by Gauk
Mon, Aug 29, 2016 5:42 AM

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.


wrecked cars at auctionVery 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

published by Gauk