A recent college graduate, shocked at how expensive cars can be, decided he wanted to try the auto auction route. He asks some specific questions, which I will address shortly. First, though, I want to ask readers to share their experiences with us—good and bad. Did you get an amazing car at an unbelievable price? Did you get ripped off? Did you find the auction business you dealt with helpful or not? Did you find the process difficult? How much work did you do ahead of time to assure you got what you wanted, both vehicle and price? Are there pitfalls you warn other prospective buyers about? What did you do they got you what you wanted? Do you have regrets?
As I’ve reviewed some of the Michigan auto auction web sites, I’ve observed that most if not all have on line photos of available vehicles; most also have lots where cars may be viewed in person. However, I would verify with a telephone call before driving any distance for that. Some cars to be auctioned may not be at the lot till the time of the auction, another thing to check.
If you’ve never been to an auction of any kind, you should go to one, just for the experience before you go to bid (You can watch one here, but it’s not quite like being there). One article I reviewed, suggested among its tips having a firm maximum bid in mind…and sticking to it! I would add, be prepared to let your choice go to another bidder rather than breaking you limit (or bank!). The auction experience itself can become intense, especially for the less experienced. Someone who wants the same item or even the owner who wants to drive up the price may run the bids up. If your goal is to get a get value, then you don’t want to get caught in the emotion of the moment.
If you don’t happen to know someone who has purchased a vehicle at auction, then I’d suggest calling and chatting with a couple of different owners of auction businesses. Prepare a list of questions and ask for their advice. I did something like that when I was shopping for paint, years ago, and I settled on one particular brand because the clerk clearly knew his business and gave me really sensible advice. A good dealer will do the same.