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How Can I Buy Car Without a Dealer License at a Dealer Car Auction?

By Mike Richards Updated: 03/08/2020 Posted: 03/23/2017

Online dealer car auction sites are a great way to score great deals on used cars. From SUVs, vans, campers, motorcycles, and RVs, you can find salvage cars, flood cars, and used cars that are in near-perfect condition. In most cases, you’ll need to partner with a dealer. A dealer car auction in the United States is generally open only to dealers with auction license, which means you’ll need to ask a dealer to go auto auction and bid on your behalf. Also, you can look for information on how to get a car dealer license without a lot.

Not all buyers want to do this. Finding and working with a dealer can be a hassle. Most dealers will expect to be paid for their trouble. This undercuts the value of the car, since paying a dealer will cost more, driving up your price and driving down any potential resale value. You don’t always have to work with a dealer when you buy a car online. How to buy a car from a dealer everybody knows but can you buy a car without a license?

Buy A Car Without A Dealer License At A Dealer Car Auction, Here’s What You Need To Know

1. Accessing Individual Auctions

Some auctions open their wares up to members of the general public on a limited basis. Try contacting the sellers or organization that runs the auction, and ask about an auction. Occasionally, you can pay for a one-time use license to access the auction. You may also be able to pay extra to access the auction even without a dealer’s license.

2. Getting Help From a Friend

If you have a friend who’s going to be going to an auction anyway, then asking them to attend on your behalf is a great alternative. It costs your friend no additional effort, which means you can still save money.

Of course, few people have friends in the car industry. Moreover, even those who do might not know people who routinely go to auctions. That’s why it’s wise to get involved in the dealer community if you hope to become a dealer yourself, buy vehicles at auctions, or just learn more about the industry. Start going to meetups and auctions that are open to the public. Participate in online discussion forums. By becoming involved, you ensure you have access when you need it.

3. Getting a Dealer’s License

There’s no rule or requirement that you have to sell a certain number of cars, or even be an actual dealer, to seek a dealer’s license. The process of applying for a dealer’s license can be fairly onerous in some states. If you take this route, plan ahead so that you don’t get bogged down in paperwork. Once you have your license, you can access the enticing offerings of dealer car auctions around the country.

So is a dealer license worth it? If there’s a car you’re itching to buy, it’s worthwhile even if you never again plan to set foot in a dealer car auction. Otherwise, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I hope to get more involved in the car community? If so, a dealer license can help.
  • Is it possible I might turn this into a side business? A dealer license makes it legal and gives you the incentive you need to give it a try.
  • How many cars do I plan to buy and sell? If the answer is more than one, it’s almost always worth it to go ahead and get the dealer license.
  • Does the cost of the license wipe out any potential savings at an auction? If it will cost you more to get a license than it will save you to buy a car at an auction, consider going a more traditional route for buying a car.
  • Have I educated myself about the process of buying an auction vehicle? Don’t waste time seeking a dealer license until you know what you’re doing.

4. Going Online

How to buy a car online? Before you invest time and energy in planning for a dealer auction, consider whether going online might be a better option. Many online auctions are open to the general public, but offer discounts similar to what you might expect at a dealer car auction. Poke around at these auctions to see if you can find a tempting deal. If so, it’s worth a bid. After all, a dealer license takes time, finding a broker takes more time. Putting your fate in someone else’s hands at an auction you don’t attend is always a risky proposition. To find an auction near you check out this guide.

5. Working With a Broker

A broker works on your behalf at a dealer. Their role is almost identical to that of a dealer at an auction, with one exception: a dealer is doing you a favor, but a broker specializes in representing clients at dealer car auctions. That means he or she may offer more competitive rates and will be better equipped to get you a good deal. Broker definitely knows how to buy a car online.  Moreover, your broker can work with you to set an ideal bidding range. They can also assess whether a car is a good deal, a sound investment, or just a money pit.

Further Reading

Benefits of Working With a Dealer

Before you write off working with a dealer in favor of choosing a broker, pursuing a dealer license, or going online, think twice. Ask yourself why you want to avoid working with a dealer. A dealer can be a great ally, particularly when there aren’t other good options local to you. Dealers know the industry, regularly attend auctions, and know what to expect. So while you certainly do not have to work with a dealer to get that shiny used car you have been eyeing, a dealer might be your best ally—even if you are initially reluctant to partner with one.

See our Car Auctions and Education Centre.