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Should I Buy a Salvage Car Online or In Person? 

By Mike Richards Updated: 09/01/2017 Posted: 10/24/2015

Salvage cars, or vehicles that have been “totaled” in an accident and written off by an insurance company, represent some serious opportunities for a skilled mechanic or a used car dealership with the expertise to restore them. Reconstructing salvage vehicles to get them legally drivable (and saleable) once more can be a solid source of revenue if done correctly.

The majority of these salvage cars are purchased at used car auctions. These auctions can be attended either in person at a physical venue or over the auction’s website. But which option is best? Here are some facts to help you decide which you prefer: in-person or online.

Buying In Person

Purchasing salvage cars by attending a used car auction in person has several advantages. Attending an auction in person will give you an opportunity to inspect the cars going up on the auction block, letting you look for clues as to whether the car will be easy to restore or not.

While you won’t have the opportunity to do detailed inspections of every vehicle on the lot you might be interested in, you can get a feel for each one you see. Likewise, if you won’t be restoring the car yourself but through a mechanic in your employ, you can bring the mechanic along with you to check the vehicle for telltale signs of what could be an expensive restoration.

However, an in-person auction can be very confusing and overwhelming. The atmosphere is very intense, as these events tend to be very noisy, crowded, and also very competitive. The stress can cloud your judgment, and you might bid on a vehicle that you wouldn’t if you had been thinking clearly. This problem lessens with time if you frequent car auctions in person, but the learning curve is rather steep.

Buying Online

Buying online has some great advantages. If you’re too far physically from any in-person auctions, or you simply can’t get away from work or home long enough to make a trip there and back, using the Internet to browse the inventory of salvage vehicles for online used car auctions is a time-saving alternative.

It also happens to be about as stress-free as you can possibly get, and the bidding process is likewise relatively calm and quiet in comparison to a crowded physical venue. Online bidding may get heated at times, but you’ve got the opportunity to step back from your computer, breathe for a moment in order to gather your thoughts, and make much calmer and more rational decisions.

It’s true that salvage cars don’t cost much to buy at auction, but since you’ve also got plans to pay for all the parts required to reconstruct the vehicle before it can be declared roadworthy again, spending too much on a car that’s going to cost even more to repair is usually a bad idea – and online bidding can help to reduce the chances of such a thing happening.

Of course there is a major trade-off. You won’t be able to get more than a brief glimpse of a salvage car from an online auction site, and that’s only if the site has a picture of the vehicle you’re looking for.

Online car auctions often list the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) of their cars, which makes it easy to run a vehicle history report on the car in question if you want some more detailed information on the car you’re thinking of bidding on, but these reports won’t reveal everything you might need to know about the car. Likewise, vehicle history reports can be pricey, as many companies that provide these services can cost as much as $40 each.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks, so you’ll need to think about which one is right for you at this point in time.

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