Car Auction Tips and Tricks

Car auction tips for the novice.

If you are searching for a car, you know that the current climate is not favorable for buyers. Indeed, a combination of a global pandemic, semiconductor chip shortage, and increased demand means that the market is tight and prices are high.

Besides the traditional route of purchasing a vehicle through a car dealership or private party, consumers may find relief by visiting a car auction. However, not all auctions are open to the general public, with some reserved exclusively for dealers.

Public auctions are just that – they are open to everyone. For this story, we’ll examine public auctions that allow shoppers to survey vehicles before making a bid. After all, you do not want to buy a vehicle sight unseen, unless you have the skills and funds to make the repairs.


Mecum Auction
Expensive cars at a Mecum Auction

Car Auction Tips, Step by Step

The following steps should be taken when considering an auctioned car.

Step No. 1: Do Your Research

Public auctions may be held anytime and nearly anywhere. Public notices in newspapers and on online sites will alert you to what is scheduled. You can also find auctions through an online auction search site or through a search engine. Type in “auctions near me” to narrow your search.

Take note of where the upcoming auction is located and whether it is reasonable for you to attend one in another area. Certainly, casting a wide net will give you more choices. But you should also keep in mind the cost of shipping a car to your destination if you are not able to drive it.

Step No. 2: Weigh Your Options

Understanding the type of vehicle you want will help you pinpoint possible bids. Keep in mind that if you have a specific model in mind, such as a Ford Mustang, it may be difficult to find one. On the other hand, if you are flexible, then a Dodge Challenger or Chevrolet Camaro might do.

Also, consider other options such as a sedan or crossover. You may find the choices at nearby auctions quite thin, which means either looking elsewhere or adjusting your options. For instance, that compact pickup truck may be a solid option to a small SUV.

Step No. 3: Understand the Auction Rules

Auction houses have varying rules. At public auctions, you typically will be given time to review a vehicle before placing your bid.

In many cases, you will be required to register in advance of attending the auction. This means you will also be required to submit documentation, such as a driver’s license or another form of I.D. Finally, some auctions are cash only. This means you will need to have cash on hand. Other auctions accept money orders. Some accept credit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa.

Step No. 4: Determine Your Budget

How much can you afford? Determine a budget and stick with it. Paying more than what you can afford can have long-term consequences.

Further, you should know that you need to consider the buyer’s premium. This represents an added cost collected by the auction house. It may be a flat fee or a percentage of the sale price. Finally, do not forget tags, taxes, and license fees. Most likely, you will pay the latter three directly to the government. In any case, it is an added cost not to ignore when budgeting.

Step No. 5: Do Not Go Alone

You could visit an auction by yourself, but why would you? In fact, if you are inexperienced, a second set of eyes can come in handy.

Firstly, that individual can hold you to your budget, especially if you are tempted to bid beyond what you can afford. Secondly, when inspecting a vehicle, the other person may pick up on things that you might miss or downplay.

Step No. 6: Arrive With Time to Spare

Arrive at the auction site as early as allowed. This means the doors may open a few hours before bidding commences. Use this time to research the vehicle(s) you are interested in directly.

Perform a walkaround, pop the hood, lift the trunk or liftgate, and explore underneath. Inside, check the cabin carefully for signs of water damage. If the keys are available, start the car and listen to the engine. Move the transmission in and out of gear. Adjust all the interior controls, including the power windows and door locks, seats, air conditioning, audio, navigation, and infotainment system.

Many vehicles auctioned are sold “as is.” This means you will get what you pay for, specifically whatever problems you detect will be fixed by you if you secure the winning bid.

Auction Considerations

Keep in mind that auction cars are sold “as is.” This means you cannot negotiate repairs. Instead, you need to consider them as part of your budget.

All in all, the auctions supply shoppers with another way to purchase a car. With all these considerations in mind, you may find a diamond in the rough. But just as easily, your so-called “deal” may not offer the return that you want.


Photo Attribution


Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

Image by mark_az from Pixabay


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