Going to a Used Car Auction? Here Are 3 Tips for UK Bidders

Attending a used car auction in the UK can be very exciting, especially for first-timers. Although a vehicle auction is a great place to find affordably priced transportation, there are some policies, procedures and behaviors you should follow to be sure that you don’t overpay.

Here are 3 tips gleaned from successful car auction buyers.

Tip #1 – Set a Budget and Stick to It.

Be aware that some used auto auction houses do not accept credit cards, a potential benefit for you, since this restricts you to a cash purchase and forces you to stay within your means. You will be required to leave a deposit immediately after you win a vehicle. Once the deposit is handled, you’ll be able to drive the car to ascertain that it is as advertised. If you discover a problem and still want the vehicle, you should be able to negotiate a lower price. Also, make sure there’s a guarantee on the car to assure that it’s not stolen and that there are no outstanding finance issues like bank loans or liens involved.

Tip #2 – Bid Intelligently

In general, it’s usually not a good idea to bid first, since other bidders at a used automobile auction might perceive that you’re very interested in the car. Remember that there are regular attendees at most public auto auctions who will recognize newcomers and try to take advantage of them by bidding against them just to increase the price. Another bidding tip when you attend a used cars auction is that you should not bid immediately after someone bids higher than you. Take some time and wait to see how the auction will play out. Eventually, you should be able to identify the expert bidders at a used auto auction, since they may be using hand-held computers or referring to a trade book that contains standard used car prices. Follow their cue and never bid higher than they do. Also, if no one is bidding on a car or the bidding is sparse or slow, there’s probably a very good reason. It’s possible that the vehicle was offered previously and failed to sell because the owner set the starting bid, also known as the “reserve,” too high.

Tip #3 – Use Your Eyes and Ears

Pay special attention to how a car sounds when it is driven into the arena of a car auto auction. You may be able to pick up a knock or a tick or a ping that indicates engine problems. If the driver seems to be giving it the gas excessively, this might mean it stalls or that if it stalls it will be hard to restart due to a weak starter or battery or ignition system. When the driver stops the car, listen for abnormal squeaks or squeals in the brakes. If the car shudders or lurches, the disks or drums of the braking system might be rusted or out of round or that the brake shoes or calipers are worn. If you watch very carefully, you may see the driver using the emergency brake to stop the car. This speaks for itself: Do not bid on the vehicle unless you’re prepared to undertake the repairs yourself or pay for the services of a competent mechanic.

With a little discipline and some shrewd bidding, even a newcomer to a used car auction in the UK has a good chance of coming away with a good buy.

public car auction is a great way for buyers in the UK to scoop up an automotive bargain. Sometimes, though, the organized chaos of an auto auction might be intimidating for first-time bidders. Here’s some information to make your visit to a public vehicle auction a successful one.

Crucial Information Bidders Need at a Car Auction

As a car is driven into the auction hall, the auctioneer usually gives the prospective bidders information about the vehicle. This information, usually provided by the seller, is critically important to making an intelligent bid at a public auto auction. The amount of information may vary from car to car, but it can include the auction lot number, age, technical specifications, tax information, general condition and MOT (Ministry of Transport) certificate. A MOT certificate means that the car has been inspected and tested to assure that it meets minimum standards related to environmental and road safety standards. It is not in any way an assurance that the vehicle will be roadworthy for the duration of the 1-year MOT certification. Also, it’s is not a substitute for regular maintenance like oil changes, etc. Cars over 3 years old require an annual MOT and it’s illegal to drive a vehicle without one. Although this information may also appear in the auction’s catalog, if the auction house provides one to the bidders, you should listen carefully to what the auctioneer says about the car.

How Cars at Auction Are Categorized

There are 2 basic categories in which cars are grouped in a car auction for the public: “as seen” and “all good.” A car labeled “as seen” means that it’s generally older and cheaper in price. When you buy this type of vehicle, you’re agreeing to accept all of its faults, known or unknown at the time of your purchase. Although there are bargains to be had in this category, prospective bidders should inspect them as rigorously as possible. If you’re not as well versed in cars as you’d like to be, it might be a good idea to take a savvy friend with you to a public automobile auction if you plan to bid in this category. Cars labeled “all good” generally purport to have no major issues with engine, drive train, brakes and steering. If you buy an “all good” vehicle, you usually have one hour after the sale to discover any major problems with the vehicle’s systems. You should report these immediately in order to receive a full or partial refund of the purchase price.

Public auto auctions in the UK are popular ways for buyers to find reasonably priced vehicles at fair prices. It’s important to keep a clear head and not get caught up in the emotion of a public car auction. Only then will your purchase price be a fair one.

10 Top Tips For Buying a Car at an On-Line Auction

Internet auctions are becoming an ever more popular route to buy and sell new & used cars online.

Car buyers, particularly those in the market for used vehicles, have flocked to online auctions in ever increasing numbers. With thousands of people every day searching for that elusive bargain or “must have” car it has quickly increased the visibility of this sector making it one of e-commerce’s brightest success stories.

While the vast majority of online car deals go through without a hitch, the sheer volume of transactions performed on online auctions mean that it is inevitable that some auction users will be far from happy with their purchases.

Obviously buying a vehicle through an online auction site can present the buyer with problems not associated with buying from traditional auctions. However it can also provide the buyer with a wider range of vehicles, lower prices and much more accessibility.

You can negate some of the problems that may be encountered by following the simple 10 Step Safety Guide to purchasing vehicles supplied by Auction Auto Trader

Check The Vehicles Details
Thoroughly review the description, pictures, model and price of the vehicle – it may be an idea to print this out. Ensure you know what you are buying prior to placing a bid. The old adage “if the price is too good to be true, it usually is” applies especially on high value/desirable vehicles.

Check The Seller’s Feedback
Feedback is a way for previous customers to rate the seller and this is worth checking prior to bidding on an item. Most on line auction sites have a feedback system and it’s a great way to see if your seller has a good trading history.

Ask The Seller Questions
If you are unsure about any aspect of the vehicle you are considering purchasing then contact the seller. Good sellers will always be happy to answer reasonable questions. Can I have a test drive? Can I collect or will you deliver? Better to ask now than to leave it until it is too late.

Vehicle Suitability
Consider the vehicles total running costs such as: Insurance, Servicing, Fuel Consumption, Replacement Parts etc How old is the vehicle? How many owners? Has it been regularly serviced?

Vehicle Documents
If you are buying a car in the UK does it have its V5 Vehicle Registration document usually known as the “log book”?

Vehicle Value
Nobody wants to pay over the odds for a car so to prevent yourself from bidding too high you may want to check what the cars usual sale price is. Prior to bidding you can seek out comparable used car pricing on sites such as Parkers or your local auto trader site – set a price you are prepared to bid to and stick to it.

Vehicle Reports
When purchasing a car or any other vehicle you may wish to consider obtaining a report on it prior to bidding. As an example eBay UK motors offers potential bidders the opportunity to purchase a Vehicle Status Report. Specially designed for eBay Motor users and powered by HPI® the UK’s most trusted independent information source for the motors industry this report offers the buyer peace of mind.

Check The Small Print
How will the vehicle be delivered and is there a cost? A ploy by some unscrupulous sellers is to inflate the transport costs. Will the vehicle be insured in transit? How long will delivery take?

Check How To Pay
You need to check what form of payment the seller will accept and whether there will be any associated costs. Never Pay With Cash!! The best methods of payment from the viewpoint of the customer are via Credit Card direct or through companies such as WorldPay. Alternatively an on line payment service such as Paypal or NOCHEX is another secure way of making payment. Using the companies above will also ensure that the seller will not see your credit card number and details. By paying via Credit Card you may be entitled to additional protection subject to your card issuers Terms & Conditions. Finally as an additional option you may wish to consider using a reputable Escrow service to make payment.

Check Your Bid
How much are you willing to pay? Consider any additional costs such as delivery etc and then if you are still happy with it place your bid. Remembering that if the bid is accepted then you will be expected to complete your side of the deal and pay.

Lifting the bonnet on buying a car at auction

If you’re looking to buy a used car, you’ll be looking to save money.

And if you’re looking to do that, why not buy your car where the dealers do?

At a car auction. 

It seems to make a lot of sense to many people – until they come to discover all the pitfalls involved. And there are many.

Mind you, it needn’t be such a dangerous undertaking as long as you remember a few golden rules. In fact, you might end up finding it rather fun. You’ll get a huge amount of choice – and of course, as long as you keep your bidding in check, you’ll certainly save money.

You shouldn’t rush at it – either in the planning stage or on the day. Visit three or four auctions before you actually buy, just to get used to the pace and the environment.

Vehicles are consigned for sale by the owners, (who could be a private individual, a dealer, a company, financial institution or government department for example), who complete a legally binding form (the Entry Form) which declares the vehicles age, mileage and condition.

It is very important to listen to what the auctioneer says, as his description is a legally binding selling statement.

Don’t worry about the jargon – professional auctioneers speak in plain language. Was the mileage warranted? Was it sold with no major mechanical faults? Does the car have an MOT or a full service history?

If you are the top bidder, the car will be sold to you and that’s when the hammer comes down. You will need a deposit at this stage – normally 10 per cent – which you pay to the rostrum clerk. The balance can be paid in the main customer concourse.

Most auction houses accept cash (typically up to £9,000), Switch and Delta cards, along with bankers’ drafts and building society cheques.

You will also pay a buyer’s fee. On an average purchase price of around £5,000, this equates to £200. This gives you extra peace of mind – it guarantees you have good title to the car, meaning there is no outstanding hire purchase or credit on the vehicle, or it being a stolen vehicle or an undeclared write-off.

You have until one hour after the sale to make known any faults and defects.

Do your homework: Know what you want and have a good idea of what the car is worth.

Don’t rush: Arrive in good time and look around. Get a catalogue and examine the stock on offer.

Check the car: It is up to you to check the car’s overall exterior visible condition.

Budget: Set a limit on what you are prepared to pay. Don’t go over it in the heat of the moment and remember you will have a buyer’s fee.

Flexibility: Don’t get too possessive about a particular vehicle.If you miss your first choice, go and look again or come back another day.

How to Buy The Best Cars at Auction PART 1

At car auctions you can buy anything from a clapped out banger to a brand new top-of-the-range model; from a run-of-the-mill family saloon to a rare collector’s item. Auctions are an ideal place to pick up a bargain or your perfect motor.

How to Buy The Best Cars at Auction

Motor Auctions
Here you can buy anything from a clapped out banger to a brand new top-of-the-range model; from a run-of-the-mill family saloon to a rare collector’s item. Not only are motor auctions an ideal place to pick up a bargain – if you know what to look for (and we will explain this in detail) – but they can often be an entertaining evening out.

Money to be Made
Auctions can be one of the very best places to buy second-hand motor vehicles. Part of the reason for this is that you, in effect, cut out the middle man – the retailer or dealer – and avoid having to pay for their services. The used car that you see for sale in garages and in dealers’ showrooms have been bought at auction. Car auctions are therefore the equivalent of a used car dealer’s ‘wholesale’ stockists. In other words, by choosing to buy from an auction, you eradicate the need for a dealer and keep for yourself the profit that the dealer would have made.

If you take the time and trouble to learn how car auctions operate you will also be able to make good purchases as well as learn which items should be steered clear of. You may even decide, having learned all about auctions and having visited them and even bought cars for your own use, to turn your hand to car dealing itself, whether that be on a part-time or a full-time basis. There are some tremendous profits to be made and it can also be an entertaining way to make a living.

car auctionsCar auctions are certainly not the place to be if you do not know what you are doing. They can be fast, furious and you will have little time to examine a car fully. They are full of traders, most of who are experienced in the business of assessing the quality of cars quickly and accurately. However, you too should be able to do this in a very short time and will pick up the necessary skills relatively easily.

Perhaps the first thing to learn about car auctions is that for every 100 cars offered for sale there will usually only be a handful that are worthwhile buying. Your job is to become so knowledgeable about the pros and cons of used cars, that you will be able to judge which cars are worth a closer look and worth bidding for, and which must be totally ignored.

If you find that there is nothing available at the auction which is worth a bid, walk away without giving it a second thought. Never go to an auction with a pocketful of money and expect to drive a car away at the end of the day. If you go to an auction in this frame of mind you may fool yourself into bidding for something that you don’t really want or you might pay more for a car than it is reasonably worth.

Of course there are good auctions and there are bad ones; some are very dodgy indeed. Generally however, you are quite safe with the large auction companies (such as ADT, British Car Auctions or Central Motor Auctions) but the waste ground set-ups are to be avoided at all costs.

Look for affiliation to the Society of Motor Auctions (SMA) – a plaque bearing their crest should be displayed on the wall somewhere. Membership of the SMA is the nearest you will ever get at motor auctions to a guarantee of fair play and honesty.

Before going any further when you reach an auction the first thing you should do is check in the conditions of sale to see what the auction house guarantees. For example, if you buy a car and it turns out to be a stolen vehicle or still under a higher purchase agreement, will you get your money back without any problems. If you are in any doubt you can contact the National Association of Motor Auctions (NAMA), 3Chestnut Field, Rugby CV21 2PA, United Kingdom Tel: +44 1788 538336

At the Auction
At the motor auction there are usually two distinct areas.

There is the pound where cars can be viewed and inspected and an arena, or ring, where you will find the auctioneer and where the bidding and buying takes place. In the vast majority of cases a car will have a lot number on it and this indicates when it is due to go out from the pound and into the ring. In addition, cars may have tickets on the windscreen which tell you some facts and figures about the car, for example, whether it has an MOT, and how long it lasts, what the car’s mileage is and whether it is genuine, the year of manufacture and, crucially, whether it has been used as a taxi, public service vehicle, etc.

The amount of information displayed and the reliability of that information depends entirely on the respectability of the auction house – that is why it is essential to pick a good one, preferably one that is a member of the SMA. A general rule of thumb is that the more information that is given, the more credible the auction is likely to be. You may also be able to pick up further information from a sheet of photocopied paper or catalogue at the office. In many auctions, it is even necessary to buy the catalogue to gain entrance.

There are two categories of vehicle sold at auction:

  1. Those that are sold as seen
  2. and those that are sold with warranty.

As seen, basically means that you buy the car with all its faults and problems and have no recourse whatsoever, even if it blows up on the journey home. Many auctions will not give warranties to any car over a certain age. In this case, you will not know whether it has any serious problems or not. It is a real gamble to buy a car as seen at auctions and in the vast majority of cases the odds are stacked heavily against you.

Buying a car with warranty means that you only have a limited amount of time after the sale to drive it around and inspect it thoroughly. Usually, this amount of time is limited to one hour. However, check what after the sale means, as it could mean after the fall of the hammer, after the auction ends, or after you have paid your money and bought the car. It varies from auction house to auction house.

Buying a car with a warranty is almost as good as buying a car privately, and you have probably paid much less money for it. If you find a “major” mechanical fault, then you can take the car back and get your money returned. Again, what constitutes the definition of “major” varies from auction to auction, but you must always argue if you think you have a case. It is unlikely to mean, for example, that you are entitled to a full refund if the windscreen wipers don’t work properly or it some of the lights are broken.

They are relatively cheap to fix. It also won’t apply if you find that you don’t like the car having bought it. Cars generally go into auctions at two levels. Those which have a reserve price and those which are sold with no reserve. Basically, if a car has no reserve price then the highest bidder buys the car on the fall of the hammer, irrespective of whether, from the seller’s perspective, it fetches a good price or a bad one.

While this may sound marvellous to an inexperienced buyer, particularly if they visited an auction on a cold day when hardly anyone turned up, normally no-reserve cars are at the lower end of the market, and in most cases you would be well off to avoid them altogether. If the car has a reserve price then you will usually not be told what it is. It is the auctioneer’s and seller’s secret. It is the price below which the seller is not prepared to let the car go and may prefer to keep it or indeed sell it privately.

If bids go above the reserve price, then the car will be sold to the highest bidder. If bids do not reach reserve, one of two things can happen. Either the auctioneer stops trying to raise the bids and lets the car go back to the pound without selling it, where it may again be offered at the next auction in a few days’ time, or he will sell it “provisionally”.

A provisional sale means that the highest bidder has an opportunity to negotiate, via the telephone in the office with the seller to perhaps agree on a compromise price, somewhere between the bidder’s highest bid and the seller’s reserve price. This is a fairly common occurrence, because most people who offer their cars at auctions prefer to have a reserve price.

Obviously the seller wants to get as much money as possible for their vehicle and people all too often consider their car to be worth more than others are actually prepared to pay for it.

Car Auction Do’s and Don’ts
The most important thing NOT to do at an auction is to buy impulsively. Don’t fall in love with anything and think that this car or that would be fun to drive around in for a while, or you might talk yourself into buying an attractive wreck.

As was mentioned earlier, for every 100 cars offered for sale at an auction, there are only likely to be a handful that are worth buying. Always attend an auction with the intention of leaving having wasted your time, but not your money.

Don’t buy when you are desperate or time is limited. Plan well ahead. Travel comfortably to all auctions otherwise you will be psychologically more interested in purchasing. Always look at cars from a negative point of view in that they are full of faults and that it is your job to find them.

When you are viewing the cars in the pound you may detect slight faults. That is to be expected with anything that has been used. It may just be a slight scratch, a bald tyre, a missing wing mirror or blown exhaust – it really doesn’t detract from the fact that it is still a good car and might go for a good price. It is wise therefore to take a notepad and pencil with you. Write down the lot number for the vehicle and jot down any notes on the car that you must take into consideration when you are judging how much to bid.

Also, note any other facts and figures for your quick reference.

Cars and VAT
When making payment for a vehicle bought at auction it is advisable to be aware of the VAT situation. Remember that although VAT is not applicable on the sale of private cars through auction, commercial vans and other vehicles are subject to VAT. Check with the sales officer the VAT status of the vehicle you are interested in before you decide to bid on it.

Indemnity Insurance
Also, on top of the hammer price, you will have to pay a small charge for indemnity insurance. This is an extremely worthwhile fee that assures that you have “good title” to the car. This indemnity normally costs only 1% of the hammer price.

Final Words
Before driving the car away and no matter how short of cash you may be, never drive it out of the pound if you are in any doubt about the amount of petrol in the tank. Petrol gauges are not known for the accuracy or longevity. Most auction houses will not leave a car full of petrol and many have been known to siphon off petrol from a car with a full tank. If your car runs out of petrol the resulting pressure created by the engine being starved of fuel can cause deposits of rust and other dirt to be sucked up from the petrol tank through the filter into the engine. Always, when you have just bought a car and are driving somewhere, pull into the first petrol station you see and fill it up.

Never, whatever you do, buy a car from outside an auction on the street, even if it is offered to you at a bargain price. Consider that these cars are more than likely stolen and you will lose all of your money to a fraudster.

How to Buy The Best Cars at Auction PART 2

At car auctions you can buy anything from a clapped out banger to a brand new top-of-the-range model; from a run-of-the-mill family saloon to a rare collector’s item. Auctions are an ideal place to pick up a bargain or your perfect motor.

How to Judge a Car at Auction

When you are viewing at an auction, you are much more restricted in the amount of checks or tests that you can carry out on a car. Before performing any of the following tests take a look around the vehicle and get an overall impression of its condition. Assess whether it has been well looked after or badly treated. It doesn’t matter if a car has a high mileage or is very old. If it has been looked after properly it can last for a long, long time to come.

Ask yourself, does the car sit properly or does it tilt to one side or at the back? The bumpers should be parallel to the ground. If the car is security coded, that is if its registration number is marked on each window, check that the number corresponds to the number on the plates, back and front. If not, then consult the registration document. It could be that a previous owner has kept his/her private plates, but it could also be that it is a stolen car which has had new number plates fitted.

When you visit the auction, bring along a small bag with a few tools and some handy items to help you carry out your checks. The following is a list of the basic items that you should bring with you when you are going to check the car:

  • a torch for inspecting in and around the engine and underneath the car
  • a small wire brush
  • a magnet – particularly important for checking where filler has been used on metal bodied cars
  • an old handkerchief to kneel on while inspecting the underneath or to wrap around the mag net so that it will not scratch the paintwork and to wipe oil off the dipstick
  • a car price guide – to quickly approximate the valuations
  • some screwdrivers
  • a pair of pliers
  • and, of course, a notebook and a pen for jotting down faults, features and details.

It is always best to try and inspect the car in daylight or in dry weather conditions although this may not always be possible at an auction.

What To Look For

Have a good look around the car to see whether there are any major dents or defects and decide whether they will need urgent attention. Look for body panels which are badly fitted, out of joint or are of a different colour or shade, as this could suggest recent damage. Rust is the first thing that people look for when doing up a car so look out for patches of rust bubbling underneath the paint surface or where it may have already broken through.

Rust generally travels upwards so start your inspection down below and work your way towards the roof. You can replace the entire engine of a car but never the entire body. If rust has taken a good hold then consider it in the same way as one would think of cancer as a terminal disease.

Rust at the edges of panels and where little bits may be chipped off is not a major problem as it can be cured by using a rust treatment. If rusts exists in the centre of a panel, in the roof, under all the wheel arches and around the glasswork then it is probably already beyond repair.

Check for rust around light fittings, under the front and back bumpers, around the edges of the boot and door panels, on the tops of the wings, around the aerial, around the wing mirrors, around the wheel arches and basically around the edges of all panels where they join together and anywhere something sticks in or out of the bodywork.

Look at the quality and colour of the paintwork and judge whether it will be easy to touch up – metallic paint is very awkward to repair. Again, any scratches or patches of rust in the middle of panels will be much harder to fix than at the edges. Look at the general finish of the paintwork and see if it is beginning to suffer from the weather. Ask yourself whether the car has recently been re-sprayed. The term used for a bad re-spray is “blown”, which actually describes how the job was done.

Gently press the bodywork in a number of random places which are done to see whether you can hear cracks under the surface or if it feels spongy – this indicates rust.

To judge whether it has been re-sprayed, look under the wheel arches or under the sills for spray paint over dirt, also on the tyres and paint which has run over the rubber mounts or the chrome of the glass is a clear give-away as well. If the car has been sprayed in damp conditions there may be a slight whiteness to areas of the paintwork. Unfortunately, this is under the skin and is impossible to get rid of.

Also, a crater or pock-marked effect, rather like the surface of an orange, means that the paint has been applied too coarsely. This is a clear sign of a cheap and amateurish job which won’t last long. However, don’t jump to the conclusion that if you find one of these tell-tale signs that the whole car has been re-sprayed, as it could just be one section which may have sustained some minor accident damage. These areas will usually appear brighter than the panels surrounding them.

When viewing the overall look of the car, check to see if it is twisted in any way. This could indicate that the car has had a serious crash which could have affected the chassis. Check that all the doors, boot and bonnet fit properly and that they go into their corresponding holes easily and comfortably.

If not, I then they are likely to have been damaged, poorly attended to or replaced altogether. Check the corners of the vehicle for accident damage and repair work as people often misjudge the length and breadth of their vehicles. If you get a chance, open the bonnet and check the inside of the wheel arches and engine cavity for signs of repair work. A car that has had the front or rear damaged in this way will always show-up in this fashion.

Wheel Arches 
Take out your screwdriver or penknife and check under the wheel arches for serious rust damage. This area is hammered by stones and grit, water and ice throughout the year and although most cars are well protected with an underseal, this does not last forever. It only takes one flake to fall off for rust to start developing and eat away the underneath without any protection.

Check that the windscreen has not sustained any cracks or chips which will weaken its strength. This can expensive to fix properly. Many bad jobs result in water leakage from the seal which causes rot in the floor panels.

Under the Bonnet
Now turn your attention to the engine. If you have an opportunity to start the car when it is in the auction pound, by all means do so, if possible making sure you check under the bonnet both before the test, when the engine is cold, and afterwards when it is hot, as many problems can be seen, (such as fuel leaks), immediately after use.

When you open the bonnet, take a good look around and get a general feeling as to its overall condition. There is bound to be some oil around, especially with old cars, but an engine compartment covered in oil suggests there could be an oil leak somewhere which does not bode well.

Also, if it is very dirty, it suggests that the engine has not been looked after very well, this could be a real problem. If there is no dirt anywhere and the engine gleams like a new pin, even though the car has 50,000 miles on its clock, it has most probably been subjected to a steam clean. This can remove much of the evidence that might suggest an oil leak. Pullout the dipstick and inspect it. Check for lots of bubbles in the oil which indicates that the cylinder head gasket has gone or is going.

Check the level, make sure the car is not on a slope or otherwise you will get an inaccurate reading. The level should be somewhere between the maximum and minimum marks. If it is too low then it would suggest that the car has not been looked after and driving a car with not enough, or even too much, oil can damage the engine seriously. While you are checking the level, also check the oil itself.

Oil does not last forever; it should be changed at each major service. In the ideal case, it should be translucent and gold in colour, rather like thin treacle, and dirtier and blacker when used. It should never be in such a condition that you can’t see the dipstick through the oil. Rub a little of the oil between your fingers and see if you can feel any grit. If you can feel grit, this is an extremely bad indication.

When the engine is cold, take off the radiator cap and look at the water. If there is not enough water then it is possible that there may be a leak in the system. Stick your finger down the hole and look for trace of oil in the water by rubbing your fingers together. If it feels slimy you can assume, again, that the cylinder head gasket is going. If your finger comes out white and fluffy then it’s already blown.

A roughly cooling system will turn the water orange and will cause damage to the water pump, the radiator and the radiator matrixes, any alloy casings and the pipe in which it is being carried. Never take the radiators cap off if the engine is hot water in the cooling system is very hot indeed and is under a great deal of pressure.

Next take off the oil filter cap and check if there are any white deposits on the cap itself or the surround, which would suggest water in the engine and a blown cylinder head gasket. Also do this after the test drive and check there is not an exceptional amount of smoke coming out of the hole, which would mean a worn engine.

With the oil filter cap still off, check that oil does not blow-out all over the place when the engines revs a little, which would indicate a defunct or ineffective oil circulation system. Also, put your hand over the hole and check that there is a gentle breeze passing through your fingers. If it blows like a gale, then the piston rings are worn and there is back pressure in the sump. Always make sure that you get a car warm enough to thin the oil. Thick, cold oil covers up a multitude of sins and prevents any noise being made by worn bearings and the like.

Look for new and shiny parts and also note that nothing is missing. There should be at least one fairly brightly coloured object, the oil filter, to be found towards the bottom of the engine on one side. This should be replaced as regularly as the oil. If it is covered in dirt and is rusty then the service has been neglected.

How to Buy The Best Cars at Auction PART 3

At car auctions you can buy anything from a clapped out banger to a brand new top-of-the-range model; from a run-of-the-mill family saloon to a rare collector’s item. Auctions are an ideal place to pick up a bargain or your perfect motor.

Check that the engine and body numbers have not been erased and that they correspond with the details on the registration document. The numbers are usually to be found on aluminium fastened onto the engine and the body in the engine compartment, where they can be seen easily. At an auction, look and listen when the engine is started before it is driven into the ring. If there is a very loud metallic rattling sound at the start, which may disappear when warm, suspect that the big or small end is going.

But you must be sure where the noise is coming from. If it is in the centre or the bottom of the engine, then it could be either the big or small end, but if it is at the front, for example, in a Ford, it could be a simple to fix design fault such as a worn camshaft or belt. Let the engine just tick over and listen hard.

A low rumble from the centre again indicates big end wear. Constant knocks and/or rattles can be attributed to timing change, timing change tensioner, or badly adjusted, loose or worn tappets.

Check the battery. Take off one of the filler caps from the top and check the distilled water level. It should come just above the metallic elements you can see. These days, new batteries are often sealed for life and you don’t have to worry about the levels. Check the terminals for signs of erosion (white, powdery deposits) which will impair its ability to discharge and recharge. Check the inner body panels for rust and welding work, especially around the tops of the shock absorbers. Take a good look around for any leaks or signs of leaks emanating from any of the fluid pipes, petrol or oil. Check the thicker pipe, water pipes, water leakage and also for rusty orange stains anywhere where these pipes join the engine and radiator, which is a clear give-away of a leak.

A rattling sound from the front end of the engine could mean a worn timing chain or cam belt. A regular knocking noise may indicate that the main crankshaft bearing, water-pump bearing, or alternator bearing is going, or it may have a bent or loose pulley. Finally, with the engine ticking over, observe whether the entire engine complex rocks or bounces excessively. Such movement suggests split or weak engine mounts or that the timing needs attention.

Other areas that should be looked at carefully if you get the opportunity at the auction are the underneath of the vehicle, particularly checking for any bends or crumple in the sub frame, leaking pipes, hoses, drums, damaged petrol tanks and, of course, the exhaust system. Similarly, you should examine the interior of the car. Inspect the seats for wear and tear and also the carpets. This will indicate to you whether the car has been used or abused, and even whether the wear corresponds to the mileage shown.

Take off any seat covers which may have been put there for show or to cover cigarette burns, loose stitching or excessive signs of wear. If you have the opportunity at the auction, check that warning lights come on when you turn on the ignition.

Checking the brakes on the vehicle at an auction can be quite difficult but if you are buying the vehicle under warranty you have one hour after you have paid for it to take it for a short test drive and check the brakes. When on the test drive and at a very slow speed, on a clear bit of road with no other people or cars around, brake carefully with your hand lightly gripping the wheel. If the brakes are in alignment the car should pull up directly in front of you and should not swerve or move to either side.

Here is a well-known way of checking the clutch to see whether it is in good order. Sit in the driver’s seat and start the car. Engage second gear and the handbrake. Rev the car up to about midway and slowly let the clutch out. If the car revs decrease proportionately to your letting the clutch out or the car stalls completely – then it is okay.

If not then it means that the clutch is slipping and is either worn or has oil on it. Either way it will need replacing soon. When you depress the clutch the operation should be smooth and there should be no noise. A whirring noise when depressed indicates wear of the release bearing and will need replacing shortly.

Take the handbrake off and using clutch control, pull away from stationary in second gear, the car should not stall and should accelerate slowly but smoothly.

exhaust fumesCheck the exhaust by looking, listening and smelling. Listen for a puffing noise emanating from underneath the car indicating a hole in the exhaust system. A low grumbling sound, like a racing car, when a car is being revved suggests the same, or that the exhaust pack has shaken loose.

Look under the car and see if the exhaust is old and rusty, or is any smoke coming out of any other place rather than the hole at the back end. Grab the exhaust (when cold) with your hands and shake it gently, if it feels firm and doesn’t rattle or knock then you know that all the mountings and brackets are there and working properly.

If you experience a smoky or gassy smell in the cabin when the car is running, then exhaust fumes could be finding their way out of a hole and into the interior of the car, which can be very dangerous. Replacing an exhaust is not cheap but obviously costs vary on the type of car and where you get it done. Check the emissions from the exhaust and you can tell a lot about an engine. A good engine, when warm, should not produce any visible smoke though a little is to be expected in an old car, but only when cold. Black or blue smoke indicates piston ring wear; white smoke indicates a blown cylinder head gasket.

If a car blows out smoke when started from cold and the smokes stops after a few revolutions, that suggests worn valve guides which are allowing oil to seep into the cylinders when standing. Start the car and place your hand over the exhaust outlet about six inches away. Leave it there for a few
seconds and then look at your palm and smell it. There should be no fluid deposits on your hand, other than perhaps a little water when cold. There should be no oil (suggesting worn out piston rings) and certainly no unburned petrol (which would suggest that a cylinder is not firing properly).

Gear Box
To check the gear box, sit in the driver’s seat and without starting the engine, depress the clutch and check whether the stick goes into all gears easily and smoothly. Start the engine and do the same.
With the engine still running, check that the gear stick does not excessively vibrate, which is a sign of wear. The easiest gear to test is fifth. To test the gear box and synchromesh put the car in reverse and drive backwards a short way. As the car is still moving backwards put the car into first gear. If you find it difficult or it makes a noise, then this suggests a tired and worn synchro which means an expensive gear box change.

Get a Professional Opinion
While there are obviously other areas such as steering, tyres, suspension and shock absorbers that should be tested, one way of doing this is to bring along a trained mechanic with you to the auction. In many cases, they will have a very good idea of what a car is worth and will be able to assess it fairly quickly. They will also be able from their experience and knowledge to identify any major defects or faults quickly. Many mechanics or trainee mechanics will provide this service to you on a part-time basis for a relatively nominal fee. This is money well worth spending and an outlay of £25-£35 can save you extreme grief later on, and indeed help you buy a better car than you might otherwise have done.

QuickTips: First Basics of a Car Auction

You could get a real bargain at an auction but be wary, particularly if it’s your first time at an auction and you don’t know much about cars.

Buying a used car this way can be the riskiest method because your usual legal rights may not apply if the seller issues a disclaimer, such as the term ‘sold as seen’. The auctioneers are allowed by law to alter the conditions of sale, usually doing this by taking away buyers’ rights under the Sale of Goods Act.

It’s best to go as a spectator first and see what happens. By attending an auction several times before you start buying, you can get used to the atmosphere and terms such as ‘direct cars’ (ex-company cars or direct from owner). It’s a good idea to take someone with you who knows about cars if you don’t.

If you still want to try for a bargain, then know your limit and don’t be tempted to bid any higher. The motor trade recommends buying cars between two and five years old. Check for full service history, this way you can have a better chance of guaranteed mileage. Also check with the auctioneers if they can guarantee the cars aren’t stolen

It’s best to go as a spectator first and see what happens. By attending an auction several times before you start buying, you can get used to the atmosphere and terms such as ‘direct cars’ (ex-company cars or direct from owner). It’s a good idea to take someone with you who knows about cars if you don’t.

If you still want to try for a bargain, then know your limit and don’t be tempted to bid any higher. The motor trade recommends buying cars between two and five years old. Check for full service history, this way you can have a better chance of guaranteed mileage. Also check with the auctioneers if they can guarantee the cars aren’t stolen

QuickTips: How a car auction works

A Motor Auction is an agency, operating between people wishing to sell vehicles and those wishing to purchase vehicles.

However, there is more to understand about an auction than just this.  Hopefully, the following information will give you a clearer understanding of today’s Motor Auctions.

Motor Auctions are in invaluable service within the motor industry, and have been around almost as long as the car itself.  Auctions allow organisations of all sizes to dispose of, and hence replace, many tens of thousands of vehicles each year and with auctions being entrusted to dispose of surplus vehicles on behalf of Local Authorities, Police Forces, utility companies and numerous other organisations and businesses, you can be sure of an extremely wide choice indeed.

The bulk of the cars sold at an auction reflect all popular makes and models on the road.  Price, choice and convenience are important to remember when visiting an auction; in terms of price you will be paying the same price as the trade. The choice of the makes and the models of the vehicles at an auction are tremendous, as auctions are not tied to any particular manufacturer. Convenience, simply because it would take weeks to view as many cars as you can view in one sale. It is advisable to use your first trip to the auction to familiarise yourself with the fast pace at which car sales are dealt with. This is merely to give every vehicle a chance to sell within the allotted time. The auctioneers themselves are experienced and can be invaluable should you require advice.

If you know what you’re doing you can pick up a bargain at a car auction – but the real emphasis is on the last part – you really have to know what you’re doing, since vehicles are sold as-is.

The best vehicles appear at dealer auctions, rather than those open to the public, though. So where can an ordinary person find a good car at auction? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the answer’s on eBay. They’ve had a vehicle auction arm for several years, and with due care you can find a real deal.


The auction process is the same as anything else on eBay. You place a bid, and can keep on bidding, hoping you win the vehicle at the end of the auction. That’s simple enough, but a car isn’t a book or a dress. Photographs and a description alone aren’t going to tell the whole story.You can search cars for auction by make or model, or you can refine the search by looking for vehicles within a radius of your own address – you decide how far. This is an important factor, unless you really want to travel to the other end of the country for a vehicle.


The great advantage of searching listings close to home is that you can easily inspect a vehicle that catches your attention. A cardinal rule is never bid on a car you haven’t examined – preferably with a mechanic, unless you’re very able in that field yourself. Test drive it, so you can not only get a feel for the vehicle and whether it suits you, but also its handling and faults on the road.

If you’re searching for a vehicle to buy, you’d do best to contact the seller early in the auction, to allow plenty of time for viewing. Take care to view the documents pertaining to the car too – the service record, if available, and the registration certificate, to be sure the seller really is the owner (the last thing you want is to spend money only to discover the vehicle’s stolen; if that’s the case you’ll receive no compensation).

The more thorough you are in your examination, the less likely you are to end up either scammed or with a lemon. Beware, too, of any signs that the person selling the car is a dealer. Check his feedback; if many of the entries concern car sales, then you’re looking at a dealer. Also check the feedback for buyer satisfaction, as an indication of the seller’s general honesty.


The people at eBay prefer buyers to pay via Paypal. Generally that’s a good idea, for the protections it offers a purchaser. But when you’re buying a car from someone, it might not be the best solution.

You might well do better to pay cash when you pick up the car. However, don’t just hand over the money. Inspect the vehicle again (and check the VIN – unscrupulous people have switched cars before!) before you pay.

The problem is that this method of payment negates your protections through eBay. However, an in-person inspection can save you a lot of problems later, so it becomes six of one and half a dozen of the other.

How to Avoid Buying a Wreck at a Car Auction

You might have heard from someone who knows someone who met a man who got a great deal at a car auction.

Yes it can happen, and a number of people have done it. Before rushing  off to try and find a bargain, be aware that you really need to know a good amount about cars or take a friend who’s a good mechanic before starting to bid. That bargain could easily turn into a lemon. Cars are sold as is, with no warranty of any kind.

How to Find a Reputable Car Auction

First thing to do is take a look at the auctioneer's section at GAUK Motors.  We only feature reputable car auctioneers. There are a number of big car auction companies, several with a number of venues around the country. Make sure the auctioneers are members of the National Association of Motor Auctions (NAMA); they have an established code of practice and work with the Office of Fair Trading, which offers you protection as a consumer.


Very carefully inspect any vehicle you might be interested in bidding on. Many will have faults, ranging from flood damage to having been in crashes. You really need to know what you’re looking for to be able to assess the vehicles properly, which is why you need an experienced mechanic. Many faults won’t be readily visible and the seller is under no obligation to give that information.

You’ll need to pay cash or have a loan in place for purchasing the vehicle since many auction houses don’t arrange financing. The important thing to constantly keep in mind is that once the car is bought it cannot be returned or compensation give. If there are problems, they become your responsibility, and they can become costly.

Usually, you’ll need to register at the auction in order to bid. The auctions open to the public generally don’t have the same quality of vehicle as those opened to car dealers. However, the only way you’ll get into those is if you have a friend who’s a car dealer. If it can be managed then are some some excellent bargains.

Be careful bidding at a public auction, and you’d be advised never to offer the first bid – you might well find yourself bidding on something no one else wants. Remember, a lot of the other bidders will be dealers and professionals. You’ll have to pay before you can drive the vehicle away (assuming it’s driveable, of course!).


The high-end market runs somewhat differently. Often, the auctions will be run by a major auction house. Not only will you need to register, you’ll have to show proof of financing, such as a line of credit, a loan, or, of course, cash.

In one of these auctions, you will at least be sure of the condition of the vehicle, which will have been carefully maintained or restored. Wonderful as the vehicles are to see, the prices can go very high for rare specimens, so be prepared to pay big money.

As a general rule, car auctions of any type can be real traps for the novice or the unwary. Be alert, be very cautious, but above all, know what you’re buying

Buyer Beware – The Onus is on YOU!

Words of caution. Prices won’t be as low as they might be if you go along to a regular sale dominated by motor trade buyers.

Excited private bidders tend to push prices higher.

You are pretty much buying ‘sold as seen’ too, with very strict rules on getting money back, and then only if the car has been misrepresented. Normally you need to submit a claim within an hour of the end of the sale. There’s certainly no warranty of any sort.

Car auction buying tips:

For a first time auction buyer the whole process can be rather daunting. British Car Auctions, possibly the biggest car auction house in Europe, offers these tips:

  • Do your homework – know what you want before you go to an auction and have an idea what the car you are after is worth.
  • Terms and conditions – each auction house has its own terms and conditions explaining how you can buy, what the fees are etc. Familiarise yourself with these so you don’t get surprised later on.
  • Don’t rush – arrive early and take time to examine the vehicle that interests you.
  • Do ask questions – ask auction staff, they will be happy to help.
  • Check the car – it’s up to you to check the car’s condition, so examine it prior to entering the auction hall. And listen to the engine running as it is driven into the auction hall.
  • Budget – set a limit and stick to it. Save some funds for a post sale service and any minor repairs that might be needed.
  • Be flexible – if you miss your first choice, don’t give up and don’t throw the budget out the window just because you like the colour of the car you’re bidding on!
  • Auctioneer’s description – this is legally binding, so listen carefully. The terms and conditions will explain all the terminology used.
  • Bid clearly – don’t wink or tap your nose, simply raise your hand or the catalogue.

It helps to take someone with you who has knowledge of cars and even better buying cars at auction.

Check out our guide on how to aviod buying a dodgy used car HERE

Simulcast bidding for the Motor Trade

Exclusive to Motor Trade customers only, Simulcast is an internet–based service that allows a buyer to “attend” a physical auction from the comfort of their own office.

More car auctioneers are using the very latest online broadcast technology. Simulcast is a streaming service that allows the buyer to see and hear all the action from the Auction Hall and then, with the click of a mouse, bid and buy cars or commercial vehicles in real–time, competing against other online buyers as well as buyers who are actually in the Hall. Each Simulcast bid is immediately registered in the Auction Hall by a large plasma screen that flashes red.

The advantages of Simulcast are:

  • Provision of visual and audio access to physical auctions from anywhere in the world
  • Ability to view fully detailed condition reports of vehicles of interest
  • Participation in the sale by simply clicking your mouse to bid and buy vehicles
  • Monitor activity in the marketplace, to “keep your finger on the pulse”.

So if you can’t leave the office, have a prior engagement or simply won’t want to waste time travelling, Simulcast allows you to “be there, when you’re not there!”



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