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The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of a taxi sign. (© Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters)
The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of a taxi sign. (© Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters)

Driving Concerns

How do I know that used car for sale wasn't formerly an Uber ride? Add to ...

Must car owners disclose that they used their vehicles for a ride-sharing service when they go to sell it? Are such disclosures required for cars from rental car and taxi companies, police services, etc.? If so, why not for Uber? – T., Toronto

Once your Uber is over and it’s time to sell, you don’t have to tell the next guy that hundreds of strangers sat in the back seat. And the dealer doesn’t have to either,

“Uber drivers are under no legal compulsion to volunteer that information when trading in their car,” Warren Barnard, executive director of the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario (UCDA) said in an e-mail. “Ethically, I’d like to think they should, but I’m highly doubtful they would – even if asked, how many Uber drivers will honestly answer the question, ‘Has this car been used as an Uber car?’”

Across Canada, each province has a list of disclosures auto dealers have to give when selling a car.

So far, they don’t cover Uber.

Under Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Dealer’s Act (MVDA), dealers have to tell the buyer – in the contract – if the car was used as “a taxi, limousine, police or emergency vehicle” or as a daily rental.

“The Uber service is an example of the emerging sharing economy and is not specifically covered in the current motor vehicle sales regulatory framework,” said Harry Malhi, a ministry of government and consumer services spokesman, in an e-mail. “A dealer is also obligated to disclose any facts that could be expected to influence the decision of a reasonable buyer or lessee.”

No disclosure for private sales

But, those rules only apply to registered auto dealers and not to private sellers – so if you’re buying a car on Kijiji, the seller doesn’t have to tell you it was a taxi or a rental car.

“From a vehicle registration perspective, car owners do not have to disclose that their vehicle was used for carpooling, ride-sourcing, rental, taxi or police services at the time of sale,” said Ontario ministry of transportation (MTO) spokesman Bob Nichols in an e-mail.

In Ontario, sellers do have to give the buyer a Used Vehicle Information Package. But, while it gives the name of the car’s previous owners, “which may suggest how the vehicle was used previously,” it does not specifically show whether the vehicle was used for taxi, Uber, rental or police services, Nichols said.

The rules are similar across Canada – although, in Quebec, the vehicle record tells you if it was used as a taxi.

Do I need to know if my car was an Uber?

So why should it matter if my the previous owner of my car made a few extra bucks in it? Could a few spilled lattes – or far worse liquids – hurt the value?

“Right now, Uber is too recent for [us] to state that prior use as an Uber vehicle reduces the market value or condition of the vehicle – eventually that could be the case, as it does for taxis,” said George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association (APA), a subscription-based watchdog, in an e-mail. “So the consumer’s exposure to a claim in damages would be theoretical for now – I can foresee the day when dealers taking a vehicle in trade will request an Uber disclosure from the consumer, but it seems far away for now.”

We contacted Uber, but did not get a response. We asked Ontario’s consumer services ministry if there are plans to add Uber to the list of disclosures.

We “continually monitor the vehicle sales sector and assess emerging issues which will be considered the next time the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act and Regulations are revised,” Malhi said.

Barnard says the same problem applies to any vehicle used for a mix of commercial and personal use – including delivery, which Uber is now doing, too. For now, there’s no real way to prove that cars were moonlighting.

“How many drivers are going to admit they delivered pizza with the car they’re trading in?” he said. “No records are kept and there’s no realistic way to find out unless the owner acknowledges it.”

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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