Is buying a car at a car auction a good idea?

Every thing you need to know about car auctions

Considered buying a car at an auction? For years motor enthusiasts and dealers have been benefiting from the bargains available at car auctions. These sales of predominantly second-hand cars can yield undeniable bargains and rare finds, but the buyers must know their lemons from their lucrative fix-ups.  

More recently the online auction has infiltrated the automotive world, yielding a whole new playground for petrol heads in search of that special set of wheels.

Why online car auctions are a great idea

Simply put, the benefit of buying a car via online auction is that buyers are afforded the opportunity to make their price. The seller can decide whether they want to sell at a reserve retail value – making it difficult to compete with dealerships who offer a similar price with benefits, or trade value. With trade value as a reserve, bidding is sure to be enthusiastic and can run up a tidy sum, depending on what’s on offer.

As long as the seller is getting their reserve or more and the buyer is willing, a deal is made when the bids close. This is determined by the platform, but is usually around seven days or when the seller accepts. The process is convenient for both parties, requires no down payment for attendance and attracts a wide range of buyers.

Crucial pitfalls

Understandably there are some risks to buying a car without seeing or test driving it. Although online vehicle auction platforms require full disclosure regarding the condition of the car and the cost of restoring it to retail condition, there are still details imminent in person to person transactions that benefits the buyer.

Whether or not the car had been smoked in, for instance, is not technically crucial to its condition, but the lingering odour of cigarette smoke can hinder reselling prospects. The same goes for flood damage, sun damage or general bad care of the car’s interior and exterior.

When it comes to the condition of the engine a lot can be learned from submitting the car’s VIN number to a technician. Using this number, a record of past repairs logged against the car can be viewed, including post-accident bodywork and services.  Just note that any customisation done by the previous owner themselves will not be logged against the VIN number.

So why go the online route?

Yes, real-life vehicle auctions offer more peace of mind as they allow prospective buyers the chance to inspect the cars first-hand. The downside is that these events are time consuming. Patrons have to sit through all the lots to partake in the few bidding wars they’re interested in. Since these auctions happen at a specific time and place, patronage is also restricted to those who can make it. 

Online auctions eliminate a lot of these practical limitations whilst providing a wider selection of vehicles on offer.  With enough motor savvy and an eye for a bargain, bidding for cars online can be lucrative business venture or a fantastic bit of petrol-head fun.