cars in a showroom waiting for upcoming auto auctions


Car auctions are a great way to score a deal or find a rare vehicle, but there are some steps you should take to maximize your results. 

It used to be that you’d only find dealership buyers and other industry insiders at auto auctions, but retail bidders now make up an increasingly significant portion of the crowd. 

The reasons for this influx are simple: they want to find a great deal on a vehicle or get their hands on something rare.

The good news is that auto auctions are accessible to almost anyone, and if you get lucky, you might just find that perfect vehicle. 

However, you’ll want to make some preparations before bidding to ensure you don’t end up buying someone else’s problem or overpaying entirely.

Here’s a look at six tips that can help you achieve the best result at your next car auction.  

Key Takeaways

  • Auto auctions can save you money
  • Following a few tips gives you a bidding advantage
  • Transporting your vehicle afterward is a simple process

Table of Contents

Tip 1: Learn About Cars
Tip 2: Get There Early
Tip 3: Remember The Buyer’s Premium
Tip 4: Prepare to Walk Away
Tip 5: Bid Creatively
Tip 6: Have Money for Repairs
Bringing it Home: How to Transport a Car Won at Auction

Tip 1: Learn About Cars

A meaningful way to prepare for an auto auction is to learn as much about cars as possible. This tip doesn’t mean that you need the ability to take a car apart and put it back together blindfolded; however, you should have some basic knowledge.

You should know enough about vehicles to tell if there is a significant problem that could lead to major repairs. Remember, you’re buying the car as-is, so you’re on the hook for any damage or work the vehicle requires to get it into working condition.

Tip 2: Get There Early

The earlier you arrive at the auction, the better. Getting to the site first- allows you to wander around and identify any vehicles you have an interest in. You can then give these cars a quick inspection, so you aren’t scrambling to look for problems at the last minute.

Getting to the auction early also gives you time to research the car’s history. You can grab the VIN and request a CarFax or AutoCheck report, which will provide insight into past accidents, owner history, and title information.

Acquiring this data allows you to make informed bids and protects you from damaged cars and fraud. 

Tip 3: Remember The Buyer’s Premium

As you prepare to place a bid, keep in mind that a buyer’s premium is often added to the final price. The amount this premium will cost varies, but you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to as much as 10% of your final bid. 

There will be information on the buyer’s premium at the auction site, so be sure to calculate this amount into your bids to ensure you don’t end up paying the over-market value for your vehicle. 

It’s also important to remember that you might not take possession of the car that day. Your contract should state how many days it’ll take until you get the title, and this information helps when making plans to get the vehicle home.

Tip 4: Prepare to Walk Away

Buying a car at auction takes a lot of discipline and willpower. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the competitive aspect of the moment and overbid on a vehicle because you want the thrill of winning.

You must prepare yourself emotionally for the auction process before bidding on anything. Tell yourself that it’s not a competition but rather a method of purchasing a vehicle for less than market value. 

Most importantly, prepare yourself to walk away from any vehicle that reaches prices you’re uncomfortable paying. 

Set a limit before making your first bid and don’t stray from that amount no matter what to save yourself from buyer’s remorse in the future.

Tip 5: Bid Creatively

The highest bid always wins, so a little trick you can use when participating in a blind auction is to bid obscure amounts. For example, if you feel like a car is worth about $4,000, bidding $4,007 could give you a better chance of success if others value the vehicle the same way.

The reason for the 4,007 bid is that people are less likely to bid odd numbers, and the number seven takes you beyond the $4,001 and $4,002 numbers that many bidders will use.

This strategy isn’t perfect, but it works better than bidding an even $4,000 when there are multiple bidders.

Tip 6: Have Money for Repairs

Even if you do the necessary research and inspect the car before bidding, there’s a good chance the vehicle will require some repairs. Remember, these vehicles are at an auction for a reason, so you could run into issues like high mileage or mechanical problems that prevent car dealerships from selling them on their lots.

That’s not to say that every car at an auction will be in poor condition, just that you should put aside some extra money in case you need to fix some components. 

Experienced bidders will factor potential repair costs into their bids. For example, if you’d be comfortable paying $10,000 for a particular car but believe it needs about $2,000 in repairs to get it on the road, you might cap your bid at $8,000.

Part of your car knowledge should include what repairs cost to particular vehicles, as well. It might be more challenging to find parts for import or classic vehicles, increasing your costs when repairing or restoring them. 

You might also have to tow or ship the vehicle to your house or repair shop if it isn’t in running condition, which is another expense you’ll want to factor into your bid.

Bringing it Home: How to Transport a Car Won at Auction

When traveling to another part of the country for an auction or participating in an online one, there’s a chance you’ll have to ship your car home after winning. The good news is that it’s easy to compare rates and locate the right auto-shipping type through an experienced broker.

Mercury Auto Transport can supply you with quotes from FMCSA-licensed and insured carriers from across the country. Be sure to contact us to request a quote, so you can ship your car from the auto auction to your home without any hassle whatsoever.



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