Tips and Tricks for Buying a Used Car at Auction

By Mike Richards Posted: 12/20/2017

Have you ever considered buying a used car at an auto auction? While you may think of a luxury auction with Ferraris, Shelby Cobras, and more – the most typical car auction is entirely different. We’ll go over the things you need to know if you want to jump into this unique environment.

Types of Auctions

There are two major types of car auctions, government and public. A government auction might have dozens of police cruisers, for example, that a county wants to get rid of at any cost. With this type of auction, you’ll get a known history including maintenance records, repair records, and honest mileage. However, you don’t get to drive a car before you bid on it, so you need to have a knowledge of what you’re looking for.

Public auctions, on the other hand, can go either way. Sometimes they may have cars with their mileage tampered with. Others might be rough repossessions of trade-ins. You won’t be able to drive a car at a public auction before buying either, so that comment about knowledge applies here, perhaps even more.

Below we’ll look at some tips for getting a used car at auction without falling prey to any scams. This won’t ensure you get the vehicle you want, but it will help you be aware of the process and what to watch for.

Bidding Wars

It can be pretty easy to get caught up in bidding and wanting to win a car at all costs. Don’t do this. You may end up spending hundreds of dollars that you don’t want to part with and on a car that may not even be worth it. Be prepared to step down if things get crazy. There are always other cars. Putting all your hope into one is a sure-fire way to make a bad decision.

Watch Other Bidders

Watch what other people are doing. Notice if someone is bidding on everything, because they might be trying to get the prices higher. It’s best to go to a few auctions and become acclimated to how they work before bidding yourself. Learn who the everyday people are and how they operate, so you’re able to be strategic yourself.

Realize As-Is Means What it Says

All vehicles at an auction are sold in as-is condition. You won’t have a warranty. You won’t have any guarantees. You won’t be able to hit up a lawyer if things don’t go your way. If all of that makes you anxious, and it probably should, it may not be the right place for you to buy your used car.

Educate Yourself

Check out some of the online resources for cars like Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book to get an idea of what used cars are worth. However, also research classified ads in your area to see the difference between those average prices and the prices near you. Don’t assume you’ll know a good car when you see it, learn about the cars you are interested in so you don’t make a mistake.

Check the VIN

If there’s a car you find yourself drawn to, write down the VIN number from the windshield. Then check other places where the VIN typically appears, like trunk lids and door. If you find a discrepancy between the figures, step back from the car. It might have been rebuilt after a major accident. Find something that is more legitimate.

Watch and Learn

You’re going to be buying a car from an auction based on nothing but avisual inspection. That’s why it’s so crucial to inspect every inch of that vehicle. Look for puddles under the car, paint overspray, sheet metal that isn’t smooth, scored brake disks, and every other thing you possibly can. Avoid anything that smells musty or has wet carpeting. Use your senses to ensure you do your due diligence, as much as possible.

Following these tips will give you a better chance at scoring a deal at an automobile auction, whether public or government. It all boils down to having theknowledge and doing what you can to ensure the car you bid on is worth the money. Good luck out there!