How to Get a Good Deal When Buying Cars at Auction

Looking to buy a used car? Buying cars at auction may not be as daunting as you imagine with our top tips.

In 2016 8.2 million used cars were sold and bought. That’s over 7% increase on the previous year according to SMMT. When we think of buying a used car the decision is usually private or trade but there is a 3rd way…. at auction. Auctions provide a convenient & quick way of buying a used car with hundreds of vehicles under one roof. Don’t be put off by thinking auctions are just for the seasoned trade dealer but do, do your homework & follow our tips.


1: Don’t wade straight in.

If you’re new to auctions it’s worthwhile attending a few as an observer ahead of going to bid. This will allow you to get used to the atmosphere and the process of how the auction is run. Selecting a few cars and setting practice bids can be helpful (just make sure you don’t accidentally place a bid!)


2: Research the right auction to attend.

Auction houses publish a list of auctions in advance, check this out so that you don’t end up going along to a classic car or van auction when you’re looking for a family estate!


3: Browse the available vehicles in advance

Auction houses list the vehicles that you can bid for online or in their catalogues. It’s a good idea to have a look through these and have a shortlist of cars ahead of the day. Check the guide price of your shortlist using a site such as Parkers or Autotrader.


4: Visual check

Now that you have your shortlisted vehicles make sure that you go and inspect each one. Check the bodywork for any signs of dents, scratches etc. Look for the condition of the wheels and tyres. Often the handbook will be in the glove box – have a look at the car’s service history.  If you have the opportunity, listen to the engine being started.


5: Understand the different vehicle classifications.

British Car Auctions (BCA) give a clear explanation of the terminology and meaning of the different descriptions auctioneers will give:

  • No major mechanical faults - the vehicle should not have any major faults in the engine, gearbox, clutch, brakes, steering or transmission.
  • Specified faults – the auctioneer reads out particular defects notified by the seller.
  • Sold as seen (and with all its faults if any) – the vehicle is for sale as it is, with no warranties whatsoever by the seller. “Without warranty” means exactly the same.
  • On an engineer’s report – the vehicle has been examined by a BCA engineer and is sold on the description contained in the report, which is placed on the windscreen before the sale.



6: Work out your maximum bid.

Based on all the steps above, you should know what you’re prepared to pay for a vehicle and what it is worth to you. Write this down and stick to it, don’t be tempted to get caught in auction competitive bidding and end up paying more than you wanted to. Make sure that you also add on any handling fees.


7: If you win!

You should research in advance the auction houses’ buying fees, payment methods and process.This includes any documents you need to bring along for proof of identity.

And make sure you’ve thought through how to get the car home. If you want to have the car delivered, be sure to factor any delivery fees into the overall cost. If you are planning on driving the car home yourself, remember that it is your responsibility to ensure the car is road worthy, taxed, insured and MOT’d.

By following these tips & doing your research, we think an auction can be a great place to buy a used car.


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