How cheap can you get a car at auction?

Car auctions are a great way to buy cars at a discounted rate. Even though they are not perfect and some of them are only reserved for licensed dealers, you can still find great deals if you are knowledgeable enough. Be sure to follow the steps as shown in this article in order to make the most of it.

There are many different types of auctions out there, and some of them are more affordable than others. Dealership overstock auctions are the best ones to consider if you want to buy yourself a barely used car, and you can expect paying 10-30% less than you otherwise would at a dealer’s, if you are lucky of course.

Salvaged/damaged car auctions are selling cars for as little as a few bucks, but these often require you to invest a lot of money in order to get them in an adequate condition. Government/service cars and fleet lease auctions can also be a great way to buy a decent car for as little as a few hundred dollars.

Nevertheless, to get the best price possible, be sure not to overbid on a car, maximize the ability to inspect the car before you place a bid, and always keep an eye out for other bidders. Finally, be sure to research the car value beforehand and always check the VIN.

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Consider these Car auction sites.

Car prices at auctions – Is it worth it?

As mentioned previously, car prices are highly dependant on the type of auction you attend. If you focus on informal auctions where owners are the ones selling their cars, you can often end up with a car for less than $500, and not many cars sell for more than a few grand.

These cars are usually more than five years old and owners are only interested in fast turnarounds which means that they intend to sell the car even if they don’t get the price they want. These cars are often repaired and repainted, and if you are able to recognize that it should work in your favor, if not, you can buy a car for more than what it’s worth.

Formal auctions are different because they move fast and they usually sell higher-quality cars. As such, you are hardly ever going to find a car here for less than $3000-$5000. These auctions are usually carried out by dealers, lease companies, and manufacturers themselves and can sometimes only be reserved for licensed dealers.

Tips on how to minimize the price and get the best deal possible

In order to maximize what you get for your money, you need to pay attention to a few important factors such as the condition the car is in, the title, documentation, proper inspection (if possible), VIN checkers, market knowledge, and the behavior of other bidders present.

1st tip – Thorough inspection

Indeed, most car auctions don’t let you inspect the car properly, but most of them do enable you to inspect the car on site. You need to check all the vital components such as the suspension by checking the stance of the car. Here you should focus on determining if the car is leaning in any direction or not.

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Always try to look for signs of repair and repaint jobs, especially on vulnerable areas such as the front and the rear bumper. Scored brake disks, cracked windshields, rust, and possible flood signs are also important if you want to get the best evaluation possible.

2nd tip – Always run the VIN

Most cars have different locations where the VIN is located such as the dashboard, the trunk lid, the doors, etc. Be sure to investigate where the VIN is for the car you are interested in, and when you locate them, be sure to check if all of them are matching.

This is a great way to tell if some parts were replaced during the car’s lifespan. Furthermore, you should also check the VIN with Vinispect to determine if the car was in a reported accident or not.

3rd tip – Research the used car market

Many useful online resources can help you determine how much a car is worth. You can either input all the car’s features into sites such as or you can do so manually by checking various online sites such as eBay Motors, Craigslist, AutoTrader,, etc.

 4th tip – Watch other bidders and stay in control

Not all people who attend car auctions are there to buy or sell a car. Some of them are there only to bump the price of certain cars so it’s important to recognize who they are. The best course of action would be to attend the auction a few times beforehand, this way you will soon realize what is happening in the background.

FAQ Section

Are car auctions worth it?

More often than not, car auctions are a great place to buy cars at a discounted rate, so yes, they are indeed worth it. However, you need to make sure you are doing all you can to maximize the value you get from most car auctions.

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Always focus on auctions that are well within your limits. This means that you should not waste your time on salvaged car auctions if you are not able to fix a car.

Why should I avoid car auctions?

Car auctions are not perfect, and there are a few reasons why attending a car auction is not a good idea. As mentioned previously, some bidders are only there to bump the prices of certain cars which blurs the true value of a car which can be detrimental for those who are not aware of that.

You can not test drive the car, and you also can’t do a thorough inspection. There are no warranties and the payment options are limited, to say the least.

Can you get expensive cars on car auctions?

Some car auctions sites such as Sotheby’s and Bonhams specialize in auctioning high-end luxury, classic and exotic cars. It’s not uncommon to find cars here with winning bids ranging in millions of dollars.

These are usually reserved for car collectors and dealerships, and it’s not exactly easy to bid on such cars. However, they can be a great way one can study how a car auction works and apply that knowledge to more approachable car auctions.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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