Tips & Advice for Buying a Car at Auction

There are many benefits of buying a car at auction and one of the greatest benefits is how affordable these vehicles can be.

The variety of vehicles available give you the flexibility to choose from a large selection and, if you’re looking for rare, one-of-a-kind type vehicles, car auctions are a great source to find one.

However attractive purchasing a vehicle from an auction might look, there are a few things to consider if you’re intent on getting the best possible deal.

Budget Wisely

Every auction will have an inventory list of the vehicles that will be presented as well as basic information on each vehicle.

Many auctions will require that you pay up front, so it is best to determine which vehicles you can afford at the auction.

If you’re looking at buying a vehicle at an interstate auction, it’s also important to consider how you’ll get the car to its destination and that means taking into account the cost of vehicle transport.

With the average cost of transporting a car within Australia sitting at around $700, this would mean setting aside an extra 10% on a car purchased for $7,000.

Inspect the Vehicle

Once you have a list of desired vehicles that can fit your budget, you’ll want to ensure that those vehicles have passed an inspection check.

If you’re able to physically inspect the vehicle, here’s a few things to look for:

  • Look for worn tires, damaged rims, damage to the body, chipped glass on the mirrors, screens, and/or windows, front and rear lights. These could mean a “biggish” upfront cost just to get the vehicle registered in your State.
  • Take lots of photos. These will be particularly useful as a record of the vehicle condition prior to any transport you may need.
  • Does the vehicle leak, are brakes effective, is the engine correct, does it smoke, does it make off-putting noises and does it even start?
  • Check important paperwork such as the vehicle having its VIN number, history of ownership, history of repairs.
  • Are there any modifications to the vehicle? This is also important to give you peace of mind that you are going to purchase a safe vehicle but also modified vehicles will tend to increase insurance premiums.

Purchasing Requirements

Many auctions have a fee for winning a vehicle. It’s important to know just how much that fee is.

At times auctions require that you put down a deposit and will allow you to pay later.

Some auctions set specific times at which the full payment is required.

These are all things that should be researched beforehand so you can properly bid on any vehicles stress free.

Bidding for a Car at Auction

When it comes down to finally bidding for one of the vehicles that interests you, being patient is a key factor to getting a price within your budget.

Auctioneers have been known purposely start an auction with a high initial price. This is designed to get inexperienced bidders to over purchase.

Wait it out. If no one bids, the initial price was too high and the auctioneer will ask for a revised starting price. At this time, the process is at its most stressful, especially if you are bidding for a car that you want desperately.

Interestingly, a joint study conducted in the UK by the London Business School and Northwestern University found that a strategy of starting an auction with a low price lead to higher overall selling prices. (Read the research here.)

In either case, it is best not to remain conservative in your approach and to even be prepared to walk away from purchasing a vehicle if the bids get too high for your budget or even exceed it.

If the vehicle is not an exclusive brand or model, there will always be other auctions housing the same vehicle or something very similar.

Planing for Transport

Many car auction winners prefer not to drive their newly won vehicles home for several reasons.

An auctioned vehicle might not be registered, it may be located in a different state or some may just want to preserve it until it is at their doorstep.

Whatever the reason, the services of a vehicle transport company would likely be needed to move your vehicle from an auction to your door.

If your vehicle is of the luxury or exotic class, choosing an enclosed vehicle transport would be the best option to preserving its condition until it arrives at your door.

The enclosed carrier is the most common way car auctioneers move their vehicles to and from auctions, so look for companies that specialise in auction transports to produce the best results and satisfaction upon winning a great vehicle at an auction.

It’s well worth getting a quote as a gauge on pricing so you know how much you’ll need to spend to get your win back home. Quotes are free and, if you’re on a budget, you’ll most definitely want to know how much you can spend on auction day.

Get more information about transporting a vehicle from an auction.

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Customer Success Story

Why Car Transport Services Exists Today!

When I had to move my car from Melbourne to Perth, the journey of finding the right transportation service felt almost as daunting as the 3,400 km drive itself. Through trial and error, a bit of luck, and a few missteps, I learned a great deal about how to select the best service for such a task. Here’s my experience, and I hope it can guide you smoothly through your own process.

Start with Research

The first thing I learned was the importance of research. Initially, I made the rookie mistake of choosing the first service that popped up in my Google search results. Big mistake. The company had hidden fees I hadn’t anticipated, and the service was far from satisfactory. What I learned was to dig deeper. Read reviews on multiple platforms, ask for recommendations from friends or family who’ve undertaken similar moves, and don’t skip on checking the forums where real customers discuss their experiences.

Check for Licensing and Insurance

One good decision I made was ensuring the company was licensed and insured. Insurance is important. Transporting a vehicle across such a long distance has its risks, and you want to ensure that your car is covered in case of any mishaps. Verify the transporter's accreditation with transport authorities and ensure they have valid insurance that covers your vehicle during the transit. This gave me peace of mind, knowing my car was in safe hands.

Compare Quotes

Getting multiple quotes was another area where I initially faltered. I assumed all prices would be roughly the same and didn’t bother shopping around. However, after a pricey quote from the first company, I decided to get several more. The price differences were significant, and some companies offered more comprehensive services at lower costs. Always compare quotes from at least three to five companies. This not only gives you a better idea of the price range but also allows you to negotiate better terms.

Understand the Service Types

I wasn’t aware initially, but there are different types of car transport services: door-to-door, terminal-to-terminal, open carrier, and enclosed carrier. Each has its pros and cons. I chose an open carrier for its cost-effectiveness, but in retrospect, considering the long journey across Australia, an enclosed carrier would have been better to protect my car from the elements. Understanding these options beforehand helps in making a more informed decision based on your needs and budget.

Communication is Key

One of the best decisions I made was selecting a company that had excellent communication practices. They provided updates at every major juncture of the journey, which eased my anxiety. Ensure that the company you choose has a point of contact who is reachable and willing to update you throughout the process. This is vital for peace of mind and to ensure that any issues are quickly addressed.

Timing and Flexibility

I learned the hard way that flexibility is key when transporting a car such a long distance. The initial service I chose promised a delivery within a week, but it ended up taking more than two weeks, which disrupted my plans significantly. Ask about the expected delivery times and check if the company can offer guarantees or compensation if they exceed the estimated delivery times.

Avoid Rush Decisions

A bad decision I made was rushing into booking without fully understanding the terms and conditions. This led to unexpected charges for additional services I wasn’t aware I had agreed to. Take your time to read the fine print or have someone else review it. Make sure you understand every aspect of the service contract.

What I Wish I Knew

If I knew then what I know now, I would have placed more emphasis on checking customer feedback about their post-service experience, especially regarding how companies handle damage claims and disputes. Knowing a company's track record in these areas can save you from potential headaches if something goes wrong.

Open vs Enclosed Car Transport

Open car carrier with new vehicles

Open Car Transport

Open car transport involves shipping vehicles in an open-air trailer, exposing them to weather and road conditions.

This method is cost-effective and widely available, making it a popular choice for transporting vehicles quickly and economically.

The main benefits include lower costs due to multiple vehicles being transported simultaneously and quicker delivery times. However, the downside is the potential risk of damage from environmental elements and road debris.

moving cars in an enclosed car carrier

Enclosed Car Transport

Enclosed car transport uses fully enclosed trailers to provide maximum protection for vehicles against weather, theft, and damage during transit.

This method is preferable for high-value, classic, or luxury vehicles requiring extra security. Enclosed transport is more expensive and less readily available but offers higher insurance coverage and peace of mind.

Specialised services include GPS tracking and expert handling, ensuring vehicles are delivered safely and discretely.

Find out more