Should you buy your next car from an auction?

If you’re looking to buy a car, then you might be interested in car auctions.

Car auctions can be very tempting, due to the high number of cheap cars on offer. But are they really as good as they sound?

Car Auctions: The Basics

Car auctions are similar to any other kind of auction. There’s a collection of cars, each one known as a “lot” and an auctioneer to control proceedings. As each lot comes up, people bid money, and the person with the highest bid takes the car.

There are also online auctions these days, which fall into two different categories. One kind of online auction is similar to ebay and the like, in that the owner of the car puts it up for auction and people bid online.

The second type is where you employ someone to bid in person at a live auction for a car you want, meaning you don’t need to attend car auctions yourself, you can let someone else do the work.

Where Do Auction Cars Come From?

There are different kinds of car auctions. Some are run by the government, and the cars at these auctions tend to be either public service cars (maybe they were police cars at some point, for example), or maybe they’re repossessed cars (taken because the owner couldn’t pay taxes, for example).

Then there are public auctions, and these are simply second hand cars that the owner has decided to auction rather than just sell privately.

The Benefits of Car Auctions

Buying through car auctions can mean getting huge discounts on a vehicle. This is the primary reason why people go to auctions. You’re likely to pay far less than the real value of a vehicle through auction.

However, there are some people that go to car auctions for parts. If you own an unusual vehicle then it may be difficult to source parts for it, in this case buying a cheap auction model similar to your own can give you a readily available source of spare parts for your own car.

The Risks of Car Auctions

So far, everything might be sounding pretty great. A new car, a low, low price, why doesn’t everyone buy at car auctions? The downside here is that the risks of buying at car auction are very, very high. What kind of problems are we looking at?

The initial problem is that there’s no guarantee. You have no idea what you’re getting, have no way of thoroughly checking the vehicle out before buying, and no way to get your money back if things go wrong.

That’s pretty worrying, but what’s more worrying is all this plus the fact that cars that go to car auctions are unlikely to be in the best shape. Or even, in some cases, legal.

Buying state owned cars at a government auction is usually pretty safe. Repossessed cars are kind of a mid ground, they’re likely to be okay, though there’s no guarantee. Those public auction cars though, they’re a different matter altogether.

Why Use Car Auctions to Sell Second Hand Cars?

Many public auction cars are perfectly above board – the owner has died and it’s easier for the estate to sell the car at auction, for example.

However, in many cases, this simply isn’t true. Car auctions are a great way for sellers to get rid of a car that otherwise they might not be able to sell, either because it’s not in good shape, or because it’s not legal.

There are three big risks to buying vehicles in public car auctions:

  • The car is not in good shape, it may pass a simple walk around inspection but in actuality has large mechanical problems that an in depth inspection would catch (thus making it easier to sell at auction where a cursory inspection is all you get rather than to sell to a private buyer or second hand car dealer);
  • The car has been involved in an accident, maybe it has been listed as “totalled” meaning destroyed and insurance has already been claimed, but it’s been patched up enough for the engine to run so it can be sold on again, or perhaps it has extensive water damage (through being submerged in a lake, for example) that will cause big problems later;
  • The car is illegal, it was stolen or it was “chopped” (meaning it was put together from pieces of other vehicles, generally the front and back ends of two different cars are welded together at the chassis, making the vehicle look whole but resulting in a very dangerous car).

The risks of buying at public car auctions can be very high.

The original article can be found here at

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Should you buy your next car from an auction?