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Tips for Buying a Car at an Auction

Published by Angela Caito.

What's in this article?
  1. Why Choose an Auction to Buy a Car?
  2. Know What You’re Looking For
  3. Stick to a Budget
  4. Check Things Out in Advance
  5. Cash in Hand
  6. What to Expect
Cash In Hand Buying A Car At An Auction

Car auctions can be a fun way to take steps to owning a nice car, but they can also be a place where you might end up with a lemon. Before heading off to the next auction near you, it’s best to take a little time to consider a few things so you will be prepared to buy the car you want but know how to spot the ones that may be dangerous or wind up costing far more than they are worth to maintain.

Many auto auctions are only accessible to car dealers who are licensed, but if you take some time to scan your local auto news sites or the local newspaper, you can often find those who allow regular people to come in and bid on the cars they have. Keep in mind that many cars you’ll find at an auction are not going to be in extremely great condition. As a matter of fact, many cars sold at auction have been wrecked or impounded by the police, abandoned on the side of a road due to mechanical issues or seized by a dealership when an owner has failed to pay their monthly payment. This means that many cars will have cosmetic or mechanical problems and quite a few can be a danger to drive.

So, to combat the chance of walking out of an auction with a lemon, here are some things to keep in mind before you even walk through the gates to check the vehicles out.

Why Choose an Auction to Buy a Car?

If you’ve never been to an auction, you might be asking yourself, why would people go to an auction to buy a car? Well, it’s a simple answer. You can save money and still own a decent car when you find a good one at an auction. To be able to save money and walk away with the satisfaction of knowing you have just bought a decent car however, you need to be proactive with your auction skills before you find yourself bidding on a money pit. You need to know upfront that there is no law requiring auctioneers or sellers to disclose any information to alert a potential buyer that a car has damage, recalls or other problems that could cause the car to be undriveable and a complete waste of money to buy.

Check Things Out In Advance

Know What You’re Looking For

Try to avoid popping into an auto auction with no clue as to what kind of car you want. If you want a classic Ford Mustang, then don’t place bids on a Honda just because it might look nice. When you’re at an auction, the excitement of bidding can be overwhelming when others start to place their bids, and often, people bid on things they don’t want or need just because they start bidding when others seem to want something badly. Bidding on a car you don’t particularly want is also a terrible way to lose money by bidding more than your budget allows.

Stick to a Budget

Before you even walk into the auction, have a budget set and do not, under any circumstances, go over your budget. You are most likely not going to find a perfect car for under $1000 even at an auction but try not to set your budget too low or even too high. Take someone who is experienced with attending auctions and knows about cars with you. Taking a professional mechanic is a good idea. This way, when it’s time to check the cars out, they can help you figure out what it may cost to repair the car if you do bid on it and take it home with you.

Why Choose An Auction To Buy A Car

Check Things Out in Advance

If the auction by chance posts information on the cars they will auction off, check those cars out before you go to the actual auction! Take their VIN numbers (if accessible) and a list of possible repairs and get a rough estimate from your mechanic on what they believe it will take to completely repair the car. Remember, most cars sold at auction will have some degree of damage or repair work needed, so be prepared to tackle those issues once the car is home.

Cash in Hand

Most auctions want people to pay with cash at the time of the auction and many will not let bidders pay with a credit or debit card. Be sure to take enough cash to be able to bid on the car you want. If possible, you can call ahead to verify whether the auction will take plastic or if they only accept cash in hand to take possession of the car.

What to Expect

If you think you’re going to go to a local auto auction and find a luxury car or classic car in mint condition, think again. If you want a car with no flaws from an auction, you will need to go to a luxury or classic car auction. Auctions that you can find outstanding cars are usually publicized and will cost quite a bit to go to. They often include wine tastings and other events at the time of the auction. At a regular auto auction, you are going to find repossessed, damaged, rough, rumbling and cars in various need of repair. Chances are you will not find one that does not need at least a small amount of repair work. It is however possible to find a decent car at a good price that you can fix up with little money. You just need to know cars, or have someone with you who does, and be careful when you start bidding so you won’t get carried away and bid on the wrong car. Unless you want to have a hobby car only and plan to work on it every weekend from now until you retire, stay away from salvage auctions as these are primarily used to get rid of cars in terrible condition to people who have the time, and expense account, to build them up from the frame up.

If you do find a car when you hit the next auto auction, be sure to give us a call here at A-1 Auto Transport and we can help you get the car delivered from the auction to your home or the garage for repair. We ship vehicles worldwide, so be sure to contact us for a no obligation quote to ship your automobile.

Tips For Buying A Car At An Auction
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Angela Caito wants to live in a world where love is prevalent, her children are happy, and her waist stays thin no matter how many Oreos she eats. She loves hiking, sailing, surfing, camping and road tripping and has written for many publications including the Inquisitr, CNN, Blasting News and her own website, Writing Mind, Inc. 

Angela was born and raised in east Tennessee but moved away when she was 21 to explore the world. She has lived in or traveled to all the states in the U.S. except Alaska and she attended college at the University of Florida where she majored in journalism. 

Working with A-1 Auto Transport as both an domestic as well as international shipping specialist since 2005 along with her experience in journalism, she is uniquely qualified and a great resource for the website.

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