car auctioneer
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A Day in the Life of a Car Auctioneer 

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/22/2019 Posted: 10/23/2015

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a car auctioneer, working in the fast-paced world of vehicle auctions? Well, it’s like the John Denver song – some days are diamonds; some days are stones.

Typically, an auctioneer will be up at the crack of dawn, heading to what may be only one of several auctions throughout the day.

If the auctioneer is smart, he’s a non-drinker and a non-smoker, because he doesn’t want to damage his voice. He’s going to be chanting rapid-fire all day, and anything that can harm his vocal cords can put him out of commission. He’ll probably pocket a few lozenges to forestall coughing fits in the dry air of the auction venue.

The Beginning

When the auctioneer gets to the venue, the fun starts. He’s going to be approached by all manner of people wanting to know if they can test drive a car before they bid. Usually, you can’t do that, because car auctions are “as is”.

People don’t usually understand the scale of the car auction business. More than nine million cars are sold at auction in any given year. You can get a great deal at auction, or you can end up with a car that isn’t much more than a boat anchor. Auctioneers see all manner of success and disappointment in any given day.

Auctioneers know that buyers enter the auction at their own risk, and what buyers don’t realize is that the auctioneer only knows as much as the seller is telling. Still, they’re approached by buyers asking “Is this a good deal?”

Sometimes buyers become disgruntled when the auctioneer isn’t forthcoming with an answer, but the reality is, the auctioneer doesn’t have the answer. He’s not trying to be perverse or withhold information, he just can’t tell you what you want to know.

So ask yourself a couple of key questions first: “How much do I really know about cars?” An even better question: “How much do I know about what can be done to a car to hide an expensive repair issue?”

And On It Goes…

So, having been asked questions that he can’t answer, the auctioneer observes the buyers. He knows that people are buying with their eyes, not their brains. He sees people turning away from perfectly good vehicles that may have just sustained a bit of body damage and looking at cars that appear to be in perfect condition, but may have been in a flood that has wrecked all the electrical components and may never be repairable.

The auctioneer watches people register and pay their deposits. Most potential buyers are car dealers, looking to buy a car at wholesale and turn it around for a profit.

If the auction is open to the public, there could be people looking for a great deal on a repo car, or there could be hobbyists looking for a salvage vehicle to restore.

If the auction is dealer only, the auctioneer knows that not everyone who’s there is actually a dealer. There could be people who tagged along with dealer friends who will bid on their behalf, or people who are using a proxy buyer – a company that has a dealer license and bids on behalf of ordinary citizens for a fee.

Time to Prepare

The auctioneer has done his walk-around, and he’s ready to get started. He advances to the podium and checks out the lights. There are typically four lights on the auction block – red, green, yellow and blue.

A red light means that the car is being sold “as is”. If you win a “red light” car, it’s all yours, along with any problems that might come along with it.

A green light means that you can actually check out the vehicle for a few hours and make sure that it’s to your liking. If it is, you pay and drive it away. Keep in mind, though, that a green light will only protect you if there is something seriously wrong with the car, like a blown motor or a bad transmission. If the air conditioning doesn’t work or you can’t change stations on the radio, you’re out of luck – you’re still bound by your bid.

A blue light means that the car is at auction without a title. Your check won’t be processed until the title arrives. If the title does not arrive within 30 days, you can return the vehicle and get a refund.

It’s Showtime!

The auctioneer has done his walk around, he’s got his throat lozenges, and the lights are in working order. Now it’s time to begin – he steps up to the podium and the chant begins – “Up for bid, nice 2012 Mustang Cobra, starting at five thousand, who’ll gimme fi thou, fi thousand, just fi thousand, okay, forty fi hunnerd, who’ll gimme forty fi, forty fi, just forty fi, this one’s gonna go fast ladies and gennlemen…”

Get ready for the excitement, and prepare to bid on the car of your dreams.

Explore our Vehicle Auctions, as well as finding more information about How These Auctions Work and Buying With Us.