What You Didn’t Know About Buying Cars at Auction

In the United States, car auctions allow prospective buyers and car dealers to purchase used cars at wholesale prices. Although purchasing a car at a lower price may seem cost-effective, some cars sold at auction are unsalable, meaning they’ll end up costing you more than they’re worth to repair.

Consequently, buying cars at public auction requires thorough research and auto knowledge. Since most people aren’t experienced in buying cars at auction, here’s what you need to know to score a great car at a low price.

Research is key

If you’re interested in buying a used car at public auction, make sure to conduct some research beforehand. If you’re focused on buying a specific type or model, search previous auctions to find out how much the model typically sells for. Preliminary research can reduce your risk of overspending and help you set a budget before attending a public auction.

Before attending your first real auction, consider attending an initial salvage car auction. It’s not uncommon for emotions to run high during the bidding process, so attending an auction without buying anything can help you learn more about how the process works. Attending a “practice” auction can also eliminate feelings of anxiety during your first real auction.

Auctions move fast

According to former auctioneer Steve Lang, auctions are “capitalism in its purest form.” Public car auctions move fast and can become intense for first-time buyers. Since inexperienced buyers may feel rushed and pressured to place a bid, be prepared to step away and slow down if you’re not confident in a vehicle. At the end of the day, walking away is better than impulsively buying an unsalable car.

As previously mentioned, consider setting a strict budget before the bidding starts. After researching the model you’re interested in, set a top bid to prevent you from spending too much. Because most auctions require upfront cash payments, only carry what your budget allows.

Some deals are too good to be true

Although it may be tempting to bid on the first low-priced car you see, you must keep in mind that some deals are too good to be true. Car auctions typically consist of vehicles that were previously traded in, leased, repossessed, or totaled. While not every car at public auction is unsalable, inexperienced buyers should approach deals that seem too good to be true with caution. Performing a thorough visible inspection before bidding can help you identify unsalable cars.

Additionally, inexperienced buyers should remember that most cars are polished before being sent to auction. Although a car may look shiny and new, prospective buyers should check the car history and ensure that the vehicle identification numbers on the dashboard, door, and other ID points match before committing to a bid. Experts recommend avoiding auctions that prohibit checking VINs.

In many cases, sellers will attempt to hide issues during a public auction. Look out for obvious signs of previous repairs, such as oversprayed paint and scored brake discs. If you lack extensive auto knowledge, ask a car-savvy friend to accompany you to the auction to help identify flaws. Cars won at public auction do not come with any guarantees or warranties, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying before you place a bid.
While public car auctions can help prospective buyers score great cars at low prices, they’re not for everyone. If you’re unsure about buying a car at auction, consider buying a used car at a dealership. Try a car dealership in Colchester, CT, to find a variety of used cars at affordable prices. Ultimately, buying a car at public auction requires thorough research and knowledge of the auction process.