We have all heard those unbelievable car auction success stories, you know, those friends-of-our-friends who have scored $500 late-model Fords or $1,200 BMWs.
Some of those stories are exaggerated, but there are nevertheless deals to be found at car auctions. With that in mind, before you stake your vehicular future on the promise of picking up an enviable auction deal of your own, here are seven things you should know about auction car sales.
1. The Best Deals Aren’t Open to the Public
Dealers get access to the very best deals at car auctions. Unfortunately, dealer-only auctions are not open to private citizens. The most enviable deals in car auctions happen at these exclusive events and, sadly, other types of auctions really don’t compare when it comes to scoring a good deal on a great car.
2. Public Auctions Are a Mixed Bag
Car auctions advertised as ‘open to the public’ consist of repossessed vehicles, non-roadworthy clunkers, wholesale lots, and flooded-out lemons. As you can imagine, the reliability and selection offered at public auctions vary tremendously, though there are decent vehicles interspersed amid the refuse.
3. Gov’t Auctions: Competition is Stiff
If you’re interested in a rather utilitarian vehicle, you may be drawn to a government auction. Word to the wise: these events attract professional bidders and you are likely to be outbid by a bigger fish with a fatter purse. The selection offered at government auctions is nothing to write home about, unless maybe you’re planning to start your own taxi company.
4. A Landscape of Lemons
Before you are led like a lemming to the slaughter, remember that car auction sites are not required by law to sell roadworthy cars. Auctions offer salvaged, broken, and otherwise busted lemons aimed at secondary markets. This means car auctions are often riddled with clunkers that, frankly, you are better off avoiding.
5. Car Auctions Are ‘Cash Only’
If you are lucky enough to find a good deal on a reliable car at an auction, you’ll need cash. Car auctions don’t take cheques, credit cards, or third-party financing, most of the time.
6. Other Bidders Are Not Your Friends
First-time car auction visitors are often struck by the fact that it’s an unfriendly affair. Other bidders are there to beat you for the best deals. Sellers are there to beat you out of your money. The depths which both groups are willing to plumb will shock you. Simply put, car auctions aren’t for the faint of heart.
7. You’re Better Shopping Around
Car auctions are enticing prospects, but the reality is far from the dream. The bottom line is, if you are looking to pay little more for lots of cars, you will get better results buying from a private seller than you will at an auction.