Express & Star

Here are some top tips for buying a car at auction

There are some important things to know about buying a car at auction.


When it comes to buying a car, many of us will do so either at a dealership or perhaps from a private seller.

But there’s another option that many of us often ignore, and that’s buying a car at an auction. Thousands of vehicles are sold this way every week, and though many might go directly to the trade, plenty of auctions are open to private buyers too.

It can be both an intimidating and exciting way of purchasing a new car if you’ve never done it before. So to help, here are some top tips to help you hopefully end up with a hassle-free purchase at a great price.

Visit auctions a few times before looking to buy

(Classic Car Auctions)

If you’ve never been to a ‘live’ auction before, it can prove quite intimidating at first. There’s often lots of jargon said by the auctioneers, and the speed at which they talk can be unnerving at first for a novice.

It’s why it’s a good idea to go along to an auction beforehand, as it will help you get used to the environment, and prepare you for the future when you might want to make a bid.

Do your research and view the car before you buy if possible

(Silverstone Auctions)

Car auctions often don’t have the same level of safety net as if you were to buy from a dealership, which is why it’s even more important to do your research beforehand. If you’ve seen a vehicle you’d like to bid on, make sure you read various buyer’s guides so you know what common problems to look out for.

Many of the larger auction websites also thoroughly photograph the vehicle and point out any damage to the car. This is no substitute for your own eyes, however, so as long as it’s not a closed-off auction, you should always try and view the vehicle ahead of the sale. If you’re not especially mechanically-minded, it’s worth taking along someone whose opinion you trust to help with this, too.

Make sure you’re aware of the auction rules

(British Car Auctions)

Car auctions are usually filled with terms and conditions, so it’s worth reading and getting your head around these beforehand. Some of the larger auction sites such as British Car Auctions (BCA), have since the Covid pandemic only sold to the trade, meaning you can’t go as a private buyer to bid.

Those that do allow you to bid as a regular punter, however, may ask you to make a deposit beforehand so that you’re able to bid.

Set a fixed price

(Gooding & Co)

Car auctions can be exciting, but it’s all too easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment. But this is one thing you absolutely should not do.

It’s why beforehand you should make sure you set yourself a maximum price and do not exceed that. Have a look at the various online car marketplaces to see what dealers are selling similar examples for, but remember to pay less than this at auction in case the car needs any work done to it.

You will also need to factor in the various online auction fees, which can quickly rack up the price. The main one is the buyer’s fee, which varies depending on the auction house, but can add a significant amount to the price.

Be aware that many auction houses require you to pay there and then, and there won’t be any sort of financing available – you’ll need to ensure you have the funds available before you bid.

Consider how you’ll get the vehicle home


If you’re buying from a dealer, there’s usually some flexibility about when you can collect the car after it’s been purchased. But if you’re buying from an auction, you’ll need to get a wriggle on as companies often require sold vehicles to be picked up shortly after the auction to free up space for incoming vehicles.

So make sure you either have transport or that someone can pick up the vehicle within a few days of the auction ending.

Look at online auctions

(The Market)

While we’ve predominantly talked about physical car auctions, there’s been an emergence of online auctions in recent years.

While there’s eBay at the more mainstream end of the spectrum, sites like Collecting Cars and The Market, for example, cater for more specialist and often more expensive cars. The same basic principles apply here, however, such as making sure you understand how the platform works before placing a bid, doing your research, and trying to arrange a viewing beforehand. But crucially, don’t exceed your budget and make sure you’ve got the cash available beforehand.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.