Car auctions can be both lucrative and fun. You may be able to connect with other aficionados of a particular make and model or meet up with a mechanic, painter, or detailer who can help you upgrade your new vehicle. However, it’s a good idea to start slow and look long-term.
The vehicle you buy at auction will probably not be the car that you take to work next week. It may or may not be possible to drive your new car off the lot. If you plan to finance a vehicle from the auction, consider borrowing enough to
- tow the vehicle to your home or your mechanic’s location
- make at least some repairs
- cover any storage fees
Of course, because you’ll be bidding on the car and working off a repair estimate, the monies needed will be a ballpark estimate. Before you make any bids, have a decent idea of how much you can borrow to avoid having to walk away from your bid or overextending yourself.
When you buy a car from an auction, it will generally come “as is”. It may or may not be ready to be driven. If it starts, it may not be road-worthy. Unless you are a skilled mechanic carrying the necessary tools, plan to tow or haul away any vehicle you buy at a car auction.
If you’re not a mechanic, call around and get basic information on repairs. You may find your dream car, but it needs the engine or transmission replaced. That will be costly, but if you get the car at the right price, it will be worth it. Talk to a specialist; if you really want a classic VW, talk to a VW mechanic about the challenges of an air-cooled engine.
There’s nothing wrong with spending your money on the classic car you loved as a child. However, that classic car may take months to get up and running. If you’re in the market for a daily driver, skip the dream and look for a decent student car in your current location that you can sell once your dream is purring along.
The right car may require you to hire a car transport company. Not everything can or should be towed. For those who have been searching for a particular make or model for years, getting your car loaded and moved by skilled professionals can save a lot of worries.
If you choose to transport the car on your own, take care when mapping out your trip. Towing a vehicle through a large city can be exhausting; a trip that takes four hours in a car can take twice that long if you need to stop and rest or plan around the busiest times on the roadway.
For those who love road trips but have never driven a large truck, being able to tow or haul your new vehicle will require a large adjustment in your driving style. Depending on both vehicles, you may need to avoid some bridges because of weight restrictions or height limitations. Do take the time to study your intended route to see what hazards you will face.
Have a good idea of what the vehicle will be worth once it’s running. If it’s a fairly new car, you may be able to refinance it once you get it running and insurable. You may go to the auction with no intention of purchasing anything.
In that case, you will need to be able to check the value when the car you’re interested in on the fly. Luckily, Kelley Blue book and Edmunds both have car valuing apps. You may also want to check AutoTrader and Cars.com to see if there are any special valuations based on customizations you may do.
Consider also reaching out on Craigslist. While buying a car off of Craigslist can include a lot of variables, there are ways to compare what you want with the basic vehicle that’s available at the auction you are attending. Craigslist can also be the place to find the folks who customize vehicles picked up from auctions.
Again, collect an estimate. If a shade-tree mechanic knows the muscle car you’ve always wanted, you may be able to get help from a skilled hobbyist and save some cash before taking your dream car to the body shop for the finishing touches.
If you absolutely must have a particular car, you are probably not going to get the best deal at an auction. If you can’t walk away from a purchase, you’re not going to be able to successfully negotiate your purchase.
Experts recommend that you attend your first car auction as a student. Study how the process works. If you know something about what should be going on under the hood, study the condition of the cars at a reputable auction. You may discover that auctions are not exposing you to the quality of vehicles you want to buy, you may need to upgrade your shopping process and you will be out $0 dollars.
Watch how other bidders behave during the auction process. If you are attending with a seasoned car buyer, carefully study what they review before they bid. Paint, tires, rims, and bodywork are all fairly easy fixes, but knowing what to check on the engine and the drive train at an auction will take practice.
Your new car can be a great bargain. However, making a smart purchase at an auction will take some skill; you may need to bring a friend or pay a mechanic to come with you. Look for fans of your favorite line of vehicles to make sure that you go to the right auction and make the smartest purchase.