A car auction can be a great way to find a good, cheap car. Conversely, buying at an auction increases your chances of getting a lemon. So, how do you avoid getting taken? And if you do get taken, can you get your money back?
First, let’s talk about some of the things you need to know about bidding on a car at auction. Then we’ll tell you what you can do if it doesn’t work out the way it should.
Car Auctions for Ordinary People
If you’re looking for a good, solid car that will get you where you need to go, you can get a good deal at an auction, whether in-person or online. But you need to know what you’re doing.
These 5 tips will guide you through car auctions, both “real life” and online.
- Look at What You’re Buying. Most cars sell on nothing more than a visual inspection. You’re not a mechanic and you’re probably not going to be crawling around in the dirt under the car. So look for things like rough sheet metal, uneven positions, fluid puddles under the car, and obvious re-painting.
- Don’t Delude Yourself. If you see a problem, don’t ignore it. If the brakes are soft, for instance, don’t tell yourself that it’s an easy fix. Look for other problems. Don’t tell yourself that a cracked frame won’t ultimately break. Don’t think that a rattle in the transmission is going to work itself out – it won’t. Be realistic about potential repairs.
- Check the VIN. You’ll find the VIN on the windshield and inside the engine compartment. You may also find it on the door or trunk lid. If the numbers don’t match up, the car could be a rebuilt vehicle that was in an accident. If you’re not looking to buy a salvage car, look elsewhere.
- Check the Lubricants. Pull the dipstick for the oil and transmission fluid. Fluids should be clean and clear. If they’re not, walk away. Best case scenario is that the car hasn’t been properly maintained. Worst case scenario is that you could be in for major repairs.
- Know the Meaning of “As Is”. This is what we’re talking about when we get to the point of telling you whether or not you can get your money back if you buy a car at auction and find out that you’ve made a mistake. “As is” means just that. No warranties, no guarantees, and no legal recourse if you get it wrong. If you suspect trouble, don’t bid.
The Final Word
So, can you ever get your money back? If the seller has grossly misrepresented the vehicle, maybe. An auction company, be it online or in “real life” doesn’t want bad press. So if there’s been a huge misrepresentation, you probably will get your money back. In short, the seller lied.
On the other hand, if the seller said the car was in working order and you try to get out of the deal because the clutch is slipping, you won’t. “As is” means just that, and it’s up to you to determine if you’re satisfied with the condition of the vehicle. You can’t come back later and complain.
Most auctions go off without any trouble. But if the vehicle has really been misrepresented, you have the right to walk away.