Buying Cars at Auction: What You Need to Know
Have you ever considered buying a used car at auction? Car auctions offer excellent value for money, with a wide variety of high quality used cars available at prices far below those on offer at the local dealership.
Car auctions offer a wide range of vehicles and an interesting environment, but they also have some disadvantages. Without knowing exactly what you’re looking for, it’s easy to go over your budget or buy a car that isn’t in great condition.
If you’re considering buying a car at auction but have never had the chance to attend an auction before, keep reading. In this guide, we’ll share six simple tips that you can use to get a great deal and avoid the potential pitfalls of a car auction.
Work out what you want before you start bidding
Car auctions can be very exciting, especially if a lot of desirable vehicles are being sold off. If you arrive without a firm idea of what you want, it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in the excitement of an auction and start bidding.
Let yourself get caught up in the excitement of an auction and you could end up with a vehicle that you don’t actually want. Alternatively, you could end up buying a great car, albeit at a price that’s above the market value.
Before you attend a car auction, write down a checklist of characteristics that you’re seeking in a car. Are you looking for a compact and powerful two-door sports car or a large, spacious and convenient station wagon?
Prepare a shortlist of three to five cars that you’re interested in, including the model years that you’d like. When you arrive at the auction, check the auction catalogue to see if any of the vehicles you’re interested in are available for purchase.
Write down the market price for vehicles you like
Preparing a list of cars you’re interested in will help you avoid bidding on cars that aren’t suitable for you. Preparing a list of car market values will ensure you pay the right amount for vehicles that you’re interested in, instead of overspending.
There are several ways to find the market price for a vehicle. Parkers offers a free valuation tool for hundreds of different used car models. You can also search eBay auctions and private vehicle listings to work out the market price of a specific car.
Keep in mind that the market price of a vehicle will vary based on its mileage and its condition. A vehicle in mint condition might still be a great deal even at a price that’s higher than the average market value for similar examples on eBay.
Remember that bidding, if successful, means buying
Not all cars sold at auction are in mint condition. Many might have reliability issues or cosmetic damage that’s difficult to notice during the auction but obvious during a thorough examination of the vehicle.
Bidding on an item at auction is viewed as an acceptance of the auction conditions if the auction is specifically for ‘Sold as seen’ items. This means that if your bid results in you winning the auction, you’re responsible for buying the vehicle you bid on.
Bid carefully and don’t make bids on vehicles you aren’t interested in. The consumer rights you have elsewhere don’t always apply at auctions. Bid carefully so that there is no chance of you ending up with a car that doesn’t match what you need.
Check cars you’re interested in for common issues
If you arrive early at a car auction, you’ll be able to check the auction list for vehicles that you’re interested in. Before the auction begins, check any cars that you’d like to bid on for cosmetic and mechanical issues that could affect their value.
This is where your earlier research comes in handy. If you’re interested in a specific make and model, research its most common mechanical and cosmetic issues online before you attend the auction, then check for them in person.
Many used cars have serious issues that only affect one particular make or model of a vehicle. Check in advance to make sure you’re bidding on a high quality car, not a vehicle that could lead to headaches and surprise expenses.
Set a strict budget and don’t let yourself go over it
Car auctions offer fantastic value for money, making them a great place to purchase a new vehicle at a good cost. However, it’s easy to let yourself get carried away and spend more than you expected on a vehicle.
Before you start bidding, set yourself a strict budget and make sure you don’t spend more than you expected. Base your budget on the market value of each car on your list of makes and models, plus a small extra allowance for cars in great condition.
The Lambrecht Car Auction is today, I won't be bidding as I'm sure anything I'd want is beyond my budget.
— christian scheuer (@boxspring_stuff) September 29, 2013
If bidding is very competitive and a car’s price exceeds the amount you’ve budgeted, stop taking part and let someone else purchase it. There are lots of car auctions – if you’re patient, you’ll eventually find a car you’re interested in at the right price.
Invite a friend to get an honest second opinion
Sometimes, everything seems to go right. A car arrives on the auction floor that’s on your list of models to look for, priced at the right level and seemingly absolutely free of cosmetic or mechanical issues.
That is, until you take it home and try to drive it. It’s easy to let your desire for a car take over when you see it up for auction at a great price, making it important to ask a friend to come to the auction with you to provide an objective second opinion.
Ask a trusted friend – preferably one that’s knowledgeable about cars – to attend the next car auction with you. They’ll be able to provide an honest opinion on cars that’s helpful for finding flaws and issues before you consider placing a bid.
Will you find your next car at an auction?
Car auctions offer a fantastic opportunity to buy your next used car at a great price – often several thousand pounds below the price at a dealership. With the right tactics and approach, you can get a fantastic deal on a high quality, well cared for used car.
Do your research, bid conservatively and double check all cars for defects and issues before you start bidding to make sure you get a great deal. With the right amount of patience, you could find an outstanding deal on your next car at a vehicle auction.
If you do purchase a car at auction, you can get a quote for comprehensive car warranty on our website.