If you’re in the market for a vehicle, there are more ways than ever to go about researching, finding, and buying one. You can go to an auto dealership lot, search for something on an online classified ads site, ask a friend or neighbor, or even visit an auction.
Buying used vehicles is nothing new. According to Statista, the number of used light vehicle sales in the U.S. last year was around 42.7 million versus 17.1 million for the sale of new light vehicle sales in the U.S. the same year. And auctions can be a good way to buy a used car.
But if you decide to go to a vehicle auction with the hopes of scoring a great deal, what sorts of things should you be mindful of? Here are 5 tips for buying cars at auctions.
1. Decide Your Budget
The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you’re willing to spend. Lots of factors will determine what auction vehicles are worth such as the model, the year, the overall condition, the mileage, and more. In order to ensure your budget is realistic, consider the purchase cost, auctioneer fee, and possible repairs. The wild card, if you will, is the possible repair costs.
Are you skilled at assessing a car and getting a feel for the sort of condition it’s in? Can you easily spot if there are any filler materials mixed in with the sheet metal? Will you be able to notice if the vehicle seems to have suspension issues? If you are not an automotive troubleshooter, consider taking someone with automotive know-how with you so that you can benefit from their automotive knowledge. With help in assessing a car, you’ll figure out if it fits your budget.
Once you arrive at a budget, stick with it. This can be hard if you’re bidding on a vehicle that you really want. But sticking to your guns will help you avoid emotionally charged bidding that might leave you a lot lighter in the wallet region than you were before you hit the auction lot.
2. Figure Out What Type of Vehicle You Want
Are you looking for a sedan, a minivan, an SUV, a truck, or a sports car? Is two-wheel drive okay or will you be needing AWD or 4×4? Are you interested in automatic or manual transmission? Do you lead an active lifestyle? How many people are in your family? Do you have children? If so, how many? These are some of the questions you need to ask before you head over to the auction lot. Doing this will also help you to craft a realistic budget.
3. Find Out Conditions of Sale
Before you bid, ensure that you know and grasp the conditions of sale. Some auctions will want you to submit a deposit should you table the winning bid. But others will request full payment right away if you make the winning bid.
4. Avoid Being the First to Bid
While you might be tempted to bid right away as soon as the vehicle you want is on center stage, but that’s the wrong tactic. When it comes to vehicle auctions, the majority of vehicles are sold with what is called a reserve, which refers to the minimum sum that the seller is willing to accept. The auctioneer will typically kick things off with an asking price that is higher than the reserve. But if there are no takers at this higher asking price, the auctioneer will eventually reduce the asking price to attract a bid. Even when the bidding gets underway, it makes sense to wait to see what other bidders are doing. Wait until near the end of the auction if possible.
5. Check the VIN
When you find a vehicle you’re interested in bidding on, find the VIN, which is located near where the bottom of the windshield meets the dash, and jot it down. After you’ve done this, compare the VIN in that location with the VIN located in other parts of the vehicle like the door. The VINs should match. If they don’t, the vehicle might have been rebuilt after a major accident. Back out of the bidding for such a car since it will end up being more trouble than it’s worth.
It’s possible to score some great deals if you buy cars at auctions. Take heed to these 5 tips to increase your odds of getting the vehicles you want for prices that fit your budget.