Public Auto Auctions In Alberta & BC – Everything You Need To Know

Public Auto Auctions In Alberta & BC – Everything You Need To Know

Nearly 5 million vehicles are sold each year in Canada, but only 40% of them are brand new. That adds up to around 3 million used cars on sale each year, worth upwards of 11 billion dollars in 2018 alone.

Though dealers and private sales remain the dominant options when it comes to used vehicles, another mode is fast gaining in popularity. Public car auctions in Alberta & British Columbia are gaining traction as viable alternatives for good quality vehicles at cheap prices.

If you are on the lookout for an affordable used car in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver or any other major city in these two provinces, here is a quick guide on everything important about public car auctions:

What are auto auction houses and where can I find them?

An auto auction house is an establishment where they hold live bidding auctions for used and salvaged cars, trucks, ATVs, and other vehicles. Some, like Impact Auto Auctions, also offer online auction services.

In Canada, you can find auction houses at most major urban centers. If you don’t know any auction house close to you, use your PC or cellphone. Google is your best friend.

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Where do the vehicles at an auction come from?

Auto auction houses in Alberta & BC get their wares from multiple sources:

  • Individual private sellers
  • Companies who often have multiple vehicles to offload (like rental car agencies)
  • Repossessed vehicles
  • Government departments & agencies (usually on the first Saturday of each month)

So if you have an old vehicle you want to sell, you can approach an auction house as well!

Who buys at a public auto auction?

It takes all sorts of bidders to make up an auto auction in these parts. A majority of the auto auctions are closed to the public and are attended exclusively by used car dealerships.

But a growing number of auctions are starting to cater to the public as well. At these events, you will find buyers with different motivations and backgrounds:

  • Ordinary folk looking for a cheap deal on a daily driver
  • Collectors looking for rare vehicles/parts
  • Gearheads and mechanics looking for vehicles to flip at a profit
 Many cars sold at public auto auctions end up at garages where they are spruced up by mechanics and sold for a profit.

How to sell a car at an auto auction?

Each auction house has its own policy towards sourcing vehicles from private individuals. But the process is simple and straightforward for the most part.

Here are the quick steps involved:

  • Contact the auction house and tell them you are a public customer looking to sell your vehicle through their auto auction system
  • Get a rough estimate on the market value of your car by providing details like year, make, model, condition, accident history, other features
  • If you like their valuation, bring the vehicle to the auction lot a couple of days before an auction along with all paperwork for inspection
  • Watch the auction to see the magic happen (or not, depending on your vehicle condition)

TIP: get your vehicle professionally cleaned up and maintained to improve your chances of getting maximum value

How do I buy a vehicle at a public auto auction?

You have to start making preparations for your purchase several days in advance before an auction. First, you have to identify the vehicle/s you like or want to bid on.

Most auction houses set aside days when prospective bidders can visit the lot and examine the cars up close.

These days, most auction houses post inventory list of upcoming auctions online at least two-three days in advance. If you see any models that you like, head down to the lot to check them out first hand.

TIP: Take someone who knows a bit about cars, if you are challenged in that department.

Some auction houses even allow you to take the vehicles on a test drive (if they are in running condition, of course!) Make full use of this option whenever available.

Check out the approximate value of the vehicles you have zeroed in on. You can easily find this one out online, at sites like VMRCanada, Canadian Blackbook, or Canadian Redbook.

What is the actual bidding process at an auto auction like?

When it comes to the actual bidding process, public car auctions in Alberta & BC are no different from other commodity auction. Here is the basic process involved:

  • Get a bidding ticket at the auction house using IDs like your driving license
  • Wait for the auctioneer to get the bid started
  • When you want to submit a bid, raise your bid ticket.
  • Once the reserve price of a car is met (or exceeded) by the top bid, the deal is closed
  • Get your vehicle inspected for a Buyer’s protection plan at the auction lot (if available)

Once you make a successful bid, you are expected to put a deposit on the sale date itself. The rest of the cash has to be paid up in the next 24 hours, after which you can take full possession of your vehicle.

TIP: always set a base price in your mind before the auction, and stick to it religiously during the entire bidding process.


Auto auctions can be somewhat overwhelming if you are a beginner. But don’t let that get you down as first impressions can be very deceptive.

The whole process is very beginner friendly and you can get the hang of the entire process simply by attending an auction or two in your spare time.

With some research and cautious planning, you could save thousands of dollars at these public auto auctions in Alberta & BC.

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