7 Things to Remember When Buying a Classic Car at Auction

people checking out the inventory when potentially buying a classic car at auction

Classic-car auctions are a great way to find rare vehicles, and following these tips will ensure you make the most of the experience.

Key takeaways

  • Auctions provide access to cars not readily available on the market
  • It’s easy to get carried away when bidding
  • Being prepared before the day arrives can keep you on track
  • Making transportation arrangements is also advisable

Whether you are an experienced classic-car collector or looking to buy your first, attending an auction provides access to vehicles you might not find anywhere else.

However, it’s easy to get carried away and turn what should be an exciting day into an overwhelming experience. Creating a plan before the auction and sticking to your strategy minimizes the chance of making mistakes when bidding. 

Here are seven tips to keep in mind when buying a classic car at auction. 

1) Do the research

The auction will offer multiple vehicles; don’t walk into the event unprepared. Fortunately, you can usually find the listings on the auction’s website in advance of the big day, making research manageable.

Start by determining the car type you want and narrow your search to a few vehicles. Read up on each automobile’s history using the vehicle-identification number (VIN). The VIN reveals if you’re bidding on an original, rebuild, or clone, and the car’s accident and maintenance history. Study vehicles’ recent auction prices, market values, and production numbers, and set a budget.

2) Remember your budget

Setting a budget before the auction makes it less likely you’ll overspend. You don’t want to bid blindly, so take the research you’ve completed to establish a fair price for the vehicles you wish to bid on at the auction.

Remember, most vehicles won’t come with guarantees or warranties, and there’s a chance repairs, restoration, or maintenance will be necessary before you can even drive it. As a result, your budget should be something you can comfortably afford, rather than every single penny you can spare

3) There could be extra costs

The amount you bid isn’t what you’ll end up paying; additional costs will almost surely add to the price tag. For instance, buyers’ surcharges, registration fees, and taxes will undoubtedly factor into the grand total. Make sure your budget incorporates these expenses. 

The auction website will likely list fees you can expect to pay, so you won’t enter the situation blindly. 

4) Auctions have unique terminology

Experienced auction buyers already know the terminology; if you’ve never attended an event before, learning these phrases will help:

  • Reserve: The minimum price the seller will accept for the vehicle. This amount is usually hidden during bidding, but the auction is void if no one bids the reserve number. The seller could choose to waive the reserve amount and accept the final offer, which is a possibility if it’s close to the reserve.
  • No reserve: When there’s no reserve on an auction, the highest bid wins. There will be a minimum starting bid associated with the auction, but the seller doesn’t have the right to void the auction if bids don’t reach a certain level.
  • Double-ending: Avoid double-ending auctions unless you find a classic car you absolutely must have. The auction company collects commission from the buyer and the seller in these situations. 

Some auctions don’t charge a buyer’s premium, which will keep costs down when buying a classic car. 

5) Things won’t always follow your plan

Car auctions are full of variables, and it’s likely the day won’t go according to plan. For example, bidding on your first choice could get out of control to the point the cost exceeds the automobile’s value. 

In these situations, it’s best to walk away and wait for another auction, or move on to your second choice. Overpaying for a car (or buying the wrong one) will cause regret, and it’s doubtful you’ll ever get your money back if you sell it. 

6) Don’t forget insurance

Standard auto insurance isn’t good enough for rare classic cars; investigate insurance costs in advance find a carrier that will provide adequate coverage. You can even purchase specialized classic car insurance before you arrive at the auction to ensure you’re covered from the second you gain control of the vehicle. 

Don’t be left scrambling to find insurance after winning an auction. Develop a clear plan to ensure you can smoothly assume ownership of the vehicle.

7) Shipping is safer than driving

Keeping your vehicle in excellent condition as you take it home is a priority. Remember that shipping the car is safer than driving it over long distances. 

Car-shipping providers offer enclosed trailers that protect vehicles from road debris and the elements, limiting the chance of potential damage. 

Make arrangements with your auto-transport vendor before the auction. This method works best when you’re confident you’ll walk away with a vehicle. 

How to arrange car shipping

The easiest way to reserve a vehicle-transport carrier is with a broker. They will connect you with vetted service providers who can meet your unique transportation needs. They’ll also provide quotes before you choose a vendor. 

Mercury Auto Transport is a car-shipping broker that can assist arranging transportation for any classic car you buy at auction. We’ll post your job on our network, where licensed and insured auto transport carriers can bid. Contact Mercury Auto Transport today to receive your auto-shipping quote.


Get a quote.

Transport Vehicle FROM
Transport Vehicle TO
Vehicle Year
Vehicle Make
Vehicle Make
Vehicle Model
Vehicle Model
Vehicle Type
Full Name
Phone Number
Email Address
Available Date
Additional Information
Contact & Date

Thank you!

Thanks for submitting the form. You will be receive an email shortly.

What Our Customrs Are Saying


We feel it’s important for you to know how we determined your quote. Quotes are based on what the market demands for cars to be moved at a given time. Each quote is compared with the current rates on the National Load Board before being sent to our customers and will be reviewed periodically through the process.

Other companies might offer you a lower price to obtain your business. This method is ineffective because if the car does not pay the correct amount of money, it will run the probability of not getting loaded or transported on time. You will not get this information from our competitors. Truck drivers always take the loads that pay the most first, leaving the loads that are mispriced to be moved last or not at all. We try very hard to avoid this with our customers by quoting a fair but realistic quote up front. Visit our How we determine your quote page for more information.

Understanding auto transport insurance is important and we think it’s valuable to explain how it works. As part of providing a great car transport service, it is our job to guarantee that the carrier we assign to pickup your vehicle is licensed and insured. Click here to check out our license.

When you go with Mercury to ship your vehicle, you can rest assured that the carrier assigned to move your car is fully insured and licensed with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier and Saftey Administration).

Your vehicle is covered by the carrier’s insurance policy that is doing the shipping. Depending on the type and size of the truck/trailer that is shipping your car, the insurance policy can cover from $100,000 to $1,000,000 of damage.

We have also provided a checklist to explain what you need to do at both pickup and delivery in case there are any issues so, you can file a claim and know that everything will be taken care of.

It is rare but, time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit and it is good to know that your carrier’s insurance will protect your auto shipment in that event.

To view a sample BOL (Bill of Lading) and learn what to do in case of accidental damage, please check out our Condition Report and Procedure checklist.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible.  

We feel it’s important for you to know how we determine your quote.

When you’re looking for a car shipping rate, you want to understand how auto transport works. Prices are based on seasonal market demands for cars to be moved at any given time. Each quote is prepared based on the season and the current national rates.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible. Not all brokers are created equal in this talent.

Mercury does a thorough background check with each carrier for every shipment. We verify their ratings, references, and in addition, we obtain a certified copy of their insurance certificate, directly from the government agency that it is on file with.

You can have peace of mind knowing that the carrier shipping your vehicle is the very best and that there are no surprises guaranteed.

Mercury Auto Transport is licensed, Bonded and Insured. Our FMSCA Motor Carrier Number is MC647319.

While we do our best match your auto shipping needs with the most responsible carriers with the best track records, from time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit, it is good to know that the insurance of the carrier we locate for you will protect your auto shipment in that event.

Shipping a vehicle can be stressful if you don’t know what to do.  This is why we believe it is paramount to have our highly trained agents be your main point of contact from start to finish.

They will go over everything you need to know so you can relax.  In the meanwhile, we prepared this checklist.  This includes everything from pickup to delivery and how to make sure your car is ready for pickup.

When it comes to car moving, we want you to be ahead of the game!  For any questions and further assistance our agents are standing by, (800) 553-1828.  Please read our checklist to prepare your vehicle to learn more.

There are several ways you can ship a car.  The options include enclosed trailer, open carrier transport, flatbed truck, door-to-door shipping services, and to or from a terminal as well.  The most popular of the options is a 7 to 10 car open carrier.  These large trucks can accommodate almost any size vehicle including carsSUVstrucksjeeps, and vans.

Open car transport, door to door is also the best way to get the cheapest auto transport rate possible.  To learn more and see what transport method is best for you, please fill out our free quote form and one of our representatives will respond to you within minutes.  You can also call us at (800) 553-1828.

We present offers from FMCSA Licensed and Insured Carriers. When you accept an offer, we send your service agreement that guarantees the price, door-to-door service, and 100% bumper-to-bumper insurance. There are never any hidden fees or charges, guaranteed.