Buying a car at auction can be a great way to find a bargain – after all, this is where the motor trade go to purchase their stock.

However, it can be a tricky business if you don’t know much about cars and, as most consumer guides will tell you, your normal legal rights may not be applicable as sellers can issue disclaimers such as the phrase ‘sold as seen’.

Before you buy, get a feel and flavour of the process. Things move fast, so make sure you’re comfortable with the process before you bid. You may be able to subscribe for auction house catalogues beforehand to find the latest vehicles on offer.

  1. When you arrive at the auction, get a catalogue. This lists all the vehicles entered in the sale.
  2. View the vehicle that you’re interested in bidding for. Arrive with plenty of time to spare before the auction starts to have a look around and check the vehicle details (usually displayed in the windscreen).
  3. Inspect the bodywork of the car, looking along its lines and check for dents or misaligned body panels – it could have been in an accident, repaired or at worst an insurance write-off.
  4. Stick to your budget! Don’t get caught up in the action.
  5. Buyer’s premium or administration charges are in addition to your bid. Check with the auction house beforehand for details of their fees and charges.
  6. Remember to take along photo ID and proof of address.
  7. When buying a car at auction, listen to the auctioneer. They’ll include vehicle details e.g. service history, road tax and verification of mileage.
  8. If the hammer falls on your bid then well done, you’ve been successful! You’ll then need to see the auction clerk (they’re usually next to the auctioneer).
  9. A ‘provisional bid’ means that the highest bid was lower than the reserve price. Auction house staff will liaise with the seller to see if your bid will be accepted or negotiate further on your behalf.
  10. There are numerous ways to pay. Deposits and full payments can be paid by:
  • Cash*
  • Credit card**
  • Debit card
  • Maestro
  • Solo card
  • Banker’s draft

* There’s usually a handling fee. Money laundering legislation allows a maximum of £8,999.
** There’s usually a 3% surcharge on all credit card transactions.

So, if you decide to take the plunge and opt for buying a car from an auction, remember the key pointers above but do have fun and enjoy the experience – there’s something most enjoyable about placing the winning bid and beating the competition to secure your new car! Don’t miss our fab article on getting the best deal when buying used cars – it’s got all the info you’ll ever need.


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