Beginners Guide To Buying A Car At Auction

Beginners Car Auction Guide

Buying a car from an auction is full of potential issues so here?s some good advice to help you through.

Well most people will no doubt be visiting a car auction because they want a used car and they want to pay as little as possible for it so naturally the best place would be to go to the same place motor dealers buy their cars. So far that all sounds quite straight forward but things aren?t quite that simple and there are some potentially big pitfalls.

If however you abide by a few simple rules things don?t need to be so much of a worry and you could well end up finding it quite addictive and fun. The choice of cars is massive from low mileage ex demo cars and nearly new cars through to sports cars and commercial vehicles and providing you don?t get too carried away the potential savings can be massive too.

The first thing to always keep in mind is not to rush things. By this I mean visit the auction a couple of times before considering bidding and get a feel for how things work. Things can seem intimidating to begin with and it?s important you feel comfortable when you do eventually start bidding so as not to make a hasty purchase. An obvious thing about a car auction is that the cars are entered into auction for by their owners and not owned by the auction house. They may be entered by a private individual, a franchise dealer and independent dealer or a finance company who have completed an entry form disclosing the mileage, age and condition and this is legally binding. Most will have set a reserve price (Similar to if you were selling an item on eBay) which is the lowest price the seller will accept for the car to be considered sold and the auctioneer isn?t allowed to sell the car below this figure although they will sometimes accept a provisional bid meaning they will contact the seller and see if they wish to reduce the reserve figure.

Big auctions houses such as BCA (British Car Auctions have a selection of different catagories to which vehicles can be entered. For example sports and prestige vehicles can go into the ?Top Car? auction whereas a vehicle entered by ?buy my car? company such as ?Webuyanycar? may have their own ?Webuyanycar? auction.

There are sometimes specialist auction days such as ?motorbikes?, ?Caravans? and ?fleet sales?. This is a good way to help buyers know which days are worth attending depending on the type of vehicle they are looking to buy.

On the day of the auction a sale catalogue will be available in the morning which will help you location any vehicles you may be potentially interested in buying. All the vehicles are lined up in a large and well lit viewing area with their auction numbers and basic information displayed on the windscreen.

When the auction starts the vehicles will be driven in sale order one at a time into the bidding area of the auction hall. Once in the bidding area the auctioneer will describe the vehicle to the buyers, ?Was the mileage warranted??, ?Is the car being sold with no major mechanical faults??, ?Does the car have a full service history?? are some of the things that will be made known and its extremely important to listen carefully to what is being said as this is a legally binding selling statement. Once the description has been given the auctioneer will ask for a starting bid on the car and will then proceed to run the auction usually in increments of ?100 although in a lot of cases more on expensive cars. If you are interested in making a bid you should do so clearly getting the attention of the auctioneer by raising your hand or sale catalogue.

When the hammer comes down if you are the highest bidder and the reserve has been met the car will be sold to you. If the hammer went down on the vehicle but the reserve price wasn?t met the car will be sold provisionally. This means the auctioneers will then contact that seller and see if they will consider accepting the lower bid.

If you have been successful and have bought the car at this stage you will need to visit the rostrum clerk to pay a deposit which is usually 20% of the sale price of the vehicle or ?500, whichever is greater. The remainder is then paid at the cashiers counter either by debit card, credit card (usually subject to an additional fee), telegraphic transfer, bankers draft and cash (usually up to ?9,000 this usually also comes with an additional fee). At this point you will also need to pay the buyers fee.

The buyers fee is to cover the cost of the auction houses services and guarantees that the vehicle:

  • is not stolen
  • has no outstanding finance charges against it
  • has not been a total loss prior to the date of the auction and this fact has not been disclosed
  • does not have an odometer that is warranted as being accurate but subsequently proves to be false

The buyer?s fee will depend on the sale price of the vehicle and with regard to BCA the number of vehicles you have purchased in the last 12 months.

Once the hammer has gone down and you have bought a vehicle it is important to remember it will be your responsibility to make sure the car is taxed, MOT?d and insured before driving it on the road. Depending on the description given by the auctioneer you also have one hour after the sale finishes to bring to the attention any known faults or defects.

So here?s a quick rundown of the golden rules :

  1. Plan ahead ? research what vehicle you are looking to buy beforehand and it?s always a good idea to obtain some car valuations so you have an idea of what the car is worth. Sites such as will quickly obtain you some cash offers from different, a clever way of obtaining professional opinions.
  2. Take your time ? Arrive early and get yourself a catalogue. Take a good look at the vehicles on offer and select one that really interests you but make sure you find a couple of backups as well just in case you?re unlucky with your first choice.
  3. Check over the car ? It?s important to check over the cars bodywork, tyres, interior etc as all these items are your responsibility to check prior to bidding. You won?t be able to start the vehicle but you will be able to listen to the engine running as it is driven into the bidding area.
  4. Budget ? Don?t go beyond your limit. Set a figure you are prepared to bid up to and don?t go over it. Don?t forget also you will have a buyers fee to pay, so you may want to deduct this from the figure you are willing to bid up to beforehand to keep within your limit.
  5. Be Flexible ? Don?t get carried away about a particular vehicle. There are hundreds of vehicles being sold every day so if you aren?t successful with your bidding there will be plenty of other opportunities on another day. Don?t let your heart rule your head.