Is buying a car from an auction a good idea?

In a world of used car sales, a great deal is essential because it enables you to get more for less. The whole idea behind buying used cars is to get the most out of your money, and if you find a used car on a great deal, you have virtually maxed out the value proposition.

Doing so seems extremely attractive as it’s both fun and money conscious, but the best way to achieve those levels of satisfaction is through used car auctions. Online sites such as ACV Auctions, Copart, IAAI, and Auto Auction Mall sell a few million cars every year for both dealers and private owners.

Top auction sites to buy cars

However, it’s not all sunshine when it comes to auction used car sales as they can often be stressful and a waste of time. Buying a car from an auction virtually disables you to go through the car in detail which means that you are sometimes virtually buying a car sight unseen.

If everything goes according to plan, and you are well versed in the used car market, buying a car from an auction might be a great idea. Nonetheless, you always have to make sure that you are well aware of what you are doing at any moment of the buying process.

Benefits of buying a car from an auction

A used car auction is a dynamic experience that is sometimes rather fun to watch no matter if you are buying a car or not. Given the fact that many auction sites listed in the introductory paragraph have more than a few hundred thousand cars on sale at any moment, it’s safe to say that the selection is extremely broad when compared to most dealerships.

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However, the main reason why people opt for used car auctions is that there are many used car bargains just waiting to be snatched. With “discounts” up to 30% compared to regular used car dealerships, used car auctions are a preferred mean of car acquisition for many used car dealerships anyway.

Used car auctions are also a great way for those who want to buy a car fast because auction sites are primarily interested in fast turnarounds. If you also consider salvaged and damaged car auctions and the fact that you can often find all sorts of commercial vehicles as well, there is a lot one can gain by participating in various car auctions.

Disadvantages of buying a car from an auction

Because most car auctions are interested in fast turnarounds, it also means that you are not usually able to test drive the car, or even get a proper inspection done. This means that you are not 100% sure about the state the car is in, and the only way you can find it out is to buy the car and worry about it later.

Of course, this can be a large deterrent for many potential customers, but if you are willing to accept the risk, and you try your best to inspect all the condition reports, it’s not the end of the world. Another great disadvantage of buying a car from an auction is the fact that many of these cars were confiscated and were used as service cars.

This means that some of these cars never got the proper care and attention an owner usually invests in his cars. Moreover, car auctions never give out any sort of warranties and payment methods are usually limited as well.

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 Different types of auctions and what to look out for

Not all car auctions are the same because some of them deal with pre-owned cars, confiscated cars, lease cars that are in working order and are the closest thing to a dealership car you can get at an auction. Others deal with government service cars, commercial vehicles, damaged/salvaged/flooded cars, and so on.

The difference between a pre-owned and a government fleet vehicle is rather apparent the moment you step inside. Most government vehicles are purpose-built and they don’t offer all features you might expect. Furthermore, they are often way more abused than a regular pre-owned car.

The best type of auction is the dealership overstock auction in which dealers auction their cars for fast money because they were sitting on the lot for way too long. Damaged/salvaged cars are only reserved for those with mechanical and repair/rebuild experience.

Another crucial aspect of buying a car from an auction is the necessity of a dealer’s license as some auction sites will not let you take part in the bidding process if you are not a licensed dealer.

FAQ Section

Are auctioned cars bad?

Not necessarily, but there were countless instances where shoppers complained about the condition the cars were in the moment they drove them off the lot. Indeed, car auctioneers don’t really care about cars in most cases because their primary objective is to sell the cars fast and minimize the costs while they hold the cars in the meantime.

As mentioned previously, many dealerships buy cars from auction sites because it also enables them to make a significant profit. However, these dealerships usually do spend a few extra bucks in order to fix the car up and make it look and drive nicer before it reaches its new owner.

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Are online auction sites worth it?

Given the fact that we are currently living in a pandemic, online car auctions have become somewhat of a standard these days. Even though it may seem risky to buy a car you only saw on a smaller screen, it virtually makes no difference anyway because you can’t drive the car.

Furthermore, online car auctions are easier on both the customer and the auctioneer because it requires less participation from both parties. You can bid on a car even before the bidding process starts and you can bid on a car hundreds of miles away. So yes, online car auctions are worth it just because they are more convenient.

Do auction sites sell cars from all price categories?

Many people believe that car auction sites only sell relatively affordable economy cars, service cars, and damaged cars, but that’s not the case. Some auction sites such as Bonhams and Sotheby’s are selling multiple million-dollar cars regularly.

Even most pre-owned used car auction sites have a wide variety of all sorts of vehicles, so much so that the variety found at some auction sites can not be found anywhere else. All of this further reiterates the fact that buying from an auction is fun and is full of great deals all around.

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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