Auctioning your auto can be a fast way to sell a vehicle; it's a way to quickly move the car from your driveway to someone else's. This is especially the case compared to the usual private selling process of listing on Craigslist, Autotrader, or a similar platform. These are websites that (hopefully) provide potential buyers, but you're dealing with shoppers on a one-by-one basis, answering questions, and setting up appointments and test drives. Yes, these multiple efforts can still yield a "thanks, but no thanks" response.
Let's not forget that auctions aren't just a fast method for selling a car but also a resource for buying a new vehicle! When one knows how it works, it's not that difficult to get a dealer-beating price at a car auction.
The challenge is how to find the right auction, as many sellers and buyers don't know where to look. Read on as we share a quick guide for locating auto auctions in your area.
Where to Find an Auto Auction Near Me
Start on Google
The easiest place to begin looking is the most popular search engine, Google. Start with a simple search term like "auto auction near me" or "car auctions in <your hometown>." A basic search like this will yield numerous results. But these choices can be overwhelming, however. So if you are feeling a bit lost, there are ways to narrow down the search.
Check Local Government Sites
It might not be the first thought that comes to one's mind, but explore web pages from the local chamber of commerce or government sites that list nearby public auto auctions. These are likely less publicized events that can offer bargain buying opportunities.
Look in Local Newspapers
Yes, newspapers are still a thing. And these publications can be a helpful resource for identifying local auction houses and similar enterprises. A local paper will narrow down these businesses that are right on your doorstep.
Be Aware of Public Vs. Dealer-Only Auctions
It's vital to understand the difference in local auction types. The first is a public auction where all buyers and sellers have access. Cars can be bought and sold here with minimal limitations. Just abide by the rules, and you're good to go.
On the other hand, dealer-only auctions are limited to registered car dealers. Rules vary by auction and state, but typically admission is restricted to licensed car dealers. And depending on the jurisdiction, a car dealer can be a business with a small single-lot operation or a franchised new car retailer. These types of auctions are not open to the public and are usually for purchasing vehicles that will be resold on dealers' lots.
The Case for Selling Your Car at a Local Auto Auction
Auctioning a car remains among the very fastest ways to sell it. Once it's listed in the auction catalog, prospective buyers will have a chance ahead of time to learn about your vehicle. Assuming there's enough bidding activity and any reserve price (detailed below) has been met, you can just sit back and wait for the final hammer to confirm the sale. Conveniently, the auction team will handle the final elements of the transaction (covered in greater detail below).
Chance of a Better Price
While auctioning can be a bit of a gamble when it comes to getting the desired amount, there's always a chance of receiving a higher price thanks to willing bidders. It can be more straightforward than back-and-forth negotiations with a private buyer. And remember that a reserve price can be a safety net.
The opportunity for a successful auction sale rings especially true for a unique or collectible vehicle. A special edition or classic model can be highly sought after in the marketplace. Or, the car might have original or rare equipment. Regardless, a vehicle with something special can be an ideal candidate for an auction sale. And the right auction and group of bidders can create every seller's dream, a bidding war.
Using a Reserve
Think of a reserve price as an insurance policy that ensures you'll at least receive a minimum acceptable selling price. If the reserve amount isn't met, the sale stops, and everyone walks away as if the auction never happened. Always confirm an auction company's policies beforehand if you're going the reserve price route.
Business Handled by Auction House
Another benefit of selling via an auction is that the company's team handles the paperwork and finalizes the sale. You'll just need to sign a few documents and collect the check. It's a far easier approach than dealing with the details yourself as part of a private sale.
The Case for Buying a Car at a Local Auto Auction
Auctions offer up all manner of cars, trucks, and other vehicles. You'll find mainly standard cars at a general auction, but a more specialized event may highlight collector cars or other unique autos. Browsing through auction catalogs (most are online these days) reveals a wide variety of vehicles from many periods, with different styles, and in many price ranges. You're likely to find a more unique mix than with an ordinary private sale listing or at a dealership.
While numerous sellers put reserves on their auction vehicles, many do not. Without a reserve, there's a chance of snapping up a car at a fantastic price, far below what you'd pay a dealership or private seller. Government auctions, police auctions, and liquidation sales can often provide opportunities for rock-bottom prices and unbeatable deals. Remember that there's always risk involved when buying this way, but sometimes the savings are so great that it's impossible to ignore.
No Need for Prolonged Negotiations
Part of the advantage of an auction is that the closest thing to price negotiation is the bidding process, and it's over quickly. It can be a considerable relief for those that don't enjoy haggling.
Auto Auction Near Me: Important Things to Know
As with anything in life, auctions have their downsides. Whether you're buying or selling, there are important things to remember to minimize the chance of a bad experience.
Not All Auctions are Open
As mentioned earlier, certain auctions are dealer-only events that are not open to the general public. Other auctions may be restricted to members of specific organizations or limited to invited participants. Take note of any entrance requirements before making plans to attend.
Placing a reserve is a good way for sellers to protect themselves with a minimum selling price, but a reserve is also off-putting to some buyers. A reputable auction company combined with a robust bidding environment can frequently offset the need for a reserve and lead to a higher selling price.
Auction houses and online platforms charge customers in different ways, with the most common being a fee taken as a percent of the selling price. For instance, a car sold for $60,000 with a 10 percent commission means the auction company gets $6,000 and the seller $54,000.
However, other operations use different methods, including a buyer's premium added to the final selling price. Regardless if you're selling or buying, always know the fees, terms, and conditions before getting involved in an auction.
No Test Driving
Most auctions don't allow for test drives. Therefore, becoming an informed bidder is the best way to ensure a happy end result. Research catalog items in advance so you can support your efforts with additional investigations of price history, typical repair issues, and other essentials. In other words, do your homework.
Auctioned cars rarely, if ever, come with manufacturer warranties. And those that do are usually sold via dealer-only events. So, be aware that you're responsible for any defect that arises once a car has been purchased. It's buyer beware when buying a car at an auction.