Tips for Buying Cars at Auction and Avoiding Scams

Last Modified: July 20, 2019 by Jeff Ostroff  | Originally Published December 14, 2001

We'll cover the various types of auctions, explain the pros and cons and talk about the scams you may find. We'll teach you how to spot a damaged, totaled or flooded vehicle. You may ask yourself "should I try to buy a car at auction?" We'll help you answer that question. We'll cover online auctions like eBay Motors and the "old school" auctions like Manheim, Police Seizure and Salvage Auctions.

1. Every Man for Himself is the Rule of Any Auction

Some auctions offer to guarantee the engine, frame and body for 30 days for a fee. You should keep the saying "Buyer Beware" in your head at all times when you are at an auction. You can't take the car to be checked out by a mechanic and the vehicles are usually sold "As Is" with no warranty. All deals are final unless the title turns out to be fraudulent. Don't pay attention to any verbal promises, they don't mean anything. You don't want to be in a situation where it is word against theirs because they always win. Always assume the worst case at an auction.

2. When Buying at Auctions You Must:

  1. Get a vehicle history report! You need to know the car's history. An AutoCheck Report is one of the most useful tools to use to protect yourself against fraud. Find out more in our complete Vehicle History Report chapter.
  2. After you win a car at auction, get an extended warranty. Read our complete section on buying an extended warranty. We'll review high quality warranty providers like CARCHEX.

3. Don't think that Your Bid is the Price You Pay!

Many people don't realize that in addition to your winning bid, there is usually a buyer's premium. This premium ranges from a few hundred dollars up to 10% of the winning bid.

You must be extremely cautious when looking for cars at an auction. This venue is where you are most likely to encounter junked, flooded and rebuilt cars.

4. Auto Auction Tips

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