How to buy a car at auction
Buying a vehicle at an auction can be fun, but not a lot of people are
familiar with the process. Since I’ve done it, let me share the steps it
takes to buy a car at auction.
- Find an auction that sells newer cars where the public is allowed to attend.
Most auto auctions are run for dealers only, but some are open to the
public. Vehicles at an auction are generally ex-rentals, off-lease,
repossessions, or government vehicles. A quick google search for “your area or city + public +
auto auction” should do the trick to find an auction in your area.
- Look at the inventory listing and pick a few vehicles that you really like.
In the auction, view the listed vehicles and pick out the ones you really like. Make sure to stay in your budget range too! Many cars listed in the auction might be out of your price
- Check out the vehicles at the auction house. There should be a
pre-viewing session for the auction the day before. At the pre-viewing,
you can start the vehicle but you can’t test drive it. Do all the
things you ordinarily would when buying a used car: check underneath for fluid spills, pop the hood, bring a friend that knows more about cars than you do if need be.
- Do your due diligence on handful of vehicles you want. Check out nadaguides for the (U.S.) book value, auto123.com for the best (Canadian) reviews. Check out auto forums on your selected models for personal experiences.
- Establish your base price for what you’re willing to pay. Set a price you are willing to spend and be firm
about that ceiling.
- Ideally, go to one or two auctions just to get a feel for how the bidding goes. Usually they’ll start off with a fairly high number stated by the auctioneer. Do not
jump in then. Sometimes nobody will put out the first bid for a
couple of minutes, in which case the auctioneer would
ask for a starting bid. If there’s no starting bid, the auctioneer will let
the vehicle go without bidding.
- Watch the mood and trend of the crowd in the bidding before your vehicle comes up for sale. At auctions there are frugal crowds and there are
spendy crowds. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.
Always be prepared to walk away. There’ll be another auction in a week
- Stick to your guns on your price. Really. It’s easy to get
caught up in the bidding at an auction. It’s almost like they can put
you into a suggestible hypnotic trance state.
- Get an inspection done at the auction house, if it’s available.
That’s a Buyer Protection Plan for major components. If there’s anything wrong, you can go into
arbitration and the seller can lower the price or you can choose not to
take the vehicle.