Published: 15th February 2007
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Although there are some very good deals to be had at car auctions, there is also some things that you must know and do if you are attending an auction for the first time because when you are unfamiliar how an auction operates you can make a few mistakes that can be very costly, but armed with some foreknowledge and providing you follow it - you should be okay.

Most people's experience of buying a car normally goes like this:- See the car they like in the local paper, go round the seller's house, view the car and then negotiate the price by starting at asking price and then trying to bring the seller down to the price you want to pay.

With this way of buying, you can take your time, take a test drive, and think about how much you want to pay and if the deal does not suit you, you can go away and think about it.

Buying a car from auction is a totally different experience.

The scenario at the car auction is far different, and this is what puts a lot of people off from buying a car this way, but if you are armed with a checklist and knowledge of what to do, you can certainly swing things in your favour.

Attending The Auction

I'll assume that this is your first auction that you will be attending. If you are an experienced auction visitor, then it won't do any harm just to go over points that you already know.

The first place to look for at the auction is the office where the entries for the vehicles are accepted. Here there should be displayed the conditions of sale of the cars that are entered into the auction.

Amongst the general auction rules there will be information about how the cars are offered for sale. These are as follows:


This means exactly what it says, what you see is what you get. Any vehicle that is offered for sale sold 'as seen' cannot be rejected under any circumstances. Any complaint about a problem that the car may have will not be entertained at all.

This may seem a bit harsh from the buyers' point of view, but don't let this put you off buying a car that is sold 'as seen'.


This can vary from auction to auction, so it's important that you check with the auction staff to verify what their conditions are but basically sold 'with trial' means:

That you get one hour after the end of the sale to return the car if you find any 'MAJOR MECHANICAL FAULTS', i.e. engine, gearbox, axles, steering rack etc.

Some auctions conditions differ from auction to another so that is why it's imperative that you check with the auction staff before bidding on any vehicle.


This is a fee that you will pay on top of the purchase price of any car that you may buy. Probably better known as a 'buyers premium'.

Fees vary a great deal from auction to auction. Check with the auction staff as to what these fees are if they are not displayed in the office area or around the auction.

These fees should also include an 'HPI' check on the car you are buying. This will give you full legal title to the car. The 'HPI' check covers items such as:

a) Whether the car has any outstanding finance on it.

b) If the car is on the police stolen list.

c) If the car has ever been an insurance 'total loss'.

d) Whether the car has had a number plate transfer.

e) Will also confirm the 'VIN' (chassis) number.

When I first started to visit car auctions I went along to them for about 3 months before I bought my first car. The reason for this was because I wanted to go into car dealing as a business and I decided to carry some research before I actually committed myself.

I would not under any circumstances take any money with me to buy a car with, just enough to get there and back and for a cup of tea and a sandwich, and sometimes that can come to a few quid depending on which auction you go to.

I did this because when I saw how cheap some of the cars went for, I

immediately wanted to start buying anything and everything, but this would have been a mistake.

So I sat at every auction I attended with my notepad and pen taking down the details of nearly every car that came through the auction and I was surprised at the prices the cars were making.

From there I would go home and compare the prices in car magazines and the local paper and I could see immediately how much profit people were making by selling cars.

The Day I Bought My First Car At Auction

I decided to take the plunge and armed with all my knowledge and statistics of the previous 3 months research, I purchased one evening at a car auction in Essex, a Rover SDI 2600, X registration, for the sum of £500 which at the time was quite a nice car and not too difficult to get rid of.

You know there is something else coming up don't you? You can just feel it in the air. So let me tell you the result of my purchase.

I picked the car up a week later because I paid by cheque and had to wait a week for the cheque to clear. I got a few miles down the road and I noticed the engine started to heat up very quickly which is not a good sign.

To cut a long story short I have the car transported home and have to sell the car to a dealer out of the local paper who pays me £200 for the car.

First deal - Loss of £300!!

As i mentioned earlier you can take your time when buying a car the normal way but these methods go right out the window when buying a car by auction because it's a totally different buying experience.

When you have the opportunity to buy cars at trade prices, your imagination starts running wild as to how cheap this car is, or much money you can earn from this even if you had no intention of selling cars for a profit. This happens with everyone it is basic human nature.

So the car that you had in mind when you start seeing the other bargains to be had at the auction can very quickly change along with your priorities. Coupled with the fact there is so much choice and not just one car to look at, which when you go to look at a car that was advertised in the paper you only turn up to view that particular one.

At car auctions there are absolutely hundreds to choose from. So if your 'ideal' car is not there, there is always another car that maybe you didn't really want can catch your eye and there is nothing like a cheap price of a car to focus the attention of the mind.


You will need to inspect any car you are interested in long before the car goes in the auction to be sold. When you find a car that is suitable go through this checklist.

It's very important to examine the car while the car is parked up, because it will be a little more difficult when the car is lining up to be sold and then everybody else will be looking. Best to check round the car when it's not too busy. Hence the purpose of getting to the auction early.

Have a quick look around the car just to check for any accident damage to the bodywork like panels having any dents or bumpers if they are plastic being cracked etc.

Have a look on the windscreen for any chips or cracks as this can be an expensive item to replace.

Then have a look on the windscreen and the car should have a windscreen ticket displayed that should tell you all the details of the car. Please read through this information slowly and carefully noting down any details about the car you need to know.

NOTE: If you are unhappy with any of the above, don't buy it. Simple as that. Just find another car there are plenty more to choose from. Don't let your heart rule your head.

After you have read the windscreen ticket, and if you are still interested in the car, examine the car a little more closely this time particularly looking at things that might need replacing and add cost to your purchase price after you have bought the car.

Bear in mind that mechanical repairs can in some cases be carried out fairly cheaply these days, but bodywork repairs can be very expensive and this should be reflected in the price of the car.

Visual Checks

Things like tyres. Tyres can be very costly these days to replace, especially low-profile or sports tyres. If the tyres look like they are going to need changing in the near future adjust your bid accordingly with this in mind.

Does the overall condition of the car match up with the mileage? Not just outside but also inside as well. If the windscreen ticket says that the car has covered low or average mileage for the year, have a good look at the condition of the seats especially the drivers seat, is it worn or does it match up with the mileage and condition of the car.

The steering wheel. Is it all smooth or does it still look new?

All these things are a visual check that you can carry out on the car and give you a better chance of buying a good car and eliminate some of the risks that are there and swing things in your favour.

Bidding For Your Car

When the time arrives for the car you are interested in to go into the auction, stand in a place where the auctioneer can see you clearly but not in a place where you can be seen by everybody else, i.e. right in front of the rostrum.

All the inspection, the visual and mechanical checks on the car should have been done by now, so you know exactly how much you're maximum bid is going to be.

Make sure you know how much buyers premium will be added to the purchase price, also if the car needs anything replaced and keep a note of this in front of you when bidding.

Believe me (i'm a car dealer), you need to have all the finances work out before you put in your first bid. If you don't you could end up paying too much for the car.

DO NOT under any circumstances pay more than the figure you have in mind. If you end up not buying the car, another one will always be available. Even if you don't buy a car at the same auction, wait until the car you want turns up, and it will.

Paying For Your Car

If you are the highest bidder you will have to pay a deposit immediately after the bidding stops.

If you after bidding end up having the highest bid on the car, you will either end up reaching the reserve price that the seller wants and the auctioneer will normally bring the hammer down to indicate that you are the successful buyer.

If the reserve price is not reached, then you will still be required to give your details and a deposit to the auction staff. This will be called a 'provisional' bid.

What will then happen is the auction will contact the owner of the car and will try to negotiate a price on the car. If the seller will not lower their reserve price and an agreement cannot be reached, then your deposit will be returned to you.

In Conclusion

I am sure that you will find the car auctions that you visit a totally new experience of buying a car, and one that you will enjoy.

May I wish you all the best in your endeavours.


Paul Fryatt.

If you would like more information about car auctions you can sign up at my website for my weekly newsletter where you'll have FREE audio and video lessons revealing all aspects of car auctions from a dealers viewpoint. There's also a complimentary copy of my ebook, 'Cheap Car Prices'.

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