The Ins and Outs of Automotive Auctions


Automotive auctions can be a great way to get your hands on rare or price-reduced vehicles. You must be careful though, because auctions are largely a matter of what you see is what you get. Mechanical problems can be easily hidden behind a flawless exterior. Although cheap cars can be found, you might end up paying more in reparations than what the vehicle is worth. If you don’t have any prior auto mechanic training, finding the faults in an auctioned vehicle may be trickier than you think.

Be Wary of Hidden Damages

Despite wanting to think the best of everyone, auctions are a place for both the buyer and the seller to luck out. To get more money for their vehicle then it is worth, car sellers have many tricks which might fool some less-experienced auction goers. Buyers should be aware of the degree to which something can be hidden with paint. When buying a car at an auction, look for signs of paint overspray, warped sheet metal, extra polishing and note any strange smells like must from the interior. Other tricks sellers use is filling a dysfunctional engine with thick racing oil to ensure it runs smoothly at the auction and cleaning the engine bay to hide leaks for a short period of time. Having some form of auto technician training is helpful when attending an auction, so you can examine the car ahead of time and determine for yourself what it is worth.


“As Is” Really Means As Is

An auction block will have what are called “auction lights” which shine red, yellow, green or blue to signify different buying conditions of the vehicle. A red lights means “as is”, indicating that whoever buys the vehicle is responsible for any damages or faults which the vehicle already has—whether you were aware of them or not. A yellow light indicates that the auctioneer will announce any faults with the vehicle. A green light means you have the ability to drive the car before you leave the auction with it, to test for any unforeseen faults. A blue lights means the papers for the vehicle are not yet at the auction, but if you do not receive them in 30 days you have a right to give the car back. With a red and yellow light, once the car is bought there is nothing you can do about any damages—meaning you could potentially get ripped off. A blue and green light at least offer the possibility of returning a car if there are issues.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge

The best way to avoid getting a bad deal at an auto auction is to be cautious and informed. An auctioneer may have been to auto sales college and know a thing or two about hyping up a vehicle for sale, but you should not take everything at face value. A good auctioneer will try to help out the buyer as much as possible, but it is also useful to have your own knowledge by researching the vehicle history report of any car you’re interested in. Also beware of any “hidden” buyer’s fees. Lastly, know your budget. Auctions are designed to get your adrenaline pumping and it’s easy to get caught up in spur of the moment bidding. A good tip is to keep the absolute highest price you’ll pay written down in front of you, this way you will be less tempted to go on a bidding spree.

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