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How to Safely Bid at a Car Auction

How to Safely Bid at a Car Auction

Car auctions are becoming more and more popular as a way of buying a car for a bargain price. The thrill of auctions and the excitement of a new car can make it a fun and fulfilling experience.

But, the other side of it is that it’s a high-risk way to buy a car. The chances of buying a dud are higher than pretty much every other avenue we can go down in the search for a car, and this chance is compounded even further if we don’t know what to look for or how to bid.

Keep reading for some valuable advice to increase the chances of a safe auction process and getting a great car at the end of it.

Know What To Expect

Car Inspect

The chances of finding a pristine car with no faults for a decent price at auction are slim. Knowing why cars are at auction can give us an understanding of the type and quality of cars available. Here are just a few reasons a car appears at an auction:

  • Cars that have remained unsold by dealerships for a long time
  • Cars repossessed by finance companies because the owner wasn’t keeping up with repayments
  • Police cars surplus to requirements
  • Impounded cars from crimes

Obviously, the best type of cars we can expect at auctions are cars which have been repossessed early in a term by a finance company. These cars are likely to be in great condition but will also be the most competitively bid upon.

Understand Different Types of Car Auctions

Knowing the different types of car auction can help us establish what to expect on the day. Different auctions have different types of cars and therefore should affect our expectations.

Private/Closed Auctions

These auctions are usually only open to licensed car dealers. Buying a used car from a dealership doesn’t always mean the car was traded in—often the cars we buy at dealerships were initially purchased at auction.

Public Auctions

These are the most common type of car auction. These are usually organized by auction houses or insurance companies and are open to the general public. We can expect to find repossessed cars, damaged cars, and nearly-new cars for sale.

An auction like this may also be known as a salvage car auction, due to the high volume of repossessed cars on sale. 

Government Auctions

These are the auctions where we can expect to find obsolete police cruisers, but also utility vehicles, motorbikes, and even buses. The great thing about these auctions is that the vehicles on sale will have a comprehensive historical record, meaning it’s easier to know exactly what we are purchasing.

Online Auctions

Online Car Auction

Probably the riskiest type of auction is the online car auction because we don’t get the chance to see the car in person. However, the options on offer are vast due to the removal of the geographical limitations for those willing to travel, so there are some incredible deals to be found.

Now that we’ve established the types of auctions and what to expect from them, let’s take a look at how to bid and buy safely.

Come Prepared

For those who don’t have mechanical knowledge about cars, auctions are probably not the best way to buy a new car. It’s all well and good looking for a cheap car at an auction, but if we aren’t sure if the car will even run well, it’s best not to take the risk.

One way around this is to bring someone who does know what they’re looking for. Perhaps a friend is a mechanic or has a passion for cars – ask them if they could come along and help out.

The vast majority of auctions don’t allow test drives. In fact, in most cases, nobody can drive a car they haven’t paid for, so it’s certainly worthwhile bringing someone who can recommend whether or not a car is worth bidding on.

Get Clued Up On Values

Car Auction

There is a multitude of ways we can find out the value of a car based on its age and mileage. We don’t want to be going into an auction blind as this is the easiest way to bid too high in the heat of the moment.

Many auctions will have a list of the vehicles on offer prior to the auction, giving us the opportunity to find a car we like and do some research on the value.

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Another important factor is to check the VIN number of any car that we’re interested in. This can give us important information about a car’s history.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

It’s remarkably easy to walk into an auction and get sucked in by all the shiny, polished paintwork on the cars on the lot. Bu,t just because we’ve spotted a gleaming car with a spotless interior doesn’t mean it’s worth blowing your budget on.

Sure, some cars may just be in excellent condition – cars repossessed early in their life, or well-maintained ex-police cars can be a steal if we know what we’re looking for. But, many cars will be presented beautifully to distract us from what’s under the bonnet.

Keep An Eye On Other Bidders

Car Auction

If there’s a car on the lot that looks amazing but has nobody bidding on it, chances are there are very good reasons for this. Conversely, an old banger with lots of attention could just be the steal of the day.

Watch other bidders—there could be some people with ulterior motives such as pushing up prices. A good idea would be to attend a few auctions before actually participating. This helps us get a feel for how an auction works.

Don’t Get Bid-Happy

The most important piece of advice for anyone attending an auction is to know your budget and stick to it. Auctions are thrilling and fun so it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement.

The last thing we want is to overpay for an auction car and end up regretting it, so it’s important to be very strict with ourselves prior to attending!

Find a Gem at a Car Auction

Car auctions can be a gold mine but remember—fools gold looks and feels like real gold. Only those who are clued up and tuned in are capable of finding a genuinely great deal at a car auction.

With the advice in this article, we hope you feel confident enough to have a go at attending an auction either near you or online. And remember to check out some of the online services on offer before you take the plunge.