Basic Auto Auction Tips

Auto auctions offer experienced consumers the possibility of great car values at unbelievable low prices if you know what you’re doing.  Auto dealers have been the primary benefactors historically, finding auctions to be excellent places to sell off trade-ins as well as to buy for resale.   Vehicle auctions are becoming more and more accessible to the ordinary person, but as with many “good deals,” let the buyer beware.  In other words, an auto auction is also an excellent place to be a cheap junker!

Bloomberg Business Week provides some sensible tips for the inexperienced, prospective buyer.  In general, be aware that you’re buying a car as is, without the detailing or fixing up that a car lot will do.  That represents some of you savings as well as certain risks.  Depending on the auction format, in person versus on line, you may get little to no opportunity for a thorough inspection.  Ascertaining the value of a prospective buy is a much greater challenge.

1.  Arrive early.  This will give you time to get as much information as possible about a car or cars that interest you.  If you can get a VIN number, then you should do a CARFAX to determine if there are any serious problems in its history such a flood damage or a major accident.  The article doesn’t mention it, but having someone with experience in auto mechanics is a good idea, if you’re not a pro yourself.

2.  Know what you can afford and are willing to pay.  Do not let the emotion of the moment draw you into over-bidding your resources.  Successful auction buyers don’t buy on impulse.

3.  Bloomberg Business Week strongly emphasizes being sure that the paperwork is in order, that the title is clear, and that there really is a car (for on line auctions) before paying out the full price.  Check out the article for more details.

For the real inside scoop on vehicle auctions, who would know more than an auctioneer?

One Customer’s Suggestions for Buying at Auction

I’m still educating myself on vehicle auctions.  I’ve made contacts with friends who used auto auctions to purchase cars and a dealer.  I can provide information on the various auction businesses in Michigan, and that will provide information that dealers may use, especially since some businesses work only with dealers.  I’m intrigued by the possibility of finding and buying a car I want at a better than normal retail price.

I posted earlier tips for buying seized autos, but today I want to share an article from a simple buyer and a woman buyer at that.  This story happens to be from Canada where Jacq purchased a loaded 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS 4WD for $11,000, about half of the normal retail price.  She shares nine steps for buying a car at auction.   Briefly, they are

1.  Find an open auction with newer cars not restricted to dealers (We have Michigan auctions on this site).

2.  Check the auction’s inventory and choose a few cars that interest you (in your price range).

3.  Inspect the cars that interest you in person and check for obvious problems.

4.  Learn all you can about the cars that interest you–value, reported problems, user satisfaction.

5.  Determine you maximum bidding price, then hold to it.

6.  Visit a couple of different auctions to get a feel for how they work before  you place your first bid on a car you want,

7.  Check the mood of the bidders.  Some days a crowd will be frugal and bidding will be low, and then at other times, the bidders are willing to spend and bid high.  Be prepared to walk away.

8.  Don’t let yourself get too much into the spirit of the thing; do not exceed your maximum price (set when you were thinking calmly and reasonably.

9.  Take advantage of the on site inspection services some auction houses offer.

I’d add that you should acquaint yourself thoroughly with the particular auction’s policies, so that you are prepared to follow their procedures, once you’ve won the car you want.  This article also includes a video of an auction house in Charleston.

Advantages of Seized Auto Auctions

Lee Connors wrote about “Five Reasons to Try Seized Auto Auctions” in this 2007 article.  His thoughts seem worth a look today.  If you’ve ever bought from a dealership, you know how challenging it is to get a good price, perhaps later discovering that someone had gotten a better deal.  We a ll want a great car and a great price.  Seized auto auctions offer “vehicles seized by the banks, police agencies or government” or pre-owned government vehicles with potential for thousands of dollars in savings and, in come cases, starting bids of as little as $100.

1.  Peace of Mind

To maintain a good reputation, auctions sites offer a variety of customer services.  You may get a vehicle history report, buyer protection from fraud or misrepresentation, or even a buyer’s rating if he has sold before.  Some sites also offer resources on how to bid and how to buy on line.

2.  Convenience

With on-line auctions, you may bid from home.  With a laptop or iPad, you can bid from anywhere with wireless and be taking care of other business while you wait for your winning bid.

3.  Staying on Budget

On-line bidding isolates you from pushy salesmen determined to get your name on a sales contract.  With the placement of a maximum bid, you also establish your limits before the excitement of bidding begins, giving you a better chance to stay with your means.

4.  Easy Paperwork

Many sites seek to keep your purchase as simple as possible, starting with on-line forms.  Many also offer courses on bidding procedures, access to finance or insurance companies, and even a way to verify V.I.N. numbers.

5.  Thousands of Choices

Starting with vehicles on site, to lists of cars to be auctioned with their location, and finally access to databases, auction sites can help you find a car you want, pretty much where you want it, or take you request and inform you when the car you want is available.  Some business are dealer only, while others allow access through membership.

Connors wraps up with this excellent counsel:  “Remember that information is key. Like any major purchase you should do your research on the car you plan to purchase. Once that research is done familiarize yourself with the policies and guarantees offered by the seized auto auction site. Find out what you can about the vehicle and the seller. Look into insurance and financing options. Prepare well and you should have a very enjoyable experience and own the car of your dreams for thousands less than the guy next door all buy trying out the seized auto auctions.”

Salvage Auction Goes High Tech

I attended auctions with my parents when I was a kid; much of my grandfather’s farm equipment and some household things were sold at an auction after his death. Many of us have some experience with on line auction sites like eBay. While eBay has its own car site, vehicle auction businesses offer their own on line auctions. One represented here in Michigan by facilities in Lansing and metro Detroit is Copart, founded originally in California but now with facilities nationwide and in Canada. Their original on line auction is called VB2, and bidding can be done on line or a one of their local facilities.

Copart has prepared a number of videos to demonstrate their on line auction process, such as this one. Unlike eBay, where auctions end at a given time, Copart’s auctions are similar to live auctions where the process continues till the highest bid is reached and the auctioneer announces, “Sold!”

Copart’s Lansing area facility holds local sales on Fridays at 12 noon at:

Copart, Inc

3902 S Canal Road

Lansing, MI 48917-9540

Phone: (517) 322-2455

Copart’s metro area facilities holds local sales on Thursdays at noon at:

Copart Salvage Auto Auction

21000 Hayden Drive

Woodhaven, MI

Phone: (734) 365-0070

Copart sells more than cars. They also sell trucks of every size and classification, SUVs, ATVs, trailers, motorcycles, dirt bikes, boats, jet skis, and snowmobiles, as well as classic cars and even fork lifts. Copart also buys vehicles. As I write this, their web site lists nearly 75,000 vehicles of various kinds for sale. Each vehicle shows its make, model, year, mileage, current location, and the highest bid, along with a photo and more detailed information.

Copart’s success has earned it a place on Forbes “200 Best Small Companies” list nine years in a row. Copart was also featured on the television show, World’s Best as “The World’s Best Remarketing Company.”


Know Your Stuff (unless you have money to throw away)!

Auto auctions cover a wide ranger of possibilities, everything from buying a decent car inexpensively to buying an expensive collector’s car.  You can sell a junker, donate a car you no longer need to charity, or seek a good price for a classic car you’ve personally restored.  The possibilities vary, but one thing does not:  you need to know the value of the vehicle you wish to sell or buy.

Now if you wish to bid on a one-of-a-kind item like this “ghost car,” then your decision will likely be based on it value to you, as a collector, the number of other bidders who also want it, and the amount of money you have available and are willing to pay.  Although auctioned items are typically, “as is,” the state of a collector’s item will probably be reliably stated.  If you’re a collector or wish you could be, you’ll probably enjoy this video, but I can’t imagine people in this high-priced environment often get ripped off.

However, for more ordinary needs, one thing is pretty clear, and this is you need to know the value of the car whether you’re buying or selling.  Now, if you’re a dealer, well established in the business, I probably need advice from you.  For the rest, there are places like this, that provide guides for looking up the information you need by make, model, and age.  Not only do they include information for the prospective classic car buyer, but they have guides for buying all kinds of vehicles as well as on line information.

Finally many dealers will assist you and provide an estimate to help your deliberations.  If you have a friend who is a knowledgeable mechanic, I’d encourage you to bring him to the next auction you attend because checking a vehicle’s condition is also a valuable piece of information as you determine a far price to bid.


Auto Auctions Learning Curve–Experienced Insights Welcome!

Most of us have a casual familiarity with auctions.  Since the advent of eBay, many have tried their hand at bidding to get an item we wanted, and a good many of us have probably gotten stung, bought an item cheap that turned out to be damaged in some way or worn out.  If, as in my case, the item was a used book, as long as the pages were all present, it was okay, but what if the item costs a bit more.  Suppose you want to bid on a car?

A trifling bit of research turned up 14,792 companies in Michigan that do auto auctions, and so far I’ve also found police auctions, insurance auctions, charity auctions, salvage auctions, and places that will sell your car by auction.  EBay has a huge auto auction section.  Some auction facilities are clearly for dealers only, who buy for resale.  Still, if you’re buying a used car, you need to know how to guard against getting junk for you money (unless, of course, you intend to buy junk!).

Years ago, I bought a used car directly from the owner.  He lied to me.  Why didn’t I expect that?  Young, trusting, stupid–you pick–but I just didn’t really expect to be cheated.  With a major purchase like a car, truck, or RV, a prospective buyer must assume that trickery and deceit are more than possible and guard against them.

One article I found especially warned against the risks of buying a salvaged vehicle, likely seriously damaged by flood, fire, accident, or vandalism.  Such a vehicle, partially repaired, may look good and still be a mess.  Furthermore, an unscrupulous dealer might even attempt to hide such a history.  Furthermore, if this is a risk in the case where you may directly inspect the vehicle, how much greater is the risk in an on line auction setting.

My objective here is to enhance this site to make it the most useful and informative.  I have things to learn, and I hope some of you readers will help with your insights, experience, stories, and wisdom.  Just leave some good comments; include a link to your Michigan-based auto auction business, if you like, and I will very likely include you in a profile if you’re not already here and improve those we do.

The Auction of Auctions

It’s hard to resist posting a video like this. Any dealer or car enthusiast who has been to an auction can appreciate it. This video is from one of the top auto websites in the world called Auto Blog. In this video, they sent two of their own to witness the auction of all auctions. With over 270,000 people in attendance, you can only imagine what this auction must have been like…

Save Money on Auctions by Keeping Tabs on Current Customers

The old adage is that it’s always easier to keep your current customers than it is to make new customers. There is an interesting article on Dealer Marketing’s website about keeping tabs on your current customer base in order to market to them. It suggests things like tracking the dates when their leases are nearing an end so that you can be sure to market to them just before their lease expires with your offer.

Grand Valley Auto Auctions and Sales

Grand Valley Auto AuctionContact Information

0-1600 Lake Michigan Dr
Grand Rapids, MI 49534

Official Website

Important Information

  • Time: Ever Wednesday at 6:15 PM
  • Public Auction

More Information

Grand Valley Auto Auction is open to the public. They have an auction every Wednesday at 6:15pm (free admission). They have been serving west Michigan for over 25 years, offering vehicles at wholesale prices. They have over 100 vehicles weekly that consist of new car store trade-ins, used car dealers, repossessions, company vehicles, and public consignments. They also sell boats, bikes, RV’s, ATV’s, trailers, snowmobiles, etc.

Insurance Auto Auction – Grand Rapids MI

Contact Information

700 100th Street SW
Byron Center, MI 49315

Official Website

Important Information

  • Time: Every Monday at 9:00 AM ET.
  • Office Hours: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu & Fri8:00AM-5:00PM ET
  • Public Auction


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