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How To Get a Great Deal at a Car Auction?

By Mike Richards Updated: 07/06/2022 Posted: 10/15/2015

Car auctions are becoming a big business. There are auctions held on a regular basis all across America. Other countries are also getting involved to the point that it appears a global phenomenon is being born. Auctions today can take place online or in person, and they can occur in small and big towns alike. People are interested in auctions for many reasons. But the great buys that can be had are primary among them.

Many people want to know how to get a great deal at a car auction. While there is no one set formula for success in regards to this, there are certainly some pieces of advice passed down from seasoned auction-goers that can serve to benefit you.


What Kind of Vehicles Are Found At Auction?

Any kind of car or truck can make its way to auction, and that includes vehicles that cannot even be driven in their present condition. There will be a little of something for everyone at a car auction, which is one of the reasons that they are gaining popularity so quickly. There is a good chance that any car or truck that has been traded in, leased for any length of time, repossessed for various reasons, or completely totaled will eventually make its way to auction.

These are types among the estimated 9 million cars and trucks purchased at a vehicle auction every year in the United States. This is a staggering number if you think about it, so it certainly pays to work hard to find a great deal. You might just find a car or truck that you can get at a fraction of the market value.


Make Sure That A Car Auction is for You

The process of getting a great deal at a car auction begins with an understanding that mishaps can happen just the same. Some people are carried away with the bidding process. This means that they end up paying more than the market value for an inferior vehicle. Others might end up buying a bad-quality car without realizing it. The first step towards eventual success involves making sure that you are actually ready to handle what happens at a car auction.

Many car auctions in the United States are open only to professional car dealers. Prospective auction goers should also be aware that in many auctions no guarantees are given to the cars that are sold. That the information available about the vehicles being auctioned might be limited.

However, there are ways to overcome these problems. In fact, if you really love cars and you enjoy repairing them when they break down, you may really enjoy the auction process. You might also just find a great buy on a car you have had your eye on for quite a while.


Get To Know the Sellers

If you have decided to enter into the world of car auctions, consider contacting the business office of the event that you hope to attend. When you get somebody from the office, inquire about the source of the vehicles that will be put up for auction. This is important, as some sources of consigned cars and trucks can result in great deals for auction-goers, while others should be avoided as a waste of time and money.

Let’s go over a brief summary description of the three most common sources of consigned vehicles at a car auction today.

  •  Banks and Other Types of Financial Institutions

The people and agencies selling these vehicles do not want to be in the car business at all. Usually, due to repossession, they need to sell a car and at least recoup some of their money. As such, they will typically accept the most reasonable offers for the cars, many of which are in great shape, in order to get rid of the vehicle. These cars and trucks will usually be offered first in a public auction, as they tend to be in the best shape, and are offered at reasonable prices right from the outset.

  • Dealers in New Vehicles

Depending on current inventory levels at a new car dealership, some dealers might opt to send some of their trade-ins to the auction. The quality of these vehicles is usually high because the dealership offered previous buyers money for them. Also, new car dealers will not sell a vehicle that they have not tested and inspected for themselves, so the quality of the car or truck is reasonably ensured.

However, new car dealers have a predetermined price that they want to get out of the vehicle, and that limits somewhat the possibilities of getting a great deal. At the same time, however, many dealers sell these trade-ins at auction because there are minor issues with the vehicles that they would rather not deal with themselves. The price in these situations will likely be quite good. If you are in the position to be able to fix such vehicles on your own, then this is certainly a possibility that you will want to consider.

  • Independent Car Dealers

It is this classification of seller that many experts advise auction-goers to avoid. These individuals make it their business to sell used cars. If they cannot find a retail customer to buy a particular car or truck, then some form of auction is usually their next stop. It is at these auctions that such car dealers often try to unload a car or truck that is either overvalued or in ill repair. It might be difficult to spot the issues with such a vehicle in an auction-type setting. If you opt to try such an auction anyway, do your homework ahead of time. Bid on items you are confident about.


Do Research Ahead of Time

Before attending an auction, you should conduct your research. You do not have the luxury at an auction of going home to think about a particular purchase. Decisions must be made quickly and on the spot.

Thankfully, research is now much easier with the internet. Two great sites to check are AutoCheck and Carfax. Both can provide you with the history of a vehicle. They tell you all you need to know about any car or truck of your choice.

Many of the public auctions in business today will also list their complete vehicle inventory on the internet. They will provide the vehicle identification numbers of all cars so that auction-goers can do their research. And determine which vehicles they want to pursue purchasing.

If you are going to attend many auctions, consider purchasing a subscription to one of these services. You will be able to pick the vehicles you want to buy.


Know The Rules

Most auctions have the same basic rules. Following these rules will put you in a better position to get a great deal in the end.

You will want to begin by registering once you arrive at the auction site. The staff at the auction will typically ask you for your driver’s license and a small cash deposit. The amount of the deposit can vary, but it is usually about $100. This is a good time for you to inquire about the buyer’s fees at the auction that you are attending. This is important because each auction will set its own rates.

Some auctions may charge high fees that might make you think twice about bidding. But they will not disclose these until you go to complete a transaction. Do not get caught in that trap. Instead, find out about the fees upfront. Finally, find out if you can drive the car around. Some public auctions might allow you to do this if you arrive a few hours early. Avoid bidding on a vehicle if you cannot drive it.


Find Out What You Can About the Previous Owner

Another way to get a good deal is to learn more about the vehicle you wish to purchase. To do this, you need to dig deeper than what you can find online via a records search. Go through the car and determine how the previous owner took care of the vehicle. By doing so, you can learn a great deal about who drove the car. And what potential problems you could face down the road.

Many experts recommend narrowing your list of prospective purchases at any given auction to no more than five. This will allow you to remain focused on your research. And give you the time to find out everything you can about each vehicle you’re interested in. You can then scratch off any vehicle that you no longer feel comfortable with. Develop a list of your top 3, and then bid to your heart’s content.

This should help ensure that you get a car or truck that you are happy with. And that you get a great deal to boot.


Online Auctions

However, not everyone will have the opportunity or even feel comfortable with attending an in-person auction. In that case, there is an easier and more convenient alternative: online car auctions.

In an online car auction website, search a huge variety of vehicles, and get information on the cars you want. You can then do the bidding from the comfort of your own home. Without all the stress and hassle that is part of an in-person auction.

Explore our Vehicle Auctions, as well as finding more information about How These Auctions Work.