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Your Guide to Buy Used Cars on an Online Auto Auction Site

By Auto Auction Mall Team Updated: 02/23/2021 Posted: 12/05/2018

Congratulations on your decision to purchase a used car. Not only is this a time for excitement, but it is a time to explore what options are available to you. Often, consumers find themselves consumed in the world of used cars as they hunt and find the treasures buried within the cars such as the features, cabin design, and exterior color. While there is a lot of excitement that takes place, to buy used cars can be a daunting task too. Think about it for a moment. You must drive to each dealer lot. Additionally, you must get out to walk around, negotiate, dodge the salesman, and more. But what if we told you that you could AVOID all of this? It is true, you can!

An online auto auction site is a great opportunity for you to shop from the comfort of your home while looking at used, like new, and salvage, cars, trucks, and SUVs. You can even shop in your pajamas!

If you have never heard of an online auto auction site, you are in the right place. This type of auction is one that takes place only online and it allows you to purchase any vehicle you want without having to physically go to the location to see the car.

Two Types of Online Auto Auctions

There are two main types of online auto auctions that take place and they include:

  • Auctions open to the public
  • Auctions open to dealers only

Unless you have a dealer’s license, you will want to choose an online auto auction site that is open to the public.

No matter which type of auction you find yourself at, you will notice that there are many different used cars, trucks, and SUVs available. The type of vehicle, its make, and its condition will vary greatly depending on the auction and the inventory available. In general, you can expect to see all types of vehicles there from like new options to used cars and salvage titles.

An auction open to the public is self-explanatory and you do not need anything special to purchase a car. Now, on the other hand, an online auction that is only open to dealers is a bit different.

A dealer auction is closed off to the public and unless you have the appropriate license. It is possible for you to be involved in an online dealer auction even if you do NOT have the appropriate license to do so – just pair up with someone who does have one.

How to Get into a Used Car from an Online Auto Auction

If you are in the market for a used car, now is the time to take advantage of what is out there. There are three main ways that you can obtain a car to drive around town. The most obvious option is to go down to the local dealer, check out the inventory, and make a purchase. While this is an available option, it is not the most convenient option.

The second way is to seek out the used car you are interested in and find a private-party person who is selling theirs. While this may be a bit more convenient than going to a dealer, it runs a higher risk that you will receive a car that has been damaged in the past or may not be in the best condition.

Lastly, you can purchase your used car from an online auto auction. The first two options both require that you meet up with someone to discuss the car and complete the transaction. These cars usually already have a set sticker price and the price you see is the price you pay – in most cases.


Used car auctions that take place online are convenient and an easy way for you to be behind the wheel of a car that you want. You do not have to worry about pushy salesmen and you do not have to try to haggle the price either. Since you are bidding on the car, you would just bid up to the amount you are comfortable paying for the car. If the car goes higher than that amount, just stop bidding and turn your attention to another car.

So, how to you make sure you can participate in an online car auction? You simply sign up to bid on the website that you want to purchase the car from. The bidding on vehicles will commence at the set time and end at the designated time.

Want to Learn More?

Are you thinking about trying out an online auto auction? Let’s delve more into what you can expect, some of the available sites to use, and how you can get your purchased used car home.

Why Buy a Used Car at a Public Online Auto Auction Site?

You may be wondering right now why you would want to purchase a used car from a public online auto auction site. The answer is quite simple, really. An online auction site is one of the best ways to get yourself into a used, like new, or salvage vehicle. These websites help open the availability of different types of cars to you and they allow you to explore more than what is available in your local area. Below, we will talk about the three main reasons why you would want to buy a used car on an online auto bidding site.

Reasons to Buy a Used Car on an Online Auction

First and foremost, you will find that it is convenient. Time equals money, and this means that the more time you spend trying to find yourself a car in person, the more money you lose as you do so. When you use an online auto auction site to find your used car, you will be able to browse thousands of cars from all over and you can do it from the comfort of your own home and in your pajamas, if you wanted to.

Secondly, all cars on these online bidding sites are extremely cheap. Car auctions are one of the best ways for you to get into a car affordably. You will save hundreds and thousands of dollars on the car you choose. While you may be thinking cheap means not operable, it is the opposite. Many of the cars are in perfect condition or only need a small repair. One thing you may not know that is important is that many dealers and local used car lots purchase their inventory from online auto dealers and then resell them to you at a markup.

Lastly, you have a larger selection of choices available to you. When you visit a local dealer, you are limited when it comes to color, features, and the make or model of vehicle you want. Online auto auctions remove this limitation and open an entire world of vehicles where you can choose the perfect color, features, make, and model.

Types of Cars Available at Internet Auto Auctions

buying used cars online

Before you place a bid on ANY car that you see, it is important to better understand the types of cars offered at these Internet auto auctions, so that you can choose the right one for your needs.

Like-New Cars

When you think of a used car, you likely think of one that is older and has seen its days. Fortunately, used cars in today’s world are much newer than you used to be which means it would not be unheard of to see a like-new car on an online auto auction site.

The reason like-new cars are available is because as the end of the fiscal year approaches, dealerships must clear out their inventory and if a 2018 car is not sold before the 2019 models come out, then the 2018 model is considered used or no longer new.

Of course, you do not want to count on all the cars on the online auto auction site to be like new because they won’t be. But, on the rare occasion that it is, you may want to take advantage.

Used Cars

Most of the cars that you will find on an online auto auction site are used. In fact, it is what makes up most of the inventory available. When looking at a used car, you need to understand that it means there has been at least one previous owner.

If you are searching for a used car, then you will find something that meets your needs. You can expect to see multiple makes, models, colors, and features packed inside the cars.

Salvage Titled Cars and Wrecked Cars

While you will find that used cars and like-new cars are available, online auto auction sites are unique because they offer an array of different types of cars. When you shop and browse for a used car, you may come across some cars that say they have a salvage title, or they have been wrecked.

You likely are thinking that these cars are an instant no as they will only bring trouble to you. The truth is, many of these cars still have a lot of life in them. In many cases, these cars may only need to have simple repair performed on them or some body work done.

If the car is a true salvage title then you may find that it was totaled, or it was damaged due to fire, theft, or water.

If you are worried about whether a car has a salvage title, or you want to know exactly why the car is a salvage title, simply perform a vehicle history report on the car. You only need the VIN to do this and the online auto auction site should provide it to you in the description of the car.

What is the True Story Behind the Salvage Title?

You likely want to know what the true story behind a salvage title is, especially since we have you thinking about them now. If you have already browsed an online auto auction site, then you have probably seen what we are referring to here.

You never have to worry about getting a used car and salvage car mixed up because if the car is a salvaged car, it will be displayed for you to see. In fact, the online auction company will make sure you are aware BEFORE bidding begins.

The biggest misconception that people have about a car labeled salvage is that they are destroyed, the car no longer works, or it was completely totaled and ruined in a wreck. The truth is that these cars are not always as bad as the name makes them sound. You can get an incredible deal on a used car by purchasing a salvaged title.

What is a Salvage Title?

When looking at a salvage vehicle, it is labeled this way because it means that the owner’s insurance company has paid out at least 75% or more of the vehicle’s value to the owner of the insurance policy. Write-offs like this can happen at any time and for several reasons.

Often, these vehicles have been damaged in an accident or labeled totaled by the insurance company, even though they are not actually totaled and destroyed. Sometimes, these vehicles suffer from damage due to hail, wind, or fire. These are not the only reasons why a car may be labeled salvage either. For example, if a car was stolen and the insurance company paid out before it was recovered, the car would be issued a salvage title, even if nothing was wrong with it.

The main point to keep in mind when you shop any online auto auction site is that you do not have to completely disregard salvage titled vehicles. If you are curious about the extent of damage to the car or what happened, do not hesitate to look at the vehicle history report, as we mentioned briefly above.

Pay Attention to Bill of Sale Cars

Before we move on to the next topic, we want to make sure you understand what a bill of sale is when you shop for your next used car. It is important to pay attention to this detail as it can affect whether the car can be legally registered or not.

A bill of sale car is a car that does NOT come with a title or certificate of title. Before you can register or drive the car on the road, you will need to obtain the certificate or title and it can be tricky and a drawn-out process.

Unless you are up for the challenge, you want to avoid these cars as much as possible. You will find that the online auto auction site posts it clearly on the car’s profile as to whether it is a bill of sale or not.

Top 9 Best Online Car Auction Websites to Purchase Your Next Vehicle

Now that you have a good idea of what types of cars are available to you at an online car auction website, it is time to talk about the top 9 best online car auction websites. These websites are made up of different vehicles from all over that are available for you to bid on and purchase.

While many affordable cars do await you on the Internet, you must know where to go before you place a bid on a car. Unfortunately, there are many sites out there that do promise to deliver a car to you, but they fall through and scam you. You must be vigilant and pay attention to the website you are always on.

If you are ever concerned about a website or you have questions about it, do not hesitate to do more research, call the company, or refer to the top 9 sites listed below.

  1. eBay Motors

If you use the Internet, even a small amount, then you have likely heard of eBay Motors and if not, then you have probably heard of just eBay. Most people do know about this site and it is a wonderful tool that allows you to connect with car buyers all over the world.

eBay Motors offers an array of vehicles to include cars, sports cars, SUVs, trucks, boats, ATVs, and more. While eBay Motors is not its own independent online auto auction site, it is an auction site that allows you to purchase vehicles, parts, and accessories.

As a consumer, you must know that eBay Motors does allow you to bid on cars, but it does not offer you the money-saving discounts you receive at true auto online auctions.

Just as you can expect, you choose a car you are interested in, learn more about its past, and then make a bid on it when the bidding starts. There are many others just like you who bid on other cars and the same one you may be interested in, so a bidding war may begin quickly, especially towards the end time of bids.

  1. Auto Auction Mall

When it comes to bidding on an online car, you not only want a ton of options available to you, but you want the site and bidding process to be easy and understandable. Fortunately, Auction Auto Mall is the right choice. They have a HUGE selection of vehicle choices available and they are open to the public as well, so you do not have to worry about the dealer license.

AAM (Auction Auto Mall) has one of the largest databases filled with used, like-new, pre-owned, and salvage cars. You can search for ANY type of car, make, model you want using the available search functions located on the website.

Consumers continue to rate AAM higher than other sites because of their extensive database of used cars. They offer the best quality customer service and are available to help you any time. The representatives at AAM will walk you through the process, help you bid, and make sure you can get your used car home without a hassle or headache.

One of the main differences between Auction Auto Mall and others on this list is that AAM has financial advisors ready to work with you and help you finance the vehicle you choose. They offer low down payments, low interest rates, and some of the best deals available on an online auto auction site.

  1. ADESA

This is an online auto auction site that is very popular in the auction world. Typically, you need a dealer license to access the available cars and bid on them, but you can circumvent that if you know someone with a license.

ADESA offers several vehicles for sale to include fleets, rentals, off-lease, and dealer consignments. While you won’t find too many salvage titles on this website, they do exist and may pop up from time to time.


DASHUB is one way for you to connect with more than 200,000 available used, salvage, and like-new cars that are available to be bid on. Almost all vehicles are a mere fraction of their true retail cost. Bidders are not limited and anyone, from anywhere, can bid on a car they like. Many of the available vehicles are auctioned off from dealers around the world.

  1. Auctionexport.com

Both clean and salvage titles can be found at Auctionexport.com. They offer a large inventory for you to browse and consumers like their website because they have a real time bidding option that allows you to place bids, no matter where you are. One thing we do want to point out is that this company is in Canada.

  1. A Better Bid

With about 100,000 vehicles in their database, A Better Bid is another online auto auction site you can use. While their inventory is on the lower end of this list, they do have a revolving inventory that changes day by day. Their inventory does present some good options such as like-new vehicles, sedans, motorcycles, electric cars, and much more. You do not have to hold a dealer license to bid here and the site is open to the public.

  1. Salvage Bid

Salvage Bid focuses on connecting you with a car and making sure you have options available to you. You will find this site has a long list of available models and types of cars to choose from. One of the nice features of this site is that you can search for your ideal car by model, make, and year. This is another site that is open to the public. It also does not require a dealer license to access or bid on the inventory.

  1. Insurance Auctions USA, Inc.

Insurance Auctions USA, Inc. has been rated as one of Inc. 500’s and 5,000’s top businesses. This company deals ONLY in salvage vehicles, so it is important that you know this prior to bidding on any of the cars available. Insurance Auctions USA, Inc. receives its vehicles from insurance adjusters and companies all over the world, so their selection is diverse.

  1. Ridesafely.com

If you want to really save yourself some money and you are after a previously damaged car that you can fix yourself, Ridesafely.com is the perfect site for you. This site specializes in previously wrecked and salvage titles. In fact, this is all you will find in their inventory.

Other Online Places to Purchase a Used Car

The above nine websites are a great start to find a used car at an online auto auction site. While these are the top nine sites, they are not the only sites available. Below, we will introduce you to two other types of online auctions that you can find a used car at.

  1. Salvage Auctions

A salvage auto auction is a great place to purchase a used car. Many of these auctions can be found online but some are in person as well. These auctions include ONLY salvage vehicles which have been deemed a total loss by the insurance company. Many of these cars are damaged, in need of repairs, were stolen, or involved in an accident.

  1. Government Auctions

Another great place to find used cars online is through a government auction. Many times, these auctions take place in person, but they may be available online as well. You would need to get in touch with your local government to find out when the next auction is. You will find an array of vehicles here from used to salvage cars and more.

In general, you can expect the used cars to come from police impound, government repossessions, and similar.

How to Bid on a Used Car at an Online Auto Auction

Getting started on an online auto auction is naturally the next step in the process. Once you have signed up, you are all set to start bidding on the car of your choice. Since online auto auctions are convenient, you can locate multiple vehicles that meet your needs and pique your interest.

But, how can you get started and how can you bid on a car? If this is your first rodeo with an online auto auction site, you are in luck. Below, we will talk about how to get started, how to bid, and provide you with some helpful tips too.

Sign Up for Your Account

The first step in the process is to locate an online auto auction site. You will need to sign up to access their inventory. Many of the sites allow you to see the inventory before you create an account. But you may find that you must sign up to access the actual details about the car.

The process to sign up for an account is easy. The only requirements are to create a username and password. You will also need to enter in some basic information about yourself such as your name, address, and phone number.

A Deposit May Be Required

Some online auto auction sites do require you to make a deposit before you bid on any cars. This is not always the case, but you may find that it is. You will need to make a deposit before you bid. This is if you were not required to do so when you signed up for your account.

Don’t worry about the deposit amount being huge. After all, you are buying a car, right? The deposit amount is generally quite affordable. It is only about 10% of the amount you plan to spend on a car. For example, if you wanted to purchase a car that is $2,000, then your deposit to bid would be $200.

The amount of the deposit is applied directly to the balance you owe once you win a bid.

Browse Through the Inventory

Once you have established your username and password, you can access the vehicles that are available to bid on. You may notice that some vehicles accept bids all the time. Others may be reserved for a live bid.

A live bidding session is when you and others will actively bid on the car and participate at that moment. Other times, you can go in and bid as much as you want as long as it is within the time set for the auction.

BEFORE you bid on any vehicle, do make sure you do your due diligence and look over the car’s profile, run the VIN number, and make sure you understand what, if anything, is wrong with the car. Remember, these cars are sold as is.

Start Bidding on a Car at a Public Online Auto Auction

Once you have settled on a car, you can then place a bid for that car. This will be an exciting time for you. But you must remember that you are not the only one bidding, so keep an eye on the bids.

You will find that bidding on a car is similar to any online bidding you’ve used before. The process is easy and convenient, as it can be done in just a couple of clicks.

Some things to keep in mind before you bid:

  • Know your budget and do not go overboard
  • Always check the vehicle history report
  • Make note of when the auction starts and stops
  • Reasonably bid on the car

Tips to Help You Buy a Used Car at a Public Online Auto Auction

It can be exciting to get ready to bid on the car you found, so you want to go into it level-headed and fully prepared. If you are not, you could go over budget. Plus, you could forget to read the details about the car. Worst case scenario, you may find you are not happy with your purchase in general.

Below, we will provide you with some bidding tips to help you purchase a used car at a public online auto auction. Try to bear these tips in mind as you do bid and win your car.

  1. Do Not Get Caught in a Bid War

It can be very easy to get caught up in a bidding war with someone else. Since you will not be the only individual bidding on the car, you need to keep this in mind. Do not end in a bid war. You may quickly go over budget and end up paying more for the car than you intended.

Never try to beat the next person who is bidding on the car. Simply stick to what you set for yourself. Remember, there are plenty of cars for everyone. There is still a car out there for you, even if someone outbids you past your budget.

  1. Your Eyes Tell You A Lot and As-Is Means As-Is

When we say that your eyes tell you a lot, they do. In fact, you should use your eyes to identify any visible issues with the car. While you are bidding online, the auction site will post pictures of the car so pay attention to them.

You also need to keep in mind that the term as-is, means exactly that. Vehicles that are sold at an online auction site are sold as they are. No warranties or guarantees come with them. Therefore, it is important for you to know what it is you are purchasing before you do.

For example, if you buy a car that is sold as-is and you did not read the description or run a vehicle check and you find out it has a blown transmission or engine, there is nothing you can do about it. The problem is now, yours to bare and you will need to fix the issue.

  1. Check Out the VIN Number and Run a Vehicle History Report

We have stressed it multiple times now and will go over it again. You should ALWAYS check the VIN number of the car you are interested in BEFORE you bid on it. This is to make sure you know exactly what type of car you are purchasing, and its past. The vehicle history report can provide you with a lot of information. It shows you any repairs it had done and, if it’s a salvage, you will know exactly why.

  1. Stick to Your Budget and Know What You Want

Before you attempt to bid on a vehicle, you should set a budget for yourself. We mentioned this briefly above. When you do create your budget, you need to think about more than just the price of the car. You will need to make sure you factor in any taxes, registration fees, shipment fees, and more. This all adds to the cost of your car. Therefore, you need to make sure you do not strap yourself financially.

If can be very easy to go over budget, especially when you identify a car that you want. There are many choices, so you do not need to go over budget. If the car you love exceeds your budget, wait until a similar car comes around. You are not stuck with just one option and there are plenty that pop up every day.

Another thing you want to do too is know the worth of the car both working and non-working. This way, you do not overspend on it either.

Finding the Right Used Car is Easy

You can find almost any possible vehicle on an online used car auto site. This makes it not only convenient but enticing. However, one of the hardest things about an online auto site is narrowing down the options. There are so many!

So, what can you do?

Prior to looking at the available inventory of cars, sit down and think about what make cars you want to look at and then what model car you want. Also, think about the features you NEED and WANT the car to have.

After you have a list of the cars you want, start to search for them using the website’s search function. You can even input a minimum and maximum price to ensure that you stick to your budget and do not go above it.

Look in the search results at the car’s description and profile to determine which one you want to bid on.

How to Pay for Your Used Car from an Online Auto Auction

Congratulations. You have been bidding over and over and you have finally found out that you one the online car auction. This is an exciting time for you and you may be jumping out of your seat in joy.

So, what do you do now?

Once you have been alerted that you had the winning bid, the car is yours. However, you must make payment first. As we mentioned above, most sites require a deposit to bid on any cars. So, you will already have some money on your account. The deposit amount is typically about 10 percent of the amount you plan to purchase. For example, if you wanted to buy a car up to $3,000, then your deposit would have been $300, which is 10 percent.

The deposit amount on file is applied directly to the amount you owe. This is the amount of the bid that won plus any applicable taxes and fees. Therefore, if you purchased a car for $1,500 and had $300 on account and the total was $1,700 after taxes and fees, you would owe $1,400.

After the deposit is applied, you will be responsible for paying the remaining amount. Most online auction sites accept a variety of payment methods. This include cashier checks, wire transfers, credit cards, money orders, and debit cards. You will, as a rule of thumb, have about three days to make the payment. You will forfeit your deposit amount and the car will be returned to the available stock once that time passes.

Failure to make the payment in a timely manner can result in late fee charges too. So, it is vital that you know exactly when payment is due and what your options are.

Now that you have won your car and paid for it, you will need to have it delivered to you as most online auto auction sites do NOT allow you to come pick it up. Delivery of your used car can be arranged through a freight company or an online auction specialist, which we will talk about below.

Online Auction Specialist: What is This?

An online auction specialist is available on most online auto auction websites. They are there to assist you and provide you with the guidance you need. They can help as you navigate the site, learn more about the bidding process, and make the bid. AAM has a team of online auction specialists that are ready to help you every step of the way, should you shop on their website.

Once you win the used car and make the payment, the online auto auction specialist will work with you. They will help you setup delivery of your car and make sure that it is affordable too. This specialist is here to help you and is your guide throughout the process.

Setting Up Delivery of Your Newly Won Car from an Online Auto Auction

Now you have won your desired used car and made a payment. Next, you will need to worry about getting the vehicle home. So, how do you do that?

This is asked by almost everyone who is new to the online auction site. Don’t panic, the process is not as complicated as it sounds. Once payment is received, you will need to work with another company to have your used car delivered. In many cases, your online auction specialist will help you and provide you with the information you need. They can help you explore affordable options and arrange for the delivery.

You do have the option to arrange transportation of the used car on your own too. Keep in mind that you will not be allowed to just go and pick up the vehicle. Most online auto auction sites do not allow this.

Give a Public Internet Auto Auction a Shot

You would be surprised what you can find online in the way of cars. An internet auto auction is one way for you to secure an affordable car for yourself without the hassle of visiting the local dealership. As you do explore what options are available to you, do make sure you identify whether the car is used, like new, or a salvage car.

The information above should help you purchase your used car at an online auto auction site! Take the step today and sign up for an account and browse what cars are out there.