Buying a used car at auction can be a great way to grab a bargain, but it can also be an exercise with many pitfalls. Following these tips should help ensure that you leave the auction with a smile on your face, a happier wallet and a car that you will enjoy driving for years to come.
Preparation, preparation, preparation.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of arriving at the auction fully prepared. You should have made a dummy run at another auction to see how things work, how successful bidders use strategy to their advantage and to get used to the particular terminology used in car auctions. One example of this is ‘direct car’ – when the auctioneer uses this term it means that the lot comes directly from an owner or is an ex-company car.
Before auction day arrives you should also have worked out your budget. Arrive at a figure that is your maximum and stick to it come what may. It is all too easy to become a victim of auction fever, so knowing your limits and reminding yourself of them (perhaps hold a piece of paper (close to your chest, or in your pocket) or have an amount written discretely on your hand.
Select a type
You should go into any car auction with a type in mind, when it comes to your desired vehicle. Experts advise only looking at cars between two and five years old, which should further narrow your list of potential options. You should also bear in mind the number of owners and the mileage on the vehicle before setting a limit and adding the car to your shortlist. Bear in mind that the owner might have set a reserve value on the vehicle, meaning the auctioneer cannot sell the car for anything less than this amount (with a little discretion).
Check value online
These days you can find almost any information online and the same is true when it comes to cars. Check online auction histories for the make, model and year of your car.
The big day
Auctions are exciting events and nerves are to be expected. Turn up early for the display, which is usually about an hour before the auction. You can inspect the vehicles again and make sure your selections are all viable. If you are inexperienced then it could pay to take someone with you – perhaps even a mechanic friend – to help you to avoid making any mistakes. All aspects of the vehicle should be inspected. One great tip is to ensure that the VIN number of the vehicle is consistent on all parts of the car. Using a site such as this you can also check whether the car has been reported stolen, inspections and mileage as well as other technical details.
Pay attention to the auctioneer
Remember that the auctioneer’s job is to sell the cars and while they are obliged to convey all relevant information it can be hidden in industry jargon. The description is legally binding. All faults and defects must be described. You can learn about service history, reserve prices and MOT history in the auctioneer’s preamble.