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Looking to save big on a used car? Try a car auction – but buyer beware

Published December 18, 2012
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Do car auctions offer great savings?

I attended the M.R. Jutzi (pronounced “Yutt-zee”) vehicle auction in Breslau, Ont., to find out. It’s open to the public, though many dealers also come to buy.

“We have about 80 vehicles available each month,” advises auctioneer Calvin Jutzi. In addition to passenger cars and trucks, you may also find police, fire, ambulance, hydro, municipal and fleet/leasing company vehicles up for bid.

On my visit, some standouts included a 2006 Honda Civic with 64,000 kms on the odometer, a 2009 Dodge Caliber with only 26,000, and an array of 2006-2011 Ford Crown Victoria (100-186K) and 2005-2008 Chev Impala (65-187K) police cruisers.

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The auction starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Doors open an hour beforehand for viewing vehicles, or come on the preceding Friday afternoon.

Vehicles are also posted at www.mrjutzi.ca so you can research prices and set your personal limit.

There’s no admission fee. Just present your driver’s licence to get a bidder number and a run list of cars available that day.

The run list cites any CarProof damage information or known problems (e.g. check engine, tranny). “Police vehicle” means it came straight from the police department, but a “former police vehicle” has been sold before.

You can look over vehicles inside and out, but can’t test drive them. When up for bid, vehicles are driven into the indoor auction lane so you can hear them starting and running.

And don’t worry, the auctioneer won’t jibber-jabber. “We speak clearly so everyone understands,” laughs Jutzi.

The winning bidder pays a $500 deposit and has until Monday afternoon to complete the transaction.

“Unlike most public auctions, which add a 10-18 per cent fee on top of your bid, we don’t charge a buyer premium, notes Jutzi. “Also, we’re a registered dealer with OMVIC and collect the sales tax based on your actual bid price. The MTO can’t again tax you at ‘book’ value – which is typically much higher – when registering.”

Be sure to examine vehicles carefully, or bring your mechanic, as there’s no warranty and repairs may be needed. Unless the run list says a safety inspection is included, you’ll likely need to tow it to a garage for a safety before you can get plates.

Is buying at auction worth it? You decide.

The 2009 Caliber sold for $7,100, but has a vmrcanada.com wholesale value of $10,675. The high-demand 2006 Civic incited a bidding frenzy and went for $9,000 (vmr value: $9,250).

The best bargains, though, were older or less sought-after models, and police vehicles. For example, a white 2009 Crown Vic cruiser with 151,000 km (vmr value: $7,050), sold for $2,600. A nicer, unmarked blue 2007 model with just 126K (vmr value: $6,175) also sold for $2,600 – to me.

I needed a “winter beater” and police vehicles are typically well maintained. Mine required nothing for safety certification and I consider it a deal. If not for another stubborn bidder, I might have even gotten it for less.

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