Buying Cars at Auction

Dec 24, 2023 By Susan Kelly

Do you ever think of buying cars at auction? When compared to the pricing at the local dealership, the prices of cars at auction are far more reasonable.

Cars at auction provide various benefits, such as a diverse selection of vehicles and an engaging atmosphere. It's easy to overspend or end up with a car that's not in good shape if you don't go in with a plan and a clear idea of what you want.

If you've never been to an auction before but are thinking about buying a car, this article is for you.

Tips for Buying a Car at Auction

Here, we'll go through some Tips for Buying a Car at Auction for maximizing your bargaining power while minimizing the risks involved.

1. Do a Trial Run First

You shouldn't rush in. Attend at least one auction as a spectator in order to get a feel for the market and the competition.

Get familiar with the procedure by seeing the purchase of a certain vehicle before going in for the actual thing the next time. If you cannot attend in person, you are encouraged to see the event online.

2. Make a Strict Budget

It's easy to overspend on cars at auctions and then feel guilty about it. Decide on a sensible spending limit, put it in writing if necessary, and don't go over it while bidding. Sometimes it's better to walk away than buy a car for considerably more than its worth.

Be careful to include not just the cost of the vehicle itself but also the cost of transportation to and from the auction, any applicable auction fees, and any other associated costs.

3. Take an Expert Along

Remember that most auctions sell automobiles "as seen," so there isn't much you can do to inspect them, and you can't even take them for a drive. Moreover, vehicles purchased at auction are rarely provided with any sort of warranty, guarantee, or legal redress. In addition, many vendors will go to extraordinary efforts to cover up defects in their automobiles. A shiny automobile could seem appealing at first glance, but if you win the auction and take ownership, you'll notice that it needs a lot of expensive maintenance.

You should bring an auto expert with you for buying cars at auction so that you can receive a more accurate evaluation of the condition of the vehicles being sold.

4. Perform a History Check on the Vehicle

It is possible to lie about a car's history and alter the mileage. Learn as much as possible about the history of the car you want to buy. Get the vehicle's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and a check at the National Insurance Crime Bureau website.

You should be able to trust the information about the automobile you are bidding on at auction, including the title status, mileage, manufacturer, and accident records. Inconsistencies in the description or the specifications are a major red flag that this vehicle is not worth bidding on.

Be careful to search the car's closet as well since it may be concealing some unpleasant surprises inside. Research whether or not the automobile has been reported stolen, written off in an accident, or is still owed money.

5. Check Out a Few Auctions Before Placing Your First Bid

Bidding can be scary if it's your first time, so it's smart to observe a few auctions as a spectator first. Buying a car is a substantial financial commitment, so you shouldn't let your lack of knowledge lead to a bid that ends up being too high.

6. Get Yourself Registered

Sometimes, you need an invitation or a special code to participate in an auction. Instead, you should register in advance. The websites of many auction houses now provide instant online registration. In order to bid at an auction, you may be required to register beforehand and get a bidding number to provide to the auctioneer.

7. Be an Early Bird

Get there early so you may look around and relax before the auction begins. At this point in time, you have the opportunity to physically check the automobiles and get a more in-depth look at what is being offered.

Also, you'll be able to see flaws and inspect the car's finer details more easily during the daytime than you would in the evening.

When the bidding begins, you'll have more time to weigh your alternatives if you get there early. If you've found two or more cars you like, you'll have a solid backup plan in case the bidding war for the one you really want gets too intense.

8. If the Car Seems Bad, It Probably Is

When looking at a used automobile, if you notice dings, weathering, and paint damage, it's probably because the seller doesn't think it's worth spending money fixing it up. In government-held auctions, automobiles are being sold off because the government wants to get rid of them.

9. Make the Most Out of What You Are Able to Inspect

Use the time you have to check the automobile as thoroughly as possible. Make sure the transmission fluid is full. It's a red flag that the automobile hasn't been maintained well if it's dirty and dark inside. Just start the car up and listen to the sound it makes. Do not place a bid on it if it is making noises it shouldn't be making.

10. Pay Close Attention to the Auctioneer

The auctioneer will normally describe the vehicle before accepting bids, including any serious problems or technical flaws. If you listen carefully, you may include the estimated repair costs in your quote.

Mistakes to Avoid

Avoiding mistakes is just as crucial as doing the right thing:


Riena warns that "the red mist" phenomenon, when enthusiasm overlooks judgment, might strike in the heat of the moment. The auctioneer can be looking directly at you to see whether you'll increase your bid. When you've reached your breaking point, it's okay to turn your back and pretend you're not looking.

Signaling Is Ineffective

It's easy to lose your way in the maze of lanes and the auctioneer's rapid-fire speech and end up missing out on the cream puff you were considering. It's important to get the auctioneer's attention early on so they can expect your participation in the bidding process. Keep in mind that you'll have to decide in a matter of seconds whether to buy it or pass.

Placing a Bid Against a Shill

Dealers would sometimes outbid themselves for their own cars at auction. You should be especially careful not to go over your maximum bid if the person competing against you is a known or suspected insider to the auction team.

Buying a Lemon

Even if the car history record is clear, you should still inspect it thoroughly for any mechanical issues or visible signs of body damage. Search online automobile discussion boards for threads addressing mechanical issues with the vehicles in your sights. Make a detailed checklist and double-check everything before driving the automobile.


When looking to save money on an automobile, auctions might be either the best or worst way to do so. How you choose to approach the game is crucial. With these potent pointers under your belt, you'll be able to place more informed bids and stand a far better chance of driving away in a car that serves you well rather than draining your bank account.

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