Auto Know - Buyers Can Save Big at Car Auctions
Aug 26th '14

As published in the Toronto Star Saturday August 23 2014

There’s a huge car auction site along Highway 400 near Barrie. I wonder if they offer good deals, but my wife fears I’ll buy a lemon and should stick to a new car. What’s your opinion?

Eric Lai

North Toronto Auctions in Innisfil offers over 700 vehicles for public auction every two weeks. These come mainly from individuals, dealer trade-ins, government, municipal and company fleets. Listings with VIN and photos, including close-ups of defects, are posted online along with collision history, if any; known deficiencies, such as engine light on; and will note if safety or e-test is available. Vehicles may be examined before sale, but not test driven. Buyers pay a10 per cent premium on their winning bid, but government and municipal vehicles are exempted. As per OMVIC regulations, listings state: “Unit sold as is and is not represented as being in roadworthy condition, mechanically sound, or maintained at any guaranteed level of quality. The unit may not be fit for use as a means of transportation and may require substantial repairs at your expense. It may not be possible to register the unit to be driven at its current condition.” You assume these risks buying any vehicle “as is.” However, the auction house, being a dealer, guarantees it’s lien-free. Buyers can save big, but if you’re not confident checking vehicles, don’t want to bring a mechanic and, ultimately, don’t want to take a chance, then perhaps auctions aren’t for you. (New car buyers aren’t the target market for auctions anyhow.) As for selling prices, in August, a repossessed 2014 Caravan with 23,000 kilometres sold for $14,700; a 2013 Jetta with 46,000 kilometres sold for $12,500; and a 2009 Escape with 128,000 kilometres went for $7,000. At the low-end of the price scale, some 2000-2005 sedans, minivans and an SUV, with 142,000-293,000 kilometres and in running condition, sold for just $400-700 each. (Vehicle scrap value alone is $350.)

Police cars tend to go cheap. Unmarked offerings included a 2013 Taurus with 132,000 km that sold for $8,400, a 2009 Focus with 190,000 kilometres for $2,800, and a 2004 Buick Century with 150,000 kilometres for $700.

All used vehicles may — but won’t necessarily — require repairs for certification. Factor this in when making your bid. In the worst case scenario, should you buy an unsuitable vehicle, you can have the auction resell it to cut your losses. Who knows? You might even make some money. Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.