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How to buy a car from auction: 10 Dos and Don'ts to consider

How to buy a car from auction: 10 Dos and Don'ts to consider

Buying a car from auction can be a good thing. You could save hundreds if not thousands of pounds on the purchase price for one thing, plus, it’s quite exciting if you’re not one of the seasoned auction bidders.

However, while there may be excitement, there is also a degree of trepidation if you’ve never done it before. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of Do’s and five Don’ts to make sure you buy right!

Do: Your research

Every auction house will have an online catalogue of the cars going through auction. This means you can rock up on the day knowing which cars you’re after, rather than arriving ‘blind’ and choosing one there and then. The catalogue will also give you information like mileage, MOT, whether or not it has service history. Be sure to have a look. Knowledge is power, as they say.

Don’t: Be intimidated

While the modern auction house is a clean, tidy, modern place, some of the buyers are still stuck in the ‘80s, and with it, they like to come across as the bosses of the whole affair. Ignore them. They’re taking just as much of a chance on a car as you. Their staunch bygone attitudes are useless in this day and age. They really do think there’s psychology to buying from auction. There isn’t. You’re buying a car; it’s as simple as that.

Do: Spectate

Get the lay of the land by going to an auction or two before actually buying anything. You’re perfectly okay to this; there is absolutely no obligation to buy. So go along, watch the auction unfold and get a feel for what goes on. This will make you a bit more comfortable, and when the day comes that you do bid, you won’t feel out of place.

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Don’t: Get into a bidding war

You’re buying a car, and the beauty of cars is their abundance. You don’t need to get into a bidding scrap for a car. You might ‘win’ the car, but you’ll be the loser, having paid over the odds. Plus, other bidders may well try to engage you in a bidding war to get you out of the way, don’t fall for it.

Do: Set a budget and stick to it

This is THE rule for auction buying. Bidding wars are to be avoided, but even if you do get into one, you can still do so within your financial means. What you can’t do is make money appear out of thin air, so set a budget and stick to it. Remind yourself that these are just cars, and if one goes for more money than you have, it’s not meant to be. Which brings us to...

Don’t: Set your sights on one car only

There are hundreds of cars going through the auction, so don’t set your sights on one of them (unless it’s a classic car auction, or something else a little more bespoke). If you do, you’ll no doubt miss out on other perfectly viable cars while you’re waiting for ‘the one’. And even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.  

Do: Get there early and have a prod about

Auction houses want to sell cars, so they’re not treated like Faberge Eggs. Get there early and you’ll be able to walk around the cars and have a look in, under and all around. Find the cars you’re after and give them a good going over. What looked good online may soon look far less desirable when you see it close up. You can’t judge it well enough when it’s driven through the auction.

Don’t: Forget about auction fees

You might get all giddy when you win a car for £300, but that could all go out of the window when you get hit with the auction fees. To avoid that, have a look at the auctioneer’s website beforehand and find out what the fees are. Some are set depending on price, while others will be based on a percentage of what the car sells for.

Do: Remember your identification, and your wallet

Auctions houses usually want their money on the day, or at a maximum, within five working days. So make sure you have your wallet and your card with you. Also, any auction house worth its salt won’t sell you a car unless you can prove who you are on the day, so make sure you have your identification with you, too. You can always check the auctioneer’s website to be sure of what you need.

Don’t: Worry about the reserve

So you bid, you ‘win’ but then the auctioneer says “no sale”. The car hasn’t hit its reserve. Don’t worry though, as all is not lost. As the high bidder, the auction house will tell you how far adrift you are, or what the seller will take. This is best position to be in. Out of all those people, you showed the most interest. That puts you in a strong position to work out a price and get the car you want.