Important Things to Remember When Buying a Car at an Auction

A customer and a seller shaking hands at a car auctionPurchasing a used vehicle from an auction is a high-risk, high-reward game. On one hand, you can find really solid rides at prices lower than what you’d typically see at used car dealerships. On the other hand, you can easily end up overpaying for a car that comes with plenty of hidden mechanical issues. If you’ve decided to look for your next automotive purchase at an auction, you better know exactly what you’re getting into.

Coming to the auction with an eye trained at spotting signs of mechanical problems is a must. Having some bidding savvy also helps. If you’re new to vehicle auctions and you’re looking for some guidance, this post is for you. Here are five things to remember when you’re attending a used vehicle auction:

1. Inspect the Vehicle Carefully – Practically all auctions allow the participants to closely inspect the vehicles that are up for sale. Make sure you know all about the little things that may suggest what the vehicle has been through. If you can’t do this yourself, find someone knowledgeable to do it for you.

Checking the paintjob for uneven surfaces can reveal signs of repair and reconstruction. Moisture and musty odors in the upholstery can give away signs of water damage. Checking the dipsticks fort the condition of the lubricants can also give you hints about the engine’s condition. These small things may not look daunting to the average person, but a person familiar enough with vehicles will probably be deterred by little things like this.

2. Identify the Vehicles that You Want – When you inspect the list of the vehicles that are open for bids, make sure to shortlist only the ones you really have high interest in and stick to them. Just because a car seems to have a lot of bidders doesn’t mean you should join in. The same goes for vehicles that start with very low opening bids: just because something’s cheap doesn’t mean you want it and you should get it.

3. Never Bid Above Market Value – Once you’ve shortlisted the vehicles in the auction that you’re interested in, do a little research and look up the average prices that they sell for in the open market. Set your budget for each vehicle based on those values. If the bids get anywhere close to the average market prices, let the other bidders have the unit. You usually get better guarantees. warranties, freebies and bargaining opportunities with used car dealerships.

4. Get Familiar with the Auction Rules and Jargon – Sometimes, auctioneers and seasoned bidders will use words that you don’t quite understand. Be careful about using them because they might mean things completely different from what they seem to. For instance, the term “as is” as pertains to used vehicles being auctioned means that the vehicle is sold as you see it. It comes with no guarantees of quality or performance. You pay for what you see and this could get risky if you can’t spot tiny traces of mechanical trouble.

5. Expect to Spend Extra on Repairs – Even when you find something that looks like a safe purchase, expect small body and engine work to cost you am extra few hundred or thousand dollars. Used vehicles that don’t need maintenance and part replacements are rare and even seasoned mechanics can fail to spot small signs of trouble. Factor collateral repair costs into your overall purchase budget and make sure you won’t be spending more than what you intended to even in the worst case scenario.

Got all that? Remember, buying cars at an auction is all about patience, discipline and a little luck. Keep one eye open for reasons not to bid on a vehicle, but be keeping the other one open for the good deals as well.