How to Buy a Car at Auction

by Jennifer Eblin

Buying a car at auction is a great way to save money and get a good deal. The majority of these cars are in great shape, but need a little work while others are ready to run right away. Since most people don’t shop for cars at auctions, it also means you stand a good chance of getting a great deal. To buy a car at auction you need to get there as early as possible and bring your own copy of a car value guide.

Bring a copy of the Kelly Blue Book, NADA or some other type of value guide with you. You’ll want to know the fair market value of the car to make sure you get a good deal and not pay too much. The guide will list the value of the car along with prices of recent sales.

Get to the auction as early as possible and stay until the end. You never know exactly what will turn up on the auction block and the best deals are usually found at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. Getting there early also gives you the chance to look over all the vehicles before they go up on the auction block.

Ask about the history of any cars you’re interested in and see if it’s possible to run your own independent background check. Most car auctions now offer buyers the chance to run a check and often have stands set up for this purpose. It lets you find out about any accidents or major damage the car may have had in the past.

Check the premium added to the price of the car. This premium is a specific amount of money that goes back to the auction house for its services and ranges from a set price to a percentage. The premium can make your good deal a little too expensive and you won’t know it until you go to pay.

Bid what you feel comfortable bidding. The value guide shows you exactly how much the car typically sells for, but you may feel uncomfortable bidding a high amount. Keep in mind your own budget and only bid what you can afford to spend.


  • check Don’t pay too much for a car just because you want to keep bidding, but keep in mind what the value of the car is according to your price guide. You may be tempted to spend quite a bit more on the car in front of you than what it’s actually worth.


  • close Don’t buy any vehicle at the auction unless the title is there and ready for you. If you don’t get a title it might be an indication that the car’s been stolen or that the owner is hiding the car’s history.

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About the Author

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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