Wisdom from an Auto Auctioneer

Steve Lang offers his take on auto auctions based on experience, not just as an auctioneer, but also as a bidder, buyer, seller, and auction house manager. With that broad perspective, Lang has seen a lot, and his tips are not to be ignored.

He notes, “This is a world that average car buyers enter at their own peril.” The hundreds of thousands of deals he observed—everything from a $200 VW to a $200,000 Ferrari—have included both “future joys” and “long-term sorrows.” Perhaps his greatest warning is that “Almost nothing is what it first appears to be.” In other words, sellers will do almost anything to get the best dollar for their car while buyers hope to get the best car for the best price; so unwarranted assumptions can lead to disaster. He warns that hidden problems can be serious and that removed warning lights and recently changed oil may hide known problems, known to the owner, that is.

Here are 10 tips from the experienced auctioneer’s perspective:

  1. Decide If You Can Really Handle an Auto Auction-He explains why auctions may not be for everyone.
  2. Know the Sellers-Banks aren’t car people. New car sellers auction off brands other than their own. Independent dealers are most likely to sell to someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing. “Public auctions serve the purpose of finding the people who fit the “clueless” mold.”
  3. Do Your Pre-Auction Research-As noted elsewhere, Carfax and AutoCheck are excellent sources to learn a vehicle’s history.
  4. Know the Auction Rules-Are there fees or deposits? Can you drive the car? Lang says never to bid on a car without driving it.
  5. Assess the Car by Assessing the Previous Owner-Examine the car for indications of the owner’s being someone who didn’t care for his vehicle.
  6. Pay Attention to the Auction Lights-Auction block usually have 4 colored lights. Red is for “as is.” You buy it, and it’s yours. Yellow is for caution, because the car has an issue that could be serious. Green means the winning bidder may drive the car for 1 to 3 hours, and may be able to get out of the deal if an extremely serious issue is discovered. Blue means you may have to wait for the title, though after 30 days you can probably get your money back (He says, “Always pay with a check!”).
  7. Don’t Get Drawn Into the Drama-Don’t allow yourself to get suckered into paying more than you planned or into buying junk.
  8. The Auto Auctioneer Is Not Your Buddy-His job is to sell cars, not help you.
  9. You Have a Court of Last Resort-If you’re among the few who get a misrepresented car, remember that auctions hate bad publicity.
  10. Build a Relationship-The auctioneer has a job to do, but if you’re pleasant and interested, he may become you ally.

This is a summary at best. If you’re serious about buying at an auto auction, I highly recommend reading this entire piece and getting all the choice details. You’ll have greater success for doing so.



Auction for “Time Capsule” Vehicles

It’s hard not to get excited about an auction that features the old cars that you remember seeing or maybe even driving, cars in excellent condition for their age.  Many like car auctions for the price, but it would be so cool to win the car that you loved when you were just a young driver,  I would any way!  For those who share my interest, here is the auction for you, featuring cars stored away for the past 17 years.

Ray and Mildred Lambrecht, now in their 90’s, retired years ago from their auto dealership, but they kept nearly 500 new and used vehicles from their inventory in storage in various buildings in Pierce, Nebraska.  The collection includes 50 brand new Chevrolets from the 1950s and 1960s with less than 10 miles on the odometer.  These cars bear none of the wear that would have come from being driven over the last 40 or 50 years, and now they are finally to be auctioned.

The auction is scheduled for September 28 and 29, this fall, at Vanderbrink Auctions in Pierce, Nebraska, and you may go to their site to see what they will be auctioning and for further information.  Their site includes videos and photos, which are being regularly updated.  The available vehicles include cars in great condition, others that are “project cars,” and some that are basically only good for parts.

I found a number of photos on the site where I originally found this story, too. My personal favorite was a 1959 Chevy Impala, a car I started driving when I was a senior in high school.  Mine was blue, and my college buddies called it my “Winded Wonder!”  Of course, it was a heavy beast, and the gas mileage would be atrocious.  Still for the chance to drive one again, I’d be in Pierce, Nebraska, if I could for this auction.

Just watching the video on the site is fun, so go ahead and check it out.  By they way, you can bid for vehicles on line, if you cannot get to Nebraska.

Do Auctions Provide Lists of the Cars for Sale before an Auction?

Most skillful buyers attending auto auctions observe a concept called “due diligence”. This process entails finding out all the pertinent information regarding the auction before attending. Smart buyers seek information such as where the auction will be located, the reputation of the auction house, and, most importantly, what cars will be sold on this day and their condition.

The most important variable to find out, in advance, is what cars will be sold at the auction. Some auctions provide information online including pictures, title status, and the all-important starting bid price. Older auction houses may require you to call in and have the information faxed to your location, or, even worse, you may need to stop by and retrieve an information sheet. In any instance, you should have the information before the auction begins; you just need to figure out how to get it.

Other mediums such as eBay have auctions by the second so all you’ll need to do is log on to eBay.com and search for the car you want. GSA government auctions also have a searchable car database.  Once you’ve found a listing, be sure to read through the terms and conditions carefully. In any case, the information regarding auto auctions is usually common information that can be found by simply picking up the phone or checking a website. If possible, review the list of cars to be sold prior to attending the auction; this will give you a hand up on the other potential buyers and help you seal your purchase with ease.

How Much Money Do you Really Save at an Auction?

So here’s the question: how much money can I save at an auto auction? The answer: plenty! Unlike normal car dealerships where you must haggle and negotiate to save money, the auto auction places the power in your hands. When attending the auction, you’ll notice a bevy of low priced cars ready to sell. It’s all up to you and the other buyers on how much you’ll pay for one of them. For example, at a recent auto auction in Houston, Texas, a new model car sold for $10,000 less than standard retail. You cannot get this kinds of deal anywhere else.

How much you actually save depends on a few factors and how well you’re able to capitalize on them. First, you must determine how much you’re willing to spend and not budge on that amount. This will eliminate a slew of cars and temper your focus down only to the ones within your range.

Second, you must know the vehicle’s condition. This is where having a willing family mechanic or having knowledge of how cars operate may come in handy. For example, the auction house may crank the car and you could hear screeching or see smoke among other things. A seasoned mechanic will know exactly what needs to be fixed and how much it will cost, while a normal buyer may have no idea. This provides for less people bidding on that particular model and increases the savings.

Lastly, you must know a car’s worth in its current condition. For example, take any car at the auction, and look up the Kelley blue book value. If you have a Smartphone, you can download the KBB app. This provides you with an opportunity to determine what the value is and know where you have slack for bidding.

Auto auctions are a great place to find killer deals on a car; don’t let a great deal slip through your fingers.

Buying a Car at an Auction

For thоѕе that don’t know, auto auctions are the quickest and easiest wауѕ for banks and government agencies tо get rid of seized and repossessed vehicles. Thеѕе auctions саn be found all оvеr the United States, саn occur daily, weekly, and monthly, and are good рlасеs tо find the automobile уоu’vе bееn searching for, at a significant savings.

Hеrе are six quick reasons why buying a car at an auction саn be a good idea.

1. When уоu find a good auction site, уоu will have piece of mind knowing thеу stake their reputation оn providing a good experience.

2. Seized auto auctions саn be a lot of fun. The sheer volume of vehicles tо choose from саn be quite an experience.

3. It саn help уоu kеер уоur budget intact when it соmеѕ tо buying a new or used car.

4. You саn set a maximum bid level that kеерѕ уоu from overbidding or letting уоur emotions get the bеѕt of you.

5. You саn save time and effort by not having tо visit high pressure dealerships or driving from private sale tо private sale hoping tо find the car уоu are lооking for.

6. Seized auto auctions are a great рlасе tо get great bargains оn just аbоut any type of vehicle. If уоu are interested in a high end vehicle, but don’t care for the retail price tag, then government seized auto auctions are great for you.

As уоu рrоbаblу аlrеаdу know, car dealers will do аnуthing tо get уоu into the car of уоur dreams. Dealers attend thеѕе private auctions tо buy cars at a fraction of their retail value and subsequently turn them around, increase the price, and sell them tо уоu at a dealership at a huge profit. Just think how much уоu соuld save if уоu bypassed уоur dealership and purchased directly from their sources. Car dealers know this, and thеу go tо great lengths tо protect this knowledge from the general public.

When уоu start bidding remember tо stick with уоur plan, bid with уоur brain, and don’t let уоur emotions get the better of you. One thing in particular to kеер in mind is the buyer’s premium. This is a commission, uѕuаllу in the 5% range, that is that is paid tо the auction house оn top of the winning bid for the vehicle. This means if уоu рlасе a winning bid of ѕау $20,000 уоu will pay an additional $1,000 tо the auction house for their services. This саn be a problem if уоu don’t take that into account when уоu’re caught up in a bidding frenzy in which уоu uѕеd еvеrу lаѕt dollar уоu had available. Plan ahead, and уоu’ll do fine.

Online auto auctions are a great рlасе tо find the car or truck уоu have bееn lооking for at a rather large discount. By doing уоur research and bidding smartly уоu саn save hundreds or еvеn thousands of dollars оn great cars.

What methods of payment are acceptable at the auction?

Auctions allow you to purchase vehicles at quality prices. Any time you place the highest bid in an auction, money must change hands. One extremely important thing to know when bidding at an auto auction is the preferred method of payment. I say “preferred” method because an auction may allow all forms of payment; however, you must be very aware of how you finalize your purchase. Imagine going to your landlord’s place of business and paying your rent with cash. Granted, you’ve done the ethical thing in paying the rent, but cash alone provides may be no record of payment without a receipt. Now, think about visiting a car auction and paying for a shiny new car with cash. Some places may allow cash as a valid form of payment, but it is not wise. When finalizing a deal at any auction, it is preferable to use a cashier’s check or a money order for final purchasing. This way, you have full proof with a signature to validate your purchase, and this can be used in a court of law in the event of a lost or disputed title. Believe it or not, not everyone is ethical or has your best interest at heart. You should protect yourself by using the above methods other than cash.

Some auctions may take credit or debit cards. Depending on your bank’s daily withdrawal/purchase limit, you may be able to complete the transaction with your card. If you plan on using debit or credit at an auction, be sure to verify the limit first with your bank. Nothing is worse than hearing the words, “Sir, you card has been declined.” Trust me; it’s happened to anyone! In any event, the most acceptable method of payment is the one with which you feel most comfortable. Be sure you’re ready and know the rules before you step foot on the auction grounds.

Factors tо Cоnѕidеr Whеn Uѕing Online Auto Auctions

Whеthеr уоu аrе a single car buyer whо оnlу nееdѕ оnе vehicle оr a car dealer whо juѕt opened fоr business, уоu mау соnѕidеr uѕing online auto auctions tо gеt a great deal. If thiѕ iѕ уоur firѕt timе gоing thiѕ route, рlеаѕе kеер thеѕе important points in mind.

Thеrе аrе hundreds оf auto auction websites оut there. On thеѕе websites, уоu will find a variance аmоng thе type оf auctions hosted. Whilе thеу dо fоllоw thе general auction-style format, уоu will notice a difference. Fоr example, eBay Motors iѕ аn online auction website. Users саn list vehicles fоr sale оn eBay Motors. Thеѕе vehicles аrе listed bу a wide range оf people; ѕоmе dealers, ѕоmе avid eBay users, аnd оthеr first-time sellers lооking tо tap intо thе growing popularity оf eBay.

On eBay, уоu аrе mоrе likеlу tо find inaccurate аnd incomplete information аѕ it iѕ thе individual seller whо has placed thе listing. On thе оthеr hand, аn experienced auto auction house iѕ likеlу tо include mоrе and detailed information, аѕ thеу knоw whаt buyers expect. Thiѕ dоеѕ nоt mеаn thаt уоu ѕhоuld avoid user generated listings, likе thоѕе found оn eBay.com. Whаt thiѕ dоеѕ mеаn iѕ thаt уоu ѕhоuld bе prepared tо аѕk questions; lots оf them.

At physical car auctions, уоu’ll find thаt ѕоmе auctions аrе open оnlу tо licensed оr certified dealers. Yоu mау соmе асrоѕѕ similar auctions online. Dоn’t bе discouraged if thiѕ iѕ аll уоur Internet search pulls uр аt first. Dig a littlе deeper, аnd уоu will find car auctions online thаt аrе open tо thе general public.

Aѕ with physical car auctions, уоu will typically find a numbers оf fees tacked оntо уоur buying price. It iѕ important tо kеер thiѕ in mind whеn placing уоur bid оr whilе in thе mist оf a virtual bidding war. Rеаd thе auctions full terms аnd restrictions head оf time; will уоu bе charged a 10% auction fee оr buyer’s fee? If so, kеер thеѕе fees in mind whеn calculating thе оvеrаll purchase price.

Yоu will find hundreds оf legitimate online auto auctions; however, уоu will аlѕо run intо a fеw scams аѕ well. Fоr example, eBay.com iѕ a well-known target оf scammers, аѕ mоѕt items аrе shipped thrоugh thе mail. Vehicles саn bе shipped viа a transport service; therefore, risks dо apply. It iѕ аlwауѕ in уоur bеѕt interest tо make wise judgments. Moreover, eBay sellers аnd mаnу well-known auction houses will enable уоu tо соmе аnd quickly inspect thе vehicle bеfоrе bidding, but уоu nееd tо аѕk first.

Aѕ previously stated, thеrе аrе a wide range оf auctions fоr cars online. EBay.com iѕ home tо mоѕtlу nеw оr uѕеd cars thаt аrе in great, drivable shape. Whеn researching online, уоu will аlѕо find ѕоmе auctions whеrе thе оvеrаll shape оf thе vehicle iѕn’t clear; уоu аrе agreeing tо buy as-is. In thiѕ case, thе vehicle’s VIN number iѕ important tо determining if thе vehicle hаѕ a сlеаr title. It iѕ easier tо attend virtual auctions, but thе ѕаmе level оf organization аnd research ѕhоuld bе performed ahead оf time.





What is a police auction?

While there are many places where you can purchase a quality used vehicle, none match the flexibility given to you at an auction. Auctions allow you to place bids on vehicles based on many variables such as quality, type and condition. Once you place your bid, you wait until the next bidder raises your price. If your price isn’t exceeded, you win the bid, and take home the prize.

Let’s take it one step further and speak about police auctions. Police auctions provide you the same exact options as public options but with one main difference, you’re bidding on used police fleet vehicles rather than bidding on vehicles owned by the general public. These fleet vehicles may have been lightly driven by senior staff, and others may have been in dozens of high speed chases. Police cars may have features absent from other vehicles, such as high performance, high end motors, law enforcement exterior/interior dressings (sirens, extended rear-view mirrors, and lights), and cage-separated seats. Depending on the auction, you may find these items attached to the car at the time of purchase which means, when you drive away, they belong to you.

One major advantage of purchasing a vehicle from a police auction is the maintenance record. When a city department owns a vehicle, they require certain scheduled maintenance to be kept for liability reasons. The cars are also washed regularly and taken out of service more frequently than you may believe.

Lastly, don’t think that cars are the only thing you can buy at police auctions. From time to time, you may find seized property from criminals, tractors, and other special use equipment available at bargain prices. Police auctions have gained popularity over the last few years and appear to be a major player in the auction mix in cities nationwide. Go ahead and check them out; what you find may surprise you.

Are Cars Bought at Auctions Reliable?

Auto auctions provide some of the most dependable, reliable cars on our roads today. Many people are against them, but if they would take the time and research the vehicles, they would realize the power of the auto auction. Here’s a few reason why car auctions are reliable.

Disclosure: Most auction houses are required to disclose the condition of the vehicle. If you’re in the market to purchase old, flooded cars, the auction site will more than likely provide this information. Say you’re looking for salvaged title cars; you can obtain this information at the auction house as well. It’s up to the consumer to ask questions and inquire further if more information is needed.

Used Car Dealerships: Another reason why the cars are reliable is implied by where the cars were purchased. People are trading cars daily and replacing them with new ones. If the dealership feels these cars are outdated and can’t be sold on their lot, they move them over to the auction. In most instances, perfectly good cars slip through the hands of dealers and into the hands of local auctioneers. Furthermore, the dealerships are sometimes onsite at auctions purchasing cars. This can be a major tell-tale sign for you, the prospective purchaser, because if a dealership is willing to buy from the auction with no reservations, you should have the confidence to know your getting a great product as well.

Again, I can’t stress the importance of doing your due diligence and making sure you make a smart purchase; that part is on you.  It is always wise to bring along an experience mechanic to inspect any car you might consider buying. Really think about what it is you’re looking for in a vehicle before you make your move as well. In closing, don’t be wary of auction auctions. Many find them highly reliable and overall one of the best places around to purchase cars. 

Should I pay with cash at the auction?

An auto auctions can be a great place to find great values for people in the market to buy themselves a different car. Sadly, it can also be a nightmare for people who bid without thought or preparation. Here is one important question to consider: should you pay with cash at the auction? The answer is simple: NO!

Many have debated this point, over the years, but there are 3 distinct reasons that support this stance. First off, when you pay with cash, it’s much more difficult to prove your purchase. You may obtain a bill of sale or a receipt, but for some this may not be enough.

Secondly, with cash you forgo the option of having the transaction recorded electronically. Some auctions provide the chance to pay via debit or credit card . Knowing this, if you pay by one of these cards, your transaction is recorded on your bank or credit statement. This allows you not only assurance but proof, if needed down the line.

Lastly, who would want to walk around with such a large sum of money on their person? Let’s say your bank is 10 miles from the auction. You withdraw $5,000 USD for the auction and prepare to commute. Just think of how many problems that could occur in transit from the bank and arrival at the auction, problems like robbery and loss of cash (It’s happened to many others before you). These may seem far-fetched, but depending on where you live, they could be very real.

Some don’t seem to have issues with going to auctions with cash, and some auctions only allow cash, so you’ll need to do your due diligence when determining your plan. In closing, when attending auctions, be safe, make sure you can prove your purchase, and ensure you’re protected on all fronts, cash or not.

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