Auto Auctions – A Fun Way to Buy a Car

by Don Elliott on April 12, 2011

People have been buying and selling things at auction for centuries, dating as far back as ancient Greece. The idea that prices are driven by an open exchange of offers and bids to arrive at the best and fairest price appeals to many folks.

Should you consider an auto auction for your next car or truck? It depends!

Are you mechanical enough to spot a good car versus a car that might need some minor auto repair? Can you pay cash or take on a large credit card charge? Can you make a decision quickly? Can you walk away when the bidding exceeds how much you are willing to pay?

Some of the best used car values can be found at car auctions, but you have to do your homework in order to be prepared for auction day.

There are basically four types of car auctions:

  • Wholesale dealer car auctions – Open only to licensed car dealers, where Public buyers are generally not welcome.
  • Salvage auto auctions – Open only to licensed car dealers, dismantlers, and salvage operators. Vehicles are usually badly wrecked or are inoperable because of mechanical problems.
  • Government vehicle auctions – Open to public buyers and car dealers. Many different kinds of vehicles are offered in varying conditions and at a variety of prices.
  • Public auto auctions – Open to public buyers, the cars come from a wide variety of sellers. Take advantage of any pre-sale inspection to make sure you know all you can about the cars that interest you. Also, make sure that you know the auction registration, deposit and payment requirements well before auction sale day.

Auction regulations vary from state to state. However, in all states, the auctioneer controls the sale. “Sold!” means you have purchased the vehicle. This is important. If you did not intend to buy the car, you must notify the auctioneer right away. And, with only a few exceptions, you have purchased the car in the condition that it ran through the auction lane.

Bidding action at used car auctions is fast paced. Often, it takes less than a minute from the first bid until the car is sold. Make a list of the cars you want. Write down the used car value  that you are willing to pay. If the bidding exceeds that amount, walk away. There will be other cars.

Finally, when you figure out how much you can afford, be sure to include auction fees, sales tax and title expense, and a repair budget. Every car bought at auction should have a mechanical inspection, complete service including an oil change with filter, and the tires checked for condition and proper pressure. Do a visual inspection of the fluids and tires before you leave the auction to assure a safe ride home.

Have you bought or sold a car at auction? Send us a note about your experience. Maybe we can help the next guy with a good experience at a used car auction. 

Auction regulations vary from state to state. However, in all states, the auctioneer controls the sale. “Sold!” means you have purchased the vehicle. This is important. If you did not intend to buy the car, you must notify the auctioneer right away. And, with only a few exceptions, you have purchased the car in the condition that it ran through the auction lane.

Bidding action at used car auctions is fast paced. Often, it takes less than a minute from the first bid until the car is sold. Make a list of the cars you want. Write down the used car value that you are willing to pay. If the bidding exceeds that amount, walk away. There will be other cars.

Finally, when you figure out how much you can afford, be sure to include auction fees, sales tax and title expense, and a repair budget. Every car bought at auction should have a mechanical inspection, complete service including an oil change with filter, and the tires checked for condition and proper pressure. Do a visual inspection of the fluids and tires before you leave the auction to assure a safe ride home.

Have you bought or sold a car at auction? Send us a note about your experience. Maybe we can help the next guy with a good experience at a used car auction.

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