definitions, see Ontario Regulation 376/02.
Some vehicles are exempt from branding:
- traction engines
- farm tractors
- road-building machines
- motor-assisted bicycles
- motorized snow vehicles
- motor vehicles with a model year of 1980 or earlier
Benefits of mandatory branding
The vehicle branding program makes it more difficult to put stolen and damaged vehicles on Ontario roads, enhances road safety and better protects consumers by providing important information about possible past damage to a vehicle.
Branding also helps to identify written-off vehicles to deter thieves from re-registered stolen vehicles under the serial numbers of identical written-off vehicles.
As a consumer, you will have better information to help you determine if a vehicle you are about to buy is:
- irreparable and for parts only
- salvage and can't be plated
- rebuilt to MTO structuralstandards
A vehicle branded "Irreparable":
- has been written-off as a total loss
- can only be used for parts or scrap
- cannot be driven again in Ontario
A vehicle branded "Salvage":
- has been written-off as a total loss
- can be repaired or used for parts or scrap
If the vehicle is repaired, it must be inspected by an authorized technician and pass a structural inspection test. If it passes the test, it will be re-branded as "Rebuilt."
A vehicle branded "Rebuilt" was written-off, branded as "Salvage" and then repaired.
For a vehicle to qualify as "Rebuilt":
- the owners must have photographs, documents and receipts showing vehicle damage
- the vehicle must have been issued a Structural Inspection Certificate from an authorized technician at a ministry-licensed Motor Vehicle Inspection Station
A vehicle branded as "None":
- has not been given one of the other 3 brands
- may have had a damage-related brand applied outside Ontario
- may have been damaged or rebuilt before March 31, 2003
- may have been damaged to a degree that doesn't meet branding criteria
- may never have been in a collision
A vehicle with a "Stolen" designation has been declared stolen by the police. The Ministry of Transportation is notified of this status by police, and all transactions involving stolen vehicles are blocked on the ministry's Vehicle Registration System database.
"Stolen" is a status, not a vehicle brand. It can only be removed when the police advise the ministry that the vehicle has been recovered.
Find a vehicle brand
A vehicle's brand will appear:
- on Ontario's Vehicle Registration System database
- on vehicle permits
- in vehicle histories
- in the Used Vehicle Information Packages (UVIPs)
The "Salvage" and "Rebuilt" brands don't apply to motorcycles. A motorcycle is branded as "Irreparable" where there is frame damage that requires replacement.
Motorcycles are more susceptible than cars to fraudulent registration. The "Irreparable" brand allows for the tracking of resale parts to help law enforcement reduce motorcycle theft and the laundering of stolen motorcycle parts.
Tips for used vehicle shoppers
- only used vehicles that have brands of "Rebuilt" or "None" are allowed to be driven on the road - vehicles branded "Salvage" can't be legally driven until they pass a structural inspection test and receive the brand of "Rebuilt"
- private sellers are required to provide you with a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP), which contains the vehicle's registration history in Ontario and discloses any liens currently registered on the vehicle
- motor vehicle dealers should tell you important facts about a vehicle and are required to guarantee that vehicles they sell are free of liens, roadworthy and are not stolen
- check the vehicle's permit and/or UVIP carefully for the vehicle's brand type - it appears in the upper left hand corner of the permit
- unless you're buying the vehicle for parts or scrap metal, you should NEVER buy a vehicle with a brand of "Irreparable"
- you may wish to ask the seller if you can take the vehicle for an inspection by an authorized mechanic you know and trust