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How to Successfully Buy Cars at an Online Auction?

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/22/2019 Posted: 10/16/2015

Buying a car at an auction can be a great way to save a lot of money. You can even find real rarities at an auction as well.

However, the auction process isn’t as simple as  walking into a store, choosing what you want, and then paying the purchase price. You’ll be going up against other bidders, and the adrenaline can quickly mount, leading to you overpaying for a car.

You have never been to an auction? You have never used an online wholesale auction? If that’s you, then this guide will help. We’ll discuss what you need to know to successfully buy cars at an online auction.

Why Online?

Why consider an online wholesale auction as opposed to a physical car auction?

When you attend an auction in person, you’re inundated with distractions – you’ve got other buyers jostling you, and their conversations distracting you. It’s even hard to get a good look at the cars in question. An in-person auction can also be very stressful.

With an online wholesale auction, you have no distractions and a much less stressful environment. You can easily see what each car has to offer, a list of specifications and condition, the starting/asking price, and each incremental bid. Then, you simply choose the car or cars you want to bid on and start the process.

You Don’t Have Access to the Best Options

The best car auctions aren’t open to the public. They’re only available to licensed dealers. That means that, no matter what you do as a private buyer, you’re not going to get the best deal unless you work with a dealer that provides online auction services.

With such a partner, you’ll have access to extremely low pricing that others don’t, allowing you access to a wide range of inventory including salvage cars, for less than you might imagine. Don’t go it alone. Work with a licensed dealer as your partner.

Know What You Want

Before you even open your Internet browser, you need to have a very good idea of what you want. Are you interested in a family car? Then sports cars shouldn’t even be on your radar. Do you need a work truck? Then you shouldn’t get distracted by that shiny muscle car or the pristine minivan. Interested in spending the least amount of money possible? Then consider salvage cars at auction, and ignore those classics and like-new cars with high starting prices.

Know what you want from the outset, and then find it. Bid on it.

Recognize a Car’s Strengths and Weaknesses

With any vehicle, there are tradeoffs you’ll have to make. For instance, that truck might be great for work or leisure, with plenty of hauling and towing capabilities, but does it have room for the family? How about the gas mileage? These are just basic examples.

Every car has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you need to understand what those are before you start bidding on them. For instance, if you decided that you wanted to consider buying a salvage car at an online auction, you’d need to consider several things, including the following:

  • Base price – Salvage cars are generally priced much lower than other vehicles, but that doesn’t mean they’re “dirt cheap”.
  • Amount of repairs – All salvage cars are going to need at least some repairs to get them roadworthy once more, and your job is to determine as best you can just how much that will amount to.
  • What you need it for – Many people will purchase a car at auction to be their daily drive, but you might have another purpose in mind, such as using it as a parts car. In this case, the price should match the intended purpose.

Know What It’s Worth

The true benefit of an online car auction, particularly a salvage car auction, is being able to see what a vehicle is actually worth.

For a salvage car, you need to be able to mentally strip away whatever damage has been caused and see to the truth beneath. Sure, the hood might be crumpled, and the front bumper cover torn away, but those are easy fixes. How is the engine? What about the CV axles? Is the frame good and straight?

These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself when buying cars at an online auction. Know what the car is worth, not just on the market, but to you personally.

Know When to Stop Bidding

It’s very important that you know when to stop bidding. Have a price in mind, and stick to it, no matter how much you want the vehicle, and no matter how stiff the competition is. Don’t let yourself get embroiled in a bidding war – it’s actually all too easy to do just that. Stay cool, calm and collected, and view the vehicles on offer with a critical eye.

Bid strategically, and always stick to your budget, unless there’s an amazing deal that simply cannot be passed up for any price (and these are rarer than you’d think). Above all, be prepared to walk away from any vehicle if the bidding gets too high for you.

These tips will help ensure that you’re able to find buy cars at an online auction easily and with a minimum of hassle. Remember that the best deals aren’t available to the public, so work with a licensed dealer as a partner. And always consider salvage cars, particularly if you don’t mind investing a little time and money to get a great vehicle for less.

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