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Car Auction Tips from an Auctioneer

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 28 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Used Cars Auction Price Cheaper Dealers

Former auctioneer Simon Whitehead has seen thousands of used cars go under the hammer. Many have been bargain buys, but some have left the new owners wondering where they went wrong. Follow his advice to avoid buying a dud at auction.

What is the most common mistake beginners make when buying a used car at auction?
Answer: “They get carried away. You can see it in their faces as soon as the hammer falls, a look that says ‘oh, what have I done’. They’ve bought a car – often not the one they had intended to buy when they walked in – and paid more than they can really afford. You see, an auction can be exciting. There can be a real buzz about it, especially if there’s a good auctioneer running the show. It tends to be very fast moving too, so it’s easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and end up with the wrong motor at the wrong price.”

How does an auction virgin avoid that pitfall?
Answer: “Well, it’s easier said than done, but you should go with a maximum price in mind and stick to it no matter what. Also, only bid on a car if you really want it. A lot of punters go to an auction determined to go home with a car. That leads to them bidding on cars they don’t know much about and it can mean a lot of heartache later on. Sure, it can be disappointing if a punter loses out on the motor he had his heart set on, but it’s better to walk away. After all, there will be another auction just around the corner.”

Used cars tend to be cheaper at auction, so does that mean they are inferior to those sold by dealers?
Answer: “No, because a lot of dealers buy their used car stock at auctions and then sell them on. What it does mean is that there’s more risk involved at auctions. A dealer might – and I stress might because some are more thorough than others – look a car over and fix any problems it may have before putting it on the forecourt. It may then be sold with a warranty, whereas most cars at auctions are ‘sold as seen’. They might be ex-fleet or ex-lease cars, or cars that have been traded in for new models at franchised dealers, but are too old to sell on their forecourts.”

What are your top tips for buying a car at auction?
Answer: “Private punters push up prices, so avoid the auctions that a lot of private buyers can get to, like those at weekends, evenings and during school holidays. Do as much research as possible on the make and model of the car you’re interested in and find out what faults to look out for. Give the car a thorough check before the sale starts and listen carefully for any faults when it’s driven in to be sold. If you’re new to auctions, leave the cash at home the first time and just watch and get a feel for how it all works.”

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