Here’s Why You Win (and Sometimes Lose) by Buying a Car at Auction

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Benefits and Risks of Buying at Car AuctionsBuying a car is an expensive and often stressful endeavor. For many, it’s one of the biggest financial decisions they make for several years, and an important investment. Going to a dealer and talking with motivated salespeople can be a challenge. Buying a car from a private party might be a little bit cheaper, yes. But bargaining with somebody who is trying to get the most for their car can be even more difficult.

When you think about ways to purchase used items, online auction sites might come to mind. You might not imagine purchasing a vehicle in the same way that you might purchase a used computer. But for a lot of families, it’s a good option. Are you looking to get a great deal or looking for a more obscure vehicle? If so, auctions might be the way to go.

Can You Buy a Car at Auction?

Usually, dealers are the only people out there buying cars from auctions. You might think they don't even allow ordinary consumers to buy a car this way. However, there are plenty of ways to buy an auctioned car. Many websites open themselves to the general public for special events. In some areas, you may be able to obtain a dealer license yourself to get access to any auction. These are good options if you really want the chance to get a good look at these cars in person. Seeing the car up close will help you in deciding whether you’d want to go through with the purchase.

But one of the simpler ways to purchase a vehicle at auction is to do so online. Many different sites will allow you to pay a fee to peruse their site and potentially purchase a car. Scan through these listings, and it'll surprise you to see how many good cars have found their way here. Generally, photos and descriptions of the vehicles for sale will be available. The online route is perfect If you have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for. It can also be a good way to get a fairly large discount.

The Pros: What are the Benefits of Buying at Auto Auctions?

You still may not be convinced that this is the best method for you to purchase a car. But the biggest benefit is always going to be cost savings. These vehicles are not marked up like the cars sitting on the dealer lot. When vehicles are going through the auction, it’s because they need to get moved. Plus, if you’re looking for a unique or vintage car this might be the only way to find one. In many cases, these cars are just vehicles that were repossessed, declared a total loss after an accident, or returned at the end of a lease.

Plenty of people can find great-condition cars at a much better cost than they could find anywhere else. Plus, there aren’t any pushy salespeople begging you to buy something that might not be the right fit for you. In many ways, this is a less stressful process than haggling with a dealership or a private owner. It’s a lot more straightforward: you bid and decide what you’re willing to pay.

From there, if it’s an online auction, you may even be able to pay for shipping. The car will then be sent straight to your home. You don’t even have to leave your house. It’s truly the future of buying cars, sitting at home browsing auction listings in your pajamas. Looking online at the inventory several days before the auction happens gives you plenty of time to research the car. Take time to look at the photos and really consider what you’re looking for in a new vehicle.

The Cons: What About the Risks of Buying a Car at Auction?

Another thing to remember is that the risk is fairly similar to purchasing a used car from any private party. There’s never any guarantee as far as the mechanical working order of the vehicle. You may even be able to find a car at auction that still has some of the manufacturer warranty left. Plus, purchasing the car at auction is often going to be far cheaper than buying the car from the previous owner.

Even buying a car from a dealer is not a risk-free process. Used cars may have some warranty left sometimes. But, depending on their age, they may not have any kind of a guarantee either. Any time you buy a used vehicle from anybody, it’s generally going to be an as-is sale. You may be able to get a car of similar condition from an auto auction, without having to pay the markup to the dealer. Don’t pay extra for what could easily end up being a false sense of security.

The next time you’re in the market for another car, consider saving some money and looking at an auction. Do some research, and bring home the perfect car for your family. You never know what you might find at an auction. You just might be able to snag that ‘71 Camaro you’ve always dreamed of. Or even a great deal on the perfect van to take the kids to soccer practice!