Going for a song - how to buy a car from auction

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Chris Pollitt

“I’VEGOTTHREETHOUSAND, CANIGETFOUR, FOUR, AND IHAVEFOURTHOUSAND…Auctions - whether they're for cars, odd trinkets found in Nan’s loft or entire houses - are an exciting and fast-paced environment.

For us though, it’s the car auctions that fire us up the most. Not only are they exciting, they could also save you thousands of pounds on your purchase when compared to buying from a dealer or even from a private seller. There are, however, a number of caveats to bear in mind before you start throwing your hand in the air like you just don’t care. We wouldn’t want you to buy a car that breaks down within feet of the auction house; we want you to buy a gem! So, grab a brew and read through our auction advice.

1. Go for a dry run

If you roll up to the auction house with money in your pocket and little idea of what’s going on, you’ll inevitably end up buying a car made from three welded together after having to re-mortgage your house. That would be bad. Instead, grab the other half or a mate and go along for a ‘dry run’. Have a coffee or two, watch the action and get a taste for it. From this, you’ll be able to decide if buying from action is for you.

2. Know your stuff

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing the ins and outs of a car’s oily bits, mainly because a car from a dealer will have some form of warranty to offer peace of mind. Cars from auction, however, do not. They’re ‘sold as seen’ which means if you buy a pup and the engine falls out on the way home, you’ll have no comeback.

The best way to avoid such horror is to take a friend who knows what to look for. Failing that, ask your local mechanic if they’ll come along for a small fee. Also, research the car you want. The internet is your friend and a quick search should help you familiarise yourself with all the common issues of any particular car. A bit of legwork before the auction could save you thousands.

3. Keep a cool head

It's easy to get swept away with the action at an auction. It’s fun to throw up your hand or give the auctioneer that nod that we’ve all come to love through TV auction programs, but do try and resist. You don’t want to get carried away only to find out you’ve just bought a rusty 1985 Montego for £15,000. Keep a cool head, wait for the car/cars you’ve got an eye on and do your bidding then. Also, it’s a wise idea to note down what similar cars are selling for and who’s buying them, just for reference if nothing else.

4. Check the details

Some of the bigger auction companies will have an info pack for each car, either available on the day or via e-mail before the auction. Once you’ve shortlisted the cars you’re interested in bidding on, check this information thoroughly. Again, this may take a little of bit of time but it’ll help ensure you buy a decent car, as well as offering the inexperienced auction hunter some much needed peace of mind.

5. Don’t buy the first one you see

Many of the larger auctions process hundreds of cars every day, so don’t feel the pressure to buy the first car that rolls by. As we mentioned above, let a few go by so you can see how popular they are and how much they’re selling for. This will give you the chance to decide how far to go with the bidding. Plus, there’s no pressure to buy on the day. There will always be other auctions, so don’t succumb to any pressure you might put on yourself to buy there and then.

6. If the bids are low and slow, there’s a reason

Look at it logically – you’re in a room full of fellow bidders, a great many of whom are highly experienced. If a car comes through and no-one seems to bite, there’s probably a reason. Maybe the reason is something obvious within the paperwork, maybe not. Either way, don’t get excited and think you could get your dream car for 26p. Resist the urge and let it drive on by. You want your dream car, not a potential nightmare.

7. Set an amount in your head and stick to it

This is possibly one of the most crucial points to remember. You (we assume) don’t have unlimited funds at your disposal, so getting swept away in the action only to find out the final price could actually buy two cars is not a favourable scenario. Once you’ve done that all-important research you should have an idea of price in your head. Stick to it implicitly. If you get outbid simply wait for the next car.

8. Know your fees

Buying a car from auction involves all sorts of fees, and while they’re not too horrific it’s still worth speaking to staff at the auction to find out just what they’ll be. You don’t want to spend all your money on the car only to discover you’ve got nothing left for the fees!

9. Get the car checked out

If you do end up with your little slice of auction gold, make it a priority to get it to your local mechanic for a once over. Nine times out of ten it should be fine, but for some always welcome peace of mind, it’s well worth doing. Then, once you've got your car insurance in place, you can focus on enjoying your new purchase.

10. Have fun

As a private buyer, buying a car from auction can be exhilarating, fun and new. Make a day of it, look at some nice cars, watch the action and take it all in. As they say, a car is the second biggest household purchase, so why not make the most of it?