Auto Auctions 101: How To Buy Your Next Vehicle & More

With the highly anticipated Mecum Auto Auction coming to Harrisburg, PA August 3rd, I figured you might want to learn more about how auto auctions work and why people attend or purchase cars at these events. Auto auctions are popular for two reasons. They always have unique cars for sale, and they usually sell at a cheaper price. Plus, the crowd is awesome and you get to meet a bunch of gear heads who want to buy!

Auto Auctions 101: How To Buy Your Next Vehicle & More

There are many types of car auctions out there ranging from high-end classic cars to your everyday driver. Auctions like Barret-Jackson are streamed on TV and the cars sells for $100,000+ into the millions… to watch on the TV but not your everyday driver. There are two types of everyday auctions; Government Auctions and Public Auctions. Government auctions sell in bulk and the cars are usually old police cars that have wear and tear. Cab companies or companies with fleet vehicles are usually the ones attending Government auctions. They are able to purchase a lot of very used cars for less.

Public auctions are where you could find your next potential collector or everyday driver. However, you need to know what you’re looking at. Public auctions now can be super shady. I’m talking about people still rolling back mileage to sell the car for a higher price. It’s true and people still do it! So, if you want to attend an auction and purchase your next vehicle make sure you brush up on your car knowledge and bring a good mechanic.

Tips For Buying

Know Car Values

Do some research and know what you are going there to buy. Look at the cars attending and see what they go for online. Read up on any forums that may suggest any “normal” issues a car might have. The more you are prepared the better experience you will have.

Don’t Believe What You See & Check Everything

A car is being auctioned for a reason; It cannot sell and this is the last resort. Because of that very reason, make sure you check everything out on the vehicle. Do a walk-around, open doors and trunks to make sure they shut correctly (and evenly), check the dipstick to make sure at least the oil is good. Start the car and listen to the engine idle. Rev the engine to make sure you don’t hear any rattling or hissing noises. Make sure to check the lights, horn, and other electrical units. You will find something wrong with the car, it’s just a matter of how much time and money you want to put back into it.

Don’t Trust The Shine

Like I’ve mentioned before, these cars are going to look their best. They are professionally cleaned and polished to shine like crazy. The auctioneer wants it to sell, the seller wants it to sell, which means they will adjust lighting and clean it up well so it sparkles.

Check The VIN

Make sure you write down the VIN number and check it out online to see the history of the vehicle.

Observe Other Buyers

Watch and listen to the reactions around you. According to Popular Mechanics, you can learn a lot from what others are doing.

Know Your Limit & Stick To It

Don’t get caught up in the scene of quick auction buying. The announcers talk fast and if you lift that hand without knowing what you’re paying for, you’ll regret it! And remember to factor in shipping costs and taxes…

Bring Cash Or Get Pre-Approved

This is a little obvious but you need to make sure you have the money to purchase the vehicle there and don’t forget to factor in the shipping, taxes, and a down payment if you aren’t paying in full.

Check For “Trickery”

I’ve already mentioned this, but there will be something wrong with the cars you are seeing.  It is best to bring a trusted mechanic to go over the car if you are not an expert.

Go For The Bank Owned Vehicles

According to an article by Trusted Choice, they recommend looking at the bank owned vehicles. They are the ones to have the best inventory and the best pricing.

Be Prepared For Noise

If you’ve never been to an auction before I would suggest checking one out before going to an auction to make a purchase. They are noisy events and move very quickly. They are trying to go through as many cars as possible, yet, they are trying to sell them all. The more cars moving through, the better the chance of making good money at the end of the day. Just be prepared for fast talkers, haggling pricing, and a big crowd.

Light. Set. Action

At every auction there are four lights you need to be aware of when bidding.

Green: Green means GO! This car is in good condition and ready to be driven.

Yellow: Yellow is somewhat of a caution sign. It basically means you cannot dispute the vehicle after purchase if something happens with the car. Be careful with yellow lights and listen to the announcer who will tell you about the issues.

Red: This color means the car is sold “as is” meaning any issues with the car need to be fixed by the new owner.

Blue: Blue simply means no title has been assigned to the vehicle. The seller has 30 to assign one. 

If You’re Looking To Sell

Just remember, practically anyone can sell at an auto auction but you will not get close to what you’ve paid for. These cars sell for so much less plus you have to factor in the commission costs each auction takes. Unless you just want fast, easy cash, then I would suggest selling on your own or consigning at a dealership.

Also, if you are looking to sell your vehicle at an auction, don’t be the rude guy and sell a lemon. Don’t do anything to the car just to hide its damages. Be truthful and you might make it out with some money in your pocket!

I hope you all get a chance to attend the Harrisburg Mecum Auction if you are in town. I know I’ll be there 😉

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Comments 2

  1. Nice article, loved the part about Bank Owned Vehicles

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