How to Buy a Car at an Auction Step-by-Step Guide

These vehicles found at auctions may have a variety of histories, including dealer overstock, trade-ins and repossessed cars. These cars are usually your best option for getting a good deal and a decent car. These cars represent some of the best possible bargains, but you’ll need to do a lot more homework to make sure that you don’t end up with a lemon.

A small dent in the tailgate of a Chevrolet Silverado may just be a parking lot thump, not signs of misuse. At public auctions, however, those may mean the car is such a basket case that no one thought it was even worth the effort to try and fool people. But the competition at county auctions is brutal and it’s only getting stronger. “Taxi companies want the old cruisers to use as cabs,” Lang says.

how to buy a car at auction

So, whether you’re reading an article or a review, you can trust that you’re getting credible and dependable information. The government auctions thousands of motor vehicles each year. It turns out it was owned by the guy who wanted to pay $20k for my $27k SUV and he’d bought this one at auction for – you guessed it – $20,000. However, on the way home from the auction it broke down and was recovered to our dealership, and as it wasn’t covered by any warranty it was going to cost about $5,000 to get fixed.

The true out-the-door price is the entire cost you will be expected to pay, including dealer fees and taxes. Once you have that number — or a suitable estimate — factor in your typical salary and take advantage of a car loan calculator. Another big auction type is the closed auction that’s only open to trade buyers. At government auctions, weathered paint may cover a mechanically sound Crown Victoria.

Interest in these auctions has boomed as the economy stays stagnated and credit rules have tightened. Buyers who formerly could qualify for auto loans on new or solid used cars now find they need to shop with cash. As previously mentioned, salvage vehicles are relatively standard on auto auction sites, and they aren’t all necessarily vehicles to avoid.

At car auctions, you bid against other buyers instead of negotiating with dealers. Unlike shopping at a dealership, you usually can’t get a refund on cars bought at an auction and you often won’t get a vehicle warranty either. It’s important to make sure you thoroughly check the condition of any car before bidding on to avoid ending up with a raw deal. With some background homework and some luck on your side, you could end up driving home a steal. Online auto auctions list used cars for the public to bid on from the main dealer auction sites already mentioned.

how to buy a car at auction

She has reported on personal finance, mortgages, and banking products for nearly a decade. When the time has come to close the deal, remain steadfast on the agreed-upon number. You can expect the dealer to push for additional fees and add-ons.

Say no to options like fabric or paint protection when an add-on like gap insurance might be more useful. You’d be amazed at what some sellers can and will do to make a dodgy vehicle seem better just to get it sold, and you have to be an expert to spot it sometimes. Many of the government and local authority vehicles sold are well-maintained and no more than two or three years old, but a lot of them will have a lot of miles on the clock too. Having a price ceiling will help you know exactly what to spend and when to stop. is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with information to help you make better decisions. We may receive payment from our affiliates for featured placement of their products or services. We may also receive payment if you click on certain links posted on our site. As the action at public auctions has grown hotter, the cars have grown shadier. “I’ve personally seen cars with over 300,000 miles on their clocks rolled back to 120,000 and sold as ‘Miles Exempt’ meaning no guarantee of mileage,” he says. “Most of the cars at a public auction are the worst trade-ins or very rough repos.” And as in a government auction, you can’t drive a public auction vehicle before you bid on it.

They will show you all the options and let you know which ones fit your budget. You can also arrange for delivery yourself, but remember that you won’t be able to go physically pick the vehicle up yourself. The best practice is to work with the auction specialists as they know all the options and can get you the best deal. While online auctions, such as those on eBay Motors, sometimes turn up bargains, the real deals are at local brick-and-mortar auctions. So, instead of paying a dealer $12,000 for a 2013 Ford Edge with 90,000 miles, you might snag one at an auction for $7,000, according to data on Kelley Blue Book. Auctions move quickly and can be highly exciting events, which can, unfortunately, lure some buyers into financially irresponsible decisions if they’re not careful.

  • It’s easy to get carried away during bidding and wind up spending hundreds more than a car is worth.
  • Public auctions are where the bargains are to be had because they’re where we find the ordinary, every day, and mundane.
  • If you register as a business buyer, you’ll also need to prove that you’re registered with an appropriate auto business by providing information from your business license.
  • You can also use this information to compare similar models on sources like Kelley Blue Book to gauge average pricing and values.
  • Transportation costs can run the gamut depending on your new car’s location.

Buying a car at an auction can be an easier process once you understand which type of auction you should attend. You can find auctions that only deal with specific types of vehicles like classic cars, as well as more general auctions. When budgeting, look at the out-the-door price, not just the sticker price that you see advertised.

Be sure to keep in mind that if you make the winning bid on a vehicle, you’re typically obligated to complete the transaction and even pay at least a portion of the cost right away. Knowing this can help you stick to your budget and not get too swept up in the action by overbidding or bidding on a vehicle you don’t really want. Registration for a car auction might also come with a required fee or deposit that must be paid ahead of time, and these registration fees may have to be renewed annually. Attendees who register as public buyers must bring a photo ID with them and fill out the auction house’s form.

Catch the auctioneer’s eye early in the process so he or she knows you’re going to be a bidder. Remember that you’ll have only seconds to make a decision whether to buy or let it go. That depends entirely on your mechanical knowledge, your willingness to do research, and your luck.

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