How To Buy At A Used Car Auction

By: Motor Easy
Used car auction - auctioneer Auctions are a time-tested source of used car bargains, but can be a minefield

How to buy at a used car auction

If you want to save money and buy the way car dealers do, then here is your chance at a car auction. There are lots more risks and limited or no way to reject a car once you have bought it. Here is our expert auction buying guide that could stop you making a big mistake.


Where do car auction vehicles come from?

Car manufacturers, dealerships, contract hire companies, leasing and finance companies and even the general public who want to sell their cars quickly and easily. 

Car auction buyers inspecting vehicles It pays to do your homework and inspect the vehicle

Before you go to a car auction

Register online and search by all the usual parameters of make, model, age, mileage, location etc. We recommend BCA & Manheim to start your research. You can view auction catalogues and sign-up for email alerts when vehicles that match your criteria are added to the system. Do plenty of research and read the auction company terms and conditions which might frighten you off. 

Car auction used car sales Spend your time wisely at the auction

The first few minutes at a car auction

Register at reception where you will be given a unique number. Arrive early enough so you can have a good look around. Pick up a copy of the catalogue, listing all the vehicles to be offered that day. Each vehicle will have been given a ‘lot number’ so you can easily locate it parked in consecutive rows. However, there are always late entries and you have to rely on the information screens in the hall.


How to check a vehicle at a car auction

It is up to you, all you can do is look at the car and decide whether it seems well looked after. Body damages, tyres and overall condition. Read the ‘entry form’ which is stuck to the screen, which states the make, model, transmission, engine, but no clue as to the condition. Some auction companies offer guarantees with a mechanical check and giving buyers a limited money back guarantee. Stay near the car you are interested in and listen to it start and ask the driver what the clutch is like, he/she may open the bonnet for you.


How to bid at a car auction

Stand where the auctioneer can see you and listen to the auctioneer. They can say warranted mileage, history, or that it’s an insurance write off.  A firm shake of the head is enough to let the auctioneer know that you are out of the bidding. If you can’t actually see any other bidders, perhaps they are online.


If you bid the most at a car auction

Pay our deposit to the rostrum clerk. You then have pay the balance within a set period. However, if you hear the word ‘Provisional’ then you haven’t quite got your hands on the keys yet. Most cars will have a reserve price and if the bids don’t reach the reserve price, auction staff will open negotiations between you and the seller.  A debit card is the quick and most importantly fee free way to pay, as is a banker’s draft. You will be charged for cash, or credit card plus VAT.


What you actually pay at a car auction

What you bid is not everything you have to pay. Firstly there is the Buyer’s Premium usually on a sliding scale according to the amount paid. An administration charge covers the auctioneers’ legal obligation to register the car in your name. If you fail to collect your car there is a daily charge.


Reasons to be cheerful about a car auction

  • Lower ‘trade’ prices.
  • Cars in an honest, original condition.
  • If you have mechanical knowledge and are comfortable buying cars without being able to check them thoroughly.


Reasons to be worried about a car auction

  • No test drives, or detailed inspection.
  • Some cars go to auction for a reason. Maybe it has an incurable misfire or a rumble at 50mph that the dealer can’t sort out.
  • No V5 registration document, it can take weeks to sort out, sometimes months.


The golden rules for buying at a car auction

Set yourself a budget and stick to it, but also remember you have to factor in additional fees and charges and possible vehicle rectification costs.


1) On your first visit, never ever buy, just go for the experience to see if you are comfortable.


2) When you decide to attend, always take a level head friend with you to stop an impulse buy.


3) Target the lots you like and be near them when started and ask the driver to check everything works.


4) Bid confidently and clearly up to your budget but not beyond.


5) Repair issues are always an issue when buying from auction. 


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