Buying Cars at Auction

Most auto auctions are closed affairs, only accessible to dealers. However, on occasion, auctions are held that are open to the general public. Buying cars at auction can result in a great buy for the consumer, but it’s not without its risks. Most auction vehicles are sold “as-is, ” and if you make a mistake and buy a vehicle in terrible condition, you’re stuck with it and all its problems. That said, it’s not a bad idea to visit an auction and, with a little caution, it can pay off big.

Public Auctions

Public auctions are hosted by a variety of different sellers. Government agencies use them to sell off old or confiscated vehicles. Dealerships sometimes hold auctions to shed excess inventory. In some cases, an auction house will hold an event allowing private sellers looking to make a quick sale offer their vehicles.

Knowing who is behind the auction can help you forecast the types and conditions of vehicles that might be offered. This knowledge will help you determine if the auction is worth attending and the price range you might expect to find there.

Know Before You Go

Because you might not know what vehicles will be offered at an auction, it is important to know what it is that you are looking for and how much you are willing to pay. Having a firm idea of the kinds of cars that will meet your needs and what you can expect to pay for them is important. Otherwise, you could wind up leaving the auction with a car that isn't a good fit.

Arrive With a Realistic Budget

Having an idea of what you want to buy is important, but so is what you are willing to spend. Determine the top dollar amount you can comfortably afford and stick with it. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of bidding and lose track of what you are spending. It doesn't matter how great a deal you get on a car if the price is more than you can afford. Never put yourself in a bad financial situation over a vehicle.

Inspect Vehicles Carefully

Understand that, at an auction, there is little, if any, opportunity to preview vehicles before the auction begins. Some auctions allow inspection before a sale is finalized, but not very often. In either case, determinations about the quality of the vehicle will need to be made quickly. If you are not a mechanic yourself, it’s a good idea to bring one along. Having an experienced set of eyes available might save you from buying someone else's headache.

Vehicle auctions are not right for everyone. Some people are too intimidated by the fast pace and the plethora of options available. Others simply don’t know enough about the vehicles to select the right one quickly to avoid making a huge mistake. Still, for the right person, an auction can be a good way to get your hands on difficult to find vehicles or to save on one that you might not be able to afford at the dealership.