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What Should I Research About Used Cars in Online Car Auctions?

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/22/2019 Posted: 06/15/2017

There are many benefits afforded by online car auctions that ordinary consumers can get behind. First of all, they provide perhaps the most convenient way of purchasing a used or salvage vehicle. One can shop at home without the need of traveling to a dealership or to an auction site. Further, these online car auctions provide consumers with an incredible degree of choice. There are thousands of used and salvage cars available, with inventories that are updated constantly.

But, the biggest benefit of all is the potential for savings. When you use online car auctions to buy used cars and salvage ones, you stand to save thousands of dollars. Of course, those savings can only be fully realized if you bid smartly and purchase the right vehicles. This can seem hard for the inexperienced buyer given that there is no possibility of conducting a visual and physical inspection.

However, this is not the drawback it might seem. Online car auction sites provide their users with VINs for the vehicles available. Because of this, it’s possible to request a history report through a third party. Using this report, you can conduct thorough research and gain incredible insight into the present state of any vehicle. But, what should you look for in these reports? Let’s take a look…

Collision and Accident History

Whether you’re buying used or salvage, the accident and collision history will be the first thing to turn your attention toward. Depending upon your capacity for making repairs to a vehicle, different levels of potential damage will be acceptable. However, always be wary of vehicles that have been damaged due to fire and flood. This kind of damage can often be deep-seated and incredibly expensive to repair.

Number of Previous Owners

Part of ascertaining the state of a vehicle depends upon determining how that vehicle has been maintained over its lifespan. One good indicator of this is generally the number of previous owners. You’ve heard the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth”, right? Well the same holds true for vehicles. The more hands a vehicle has passed through, the more likely it is that it has been mistreated over its lifespan.

Lapses in Registration / Repossessions

Related to the above, you will also want to look into lapses in registration and also any history of repossession. Simply put, if someone couldn’t afford (or be bothered) to keep up with registration requirements or making car payments, then how likely is it that they kept up with ongoing vehicle maintenance?

The Vehicle’s Location

Finally, pay some consideration to where the vehicle has lived over the course of its life. Some environments are harsher on vehicles than others. For example, if a vehicle has lived in a place where it snows most of the year, then you can bet some deep-seated problems have taken root as a result.

Do You Need an In-Person Inspection?

Examining the above in a vehicle history report should tell you much of what you’d want to know about any given vehicle. However, if you think that an in-person inspection may be necessary, then you have options. Simply contact the auction specialist assigned to you by the websites with which you’re working, and he or she should be able to make arrangements.