top of page
Cech Auto Images (2).png

A Guide to Purchasing Vehicles at Auto Auctions: Tips, Pros, and Cons

Auto auctions can be an exhilarating and advantageous way to purchase a vehicle. They offer a variety of cars at potentially lower prices compared to traditional dealerships. However, while the thrill of bidding can be enticing, buying a vehicle at an auction also requires due diligence and an understanding of the process. This guide will explore the advantages and disadvantages of auto auctions, provide tips on how to research and inspect vehicles, and discuss common scams to be aware of.

Types of Auto Auctions

Auto auctions come in several forms, each catering to different types of buyers:

  • Public Auctions: Open to the general public, offering vehicles from various sources including trade-ins, repossessions, and private sellers.

  • Government Auctions: Offer surplus, seized, and retired government vehicles.

  • Dealer Auctions: Restricted to licensed dealers, featuring newer vehicles or those in better condition.

  • Online Auctions: Allow bidding from anywhere, broadening the pool of vehicles but also increasing the need for careful research.

Advantages of Auto Auctions

  1. Cost Savings: Perhaps the most compelling advantage is the potential for lower prices. Vehicles at auctions are often sold for less than market value, especially if they are in less than perfect condition or there is lower demand.

  2. Variety: Auto auctions provide access to a wide range of vehicles, from everyday sedans and SUVs to exotic cars, all in one location.

  3. Excitement: The auction process can be thrilling, offering a unique and dynamic way to purchase a vehicle.

  4. Speed: The transaction process is typically quick, often concluding the same day.

Disadvantages of Auto Auctions

  1. Limited Test Driving: Most auctions do not allow you to drive the vehicle before you buy it. You might only be able to start it up or move it a few yards, if at all.

  2. As-Is Sales: Vehicles are usually sold as-is, with no warranties or guarantees. Buyers assume all risks related to vehicle condition.

  3. Hidden Costs: Winning a bid can be exciting, but remember that there are usually additional fees such as buyer’s premiums, processing fees, and taxes.

  4. Intense Competition: Especially for cars in good condition or rare models, competition can drive up prices.

Tips for Buying at Auto Auctions

Research the Vehicle

Before attending an auction, choose potential vehicles and conduct thorough research. Obtain the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and use it to check the vehicle’s history through services like CARFAX or AutoCheck. This can provide details on previous accidents, service history, and title status.

Know the Vehicle’s Value

Use resources like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to understand the market value of the vehicle you are interested in. This will help you set a realistic bid limit to avoid overpaying.

Inspect the Vehicle

If possible, inspect the vehicle personally or hire a professional to do so. Check for:

  • Exterior Damage: Look for rust, paint mismatch, and body filler.

  • Engine Condition: Check for leaks, strange noises, or smoke.

  • Interior Wear and Tear: Ensure all electronics are functioning and assess the condition of the upholstery and dashboard.

Be Prepared

Bring a mechanic or someone knowledgeable about cars with you. Their expertise can be invaluable in assessing the vehicle's condition and potential hidden problems.

Common Scams at Auto Auctions

  1. Odometer Fraud: Rolling back the odometer to display a lower mileage.

  2. Title Washing: Moving a vehicle with a salvaged title across state lines to obtain a clean title.

  3. Shill Bidding: Using fake bids to drive up the price.

Buying a vehicle at an auto auction can indeed be exciting and beneficial, offering a variety of choices at potentially reduced prices. However, it comes with risks that necessitate careful preparation and vigilance. Always research the vehicle’s history, understand its market value, and if possible, have it inspected by a trusted auto shop. Being well-informed and cautious can make the difference between a savvy purchase and a costly mistake. Remember, the key to a successful auction purchase is not just winning the bid but ensuring the quality and longevity of your new vehicle.

bottom of page