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How To Buy A Car At Auction – Your Complete Guide

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Buying a car at auction is more common than you might think.

Many people are skeptical at first, but buying a used car at auction is somewhat overlooked, and you could be losing out on some great deals.

Buying a car at auctions is fun, exciting and if you do it right can save you a lot of money compared to going to a car dealer.

And just a quick FYI, car dealerships and mechanics often source their vehicles from car auctions.

OK, buying a car at auctions has a lot of pros, but there are also some cons to it, but I am here to help you.

How To Buy A Car At An Auction

1. Don’t Buy At Your First Auction

I think this is very important. You need to go to at least one or two auctions to see how the auctions work.

It’s a fast-paced environment, but don’t worry, you will get used to it pretty quickly.

The most important reason to go to some auctions first is to oversee the whole process.

At the auctions, you can do your test runs.

For example, you see a couple of cars you are interested in.

Jot down the maximum bid you are willing to go to and see how it competes in the actual bidding.

For example, would you bid win or lose. You will also have a better understanding of the value of the cars at auctions than buying at a dealership.

2. Be Prepared

Buying a car at auction requires some research.

Most auctions will have some information on their websites about the vehicles available to buy at the auction.

Do your research on each vehicle that’s of interest.

Auto Check gives buyers access to key information that might be useful before you bid.

What Will AutoCheck Show You:

  • Stolen
  • Salvaged or Rebuilt
  • Turned in under ‘Lemon Law’
  • Odometer Roll back
  • Used as a rental, police car or taxi

Kelley Blue Book is another one to look at.

KBB is one of the best online sources for buying a car.

They will provide you with key pricing info, price comparisons, and find local car dealers in your area.

3. Listen Carefully To The Auctioneer

This part is crucial.

Before a bid starts, you need the auctioneer to specify the vehicle’s description, vehicle condition, highlight any key faults, and how it’s sold.

Here are some key phrases you are likely to hear:

  • No Major Mechanical Faults: No significant faults with the car’s engine, clutch, gearbox, etc.
  • No Major Damage : No significant dents or scratches to the body of the car
  • Specific Faults – Any specific faults (less major) you should know about
  • Sold As Is – This means the car is sold as it’s seen without any warranty.

4. Stay Calm

Buying a car at auction is exciting.

But it’s also very easy to get ahead of yourself, and emotion rather than logic can take control.

This is why I can’t stress it enough that you need to go to at least one or two auctions before you plan on buying a car at auction.

Set your budget and stick it. It’s easy to get stuck in a bidding war for a vehicle you want, and it’s essential to make sure you keep a cool head and walk away from the bid if you need to.

5. Bring A Mechanic or Knowledgeable Friend

If you don’t know a lot about cars, then maybe bring a friend of yours who’s a mechanic, a trainee or knows a lot about cars.

When I say to know a lot about cars, I mean mechanically.

Your friend can check the car’s report and will highlight critical faults to avoid.

This info can be make or break for bidding on a vehicle.

Also, if the car has a fault, there will be less competition-winning that car in the auction.

This could be an opportunity.

For example, the fault in the vehicle might be very inexpensive and easy to fix and a quick fix for your local mechanic.

This could open the doors for landing yourself a great deal. If you have a mechanic going with you, they can help you with this.

6. Avoid Salvage Auctions

Avoid salvage auctions at all costs.

These are usually worthless and rarely worth even considering.

These are only beneficial to mechanics who will be buying parts.

7. Test Drive If Possible

Not all car auctions will give you the option to test drive, but some smaller car auctions might.

If you get there early, you can test drive the car and get a feel for it on the road and give you more confidence going into a bid.

Cons To Buying A Car At Auction

1. No Warranty & Federal law Protection

There’s no federal law in the United States that protects buyers at auction.

So if you buy a car ‘As Is,’ you have no leg to stand on if something goes wrong.

It’s doubtful you will find any vehicle for sale at auction that sells with a warranty.

However, this is much the same as buying any car off Craigslist or privately face to face.

You should check out Gov-Auctions. A lot of their auction centers do offer a 90-day warranty or guarantee.

You can check out their site here. 

2. You Can’t Be Picky

You can’t be too picky at auction.

It’s not like going to a dealership and finding your perfect car, with the ideal interior and excellent color.

I’m not saying this couldn’t happen.

You might get lucky. At auctions, you might not find the exact make and model you desire.

However, you might find something better that you never even considered. So it has pros and cons.

Let’s face it, probably the main reason you buy a car at auction is to get a bargain.

As a result, car auctions will usually yield much lower prices than any other car dealers.

Buying A Car From Government Auction

There are several sites you can use to find auctions near you.

But Gov-Auctions is probably the most popular one available.

What I like about Gov-Auctions is that they teach you how to buy a car at their auctions.

In addition, they offer a free 5-day car auction school to help you buy your car at auction.

Gov-Auctions number of auctions is quite impressive, with over 4000+ live actions daily. Their vehicles come from departments such as:

  • Federal & State Government
  • Local Councils organizations
  • Public Services i.e Police. Fire & Emergency Services
  • Repossessed Vehicles

Are These Cars In Good Condition?

Since the state-owned these, many vehicles are well looked after.

Most of the cars available on Gov-Auctions come with complete service history and a stamped logbook.

What is also good to mention is that the majority of the vehicles have very low miles.

How is that the case?

Government vehicles are upgraded every 2-3 years, so the miles on the vehicle are often very low.


One of the main reasons I use Gov-Auctions is that a lot of their listing offer a warranty.

I mentioned earlier that many auctions don’t provide a warranty and sell ‘As Is.’

However, if you look closely at some of the auctions on Gov-Auctions, you will find that many auction centers offer a three-month warranty or guarantee free of charge.

Check Out Gov-Auction Website Here!


I hope you found this post on how to buy a vehicle at auction helpful.

Buying a car, truck, or SUV at auctions is fun, exciting and can save you a lot of money if you do it the right way.


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and if you click them to make a purchase, Auto Buyer Guru Blog will earn a commission. The decision to purchase these links is completely yours and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

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