Auto auctions are nothing new and they certainly aren't going anywhere anytime soon. If you're on the market for a pre-owned car you may be considering hitting a local auction and checking it out for yourself.
Before you fall in love with a car and start bidding it's a good idea to take an objective look at what car auctions are all about. Auctions can provide a fun and exciting purchase experience but they aren't right for every buyer. Take a look at some of the pros and cons before you decide on where to source your next vehicle.
10 Pro: Selection
One of the greatest features of an auto auction is the incredible selection. Traditional dealerships often focus on one maker which massively limits your options. Even used car dealerships which don't limit themselves by brand will still have a smaller range on offer.
Every dealership is stocked with mass appeal in mind. If you're looking for something a bit rarer an auction house is a great place to start. If you're interested in online auctions the selection is virtually unlimited.
9 Con: Test Drives
When making a big purchase such as a vehicle, doing your due diligence is critical. You may think of a test drive as a no-brainer when buying a car but in an auction scenario, they're almost unheard of. That in no way means that you can't buy a great quality car without driving it first, but you may want to do a little research.
If you simply can't feel comfortable buying a car without a test drive the auction block isn't for you. If you're willing to keep an open mind and plan ahead for any repairs, you may just find your next dream car.
8 Pro: Networking
Even if you walk away from an auto auction without a car, that doesn't mean you'll be leaving empty-handed. Auctions are frequented by car enthusiasts and automotive industry professionals alike. You can meet a lot of helpful and influential people at the auction house so keep an eye out.
If you don't find your dream car on the block you may just make the right connections to track it down anyway. Collect all the business cards you can and get the most out of your visit.
7 Con: Warranty
When you purchase a vehicle at an auction it's with the understanding that it's an as-is sale. The auction house is not responsible for any issue you may discover after you purchase a car. They also don't offer any kind of warranty.
The value of warranties is constantly debated but they can cover some repairs and maintenance. Should you choose to purchase through an auction online or in-person you'll need to be prepared to be on your own with any required repairs thereafter. As long as you're comfortable with that you can have a great buying experience.
6 Pro: Savings
One of the greatest advantages of shopping auctions is incredible savings. You can find high-quality cars at amazing prices but you have to shop smart. One great tip is to watch a few auctions before you buy to get a feel for what an average winning bid is for cars similar to what you're looking for.
Once you know what's a fair bid you'll feel more confident and prepared to start bidding on your own. It can be intimidating to jump into a totally new purchasing experience but armed with some information you can save a ton of money on a great car.
5 Con: Uncertainty
An auction is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Unlike buying a new car from a branded dealership you can't walk into an auction house with an expectation of selection. The makes, models, and years available will vary from one auction to the next.
Very few things are consistent in this arena. There is one constant in auto auctions and that's change. If you need a very specific vehicle quickly, this isn't the right avenue for you. Auctions are for buyers who are ready to be flexible.
4 Pro: Fun
Buying a new car, or at least new to you, is always exciting. No matter where your next vehicle comes form you're bound to enjoy at least some part of the experience. Auto auctions are much different than the typical visit to a dealership and as such can be incredibly fun, especially on your first visit.
Far from the typical dealership experience, an auction has a faster pace and much more going on simultaneously. All that hustle and bustle a be a great time. If you're considering getting your next vehicle from an auction it's a great idea to attend your first auction as a spectator. Get a feel for the process and the crowd. Pay attention to winning bids and which cars get the most attention.
3 Con: Salvage Titles
Many cars at auto auctions have come form a less than perfect background. It's not uncommon for cars to come across the block with salvage titles. A salvage title isn't the end of the world but it can cause you headaches down the line with your insurance company. A salvage title means that the car has either been in an accident, been heavily used or has been damaged.
A salvage title is issued when an insurance company has written a vehicle off as a total loss. That doesn't mean that any vehicle with a salvage title is worthless, especially if you're looking for an inexpensive work vehicle. It does mean that your insurance company likely won't pay out much if you are involved in an accident.
2 Pro: Speed
Buying a car at a dealership is an all-day affair. You could easily spend hours walking the lot looking at cars. Once you've narrowed down your choice you'll still have to mull over packages and options. Waiting on financing can take hours.
If the idea of spending your whole day car shopping intimidates you consider an auction. Once the vehicle you're interested in is on the block bidding typically lasts a few minutes and that's it. You can begin your paperwork and get on your way. Online auctions could go even faster.
1 Con: Third Parties
A potential pitfall in your auction experience may not be with the auction house itself. If you choose to purchase a vehicle at an auction outside of your residential area you may find yourself dealing with a third party shipping company.
Make sure you research these vendors carefully on your own before you strike a deal. The auction house may have vendors they work with regularly but that doesn't mean they'll be the cheapest in the game.