10 Tips for Buying a Car at an Auction

two people shake hands after making a deal at a car auction

Buying a car at an auction is a dangerous gamble. You can end up in a situation you’d rather not be in. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t participate in car auctions. You can find some amazing deals with the right eye. To help you on your auction journey, here are 10 tips to help you find the perfect car at an auction.

1. Avoid lemons.

There are nearly 9 million vehicles that are purchased an auction some aren’t in the best condition. Keep in mind that these have been traded in, repossessed, leased, or totaled. Use your eyes on every car that comes through to avoid purchasing a hassle. Use your senses to test for a lemon. Smell for mold and eye for dents, repair, or misuse.

2. Be honest with yourself.

When you see a great car up for auction with mechanical issues, be honest with yourself. Do not convince yourself that you can repair these issues if you don’t have the ability to do so. If you’re looking for a project, understand what the car will need. If you’re looking for cheap transportation, avoid expensive repairs.

3. Don’t sweat the superficial.

Some cars that go up for auction will be superficially damaged. There may be weathered paint or have a small dent on the side from a slight run in. Keep in mind that these are not clear signs of issues, but small mishaps. What you should be focused on are the mechanical components. If it’s a sound vehicle, don’t sweat the small stuff.

4. Run the VIN.

When you’re buying a car, you should check the VIN. This is especially important for purchasing a vehicle at an auction. These cars may have been misused or in a flood. Try to run the VIN prior to auction. You should also do a visual check to be sure the VIN matches all over the vehicle. Usual places for VIN numbers are on the doors, trunk lid, and windshield. If they don’t match, the car was probably in a major accident.

5. Understand “As Is.”

Most vehicles at auctions are sold “as is.” This means the condition of the car is what you get. There are no guarantees and no warranties in place to protect you. There are also no legal actions you can take if you purchased a lemon. If you’re unsure, it’s best to avoid these cars.

6. Check the oil.

If a car has been well-maintained, the oil should be clear and clean. Pull the dipsticks on the oil and transmissions to check for signs of a well-maintained vehicle. This is a good way to avoid buying a car that has been misused.

7. Know the value of the car.

There are several resources you can use to have a general idea of what a car is worth. Websites like Kelly Blue Book provide free quotes of a vehicle. If you have time, consider checking local prices as well. If you don’t know the value, then don’t bid or try to fake it. You could end up paying more than it’s worth.?

8. Avoid getting caught up.

The auction process is fast. A single auction may last a total of a few minutes maximum. Often, people get in over their head. A person can end up spending hundreds more than a vehicle is actually worth. Be ready to walk away from a car if the price goes too high. Have a set price and avoid going above it. Remain steadfast.?

9. Bring cash to the auction house.

Auction houses will require you pay the cost of the vehicle if you win. Sometimes, you only have to pay a percentage of the total cost. This will require you to know the rules of the auction house prior to bidding. You may be refused from bidding if you don’t have cash or an approved loan.

10. Arrive early to the auction house.

The best thing you can do is arrive early to an auction house. Vehicles will be shown in a set order, so familiarize yourself with the order that they will appear. Arriving early will also give you plenty of time to review each vehicle. If you arrive late, you may not know what cars will be shown and you won’t have time to inspect a vehicle.