How Do Car Auctions Work?

If you’re in the market for a new car, want to pick up a one-of-a kind ride or invest in a fixer-upper, an auction is a great way to buy without dealer mark-ups and in a fun environment.

If you’ve never been to a car auction though, you should know protocol and how they work before you bid and buy.

Here’s how car auctions typically run.

At the auto auction

You’ll want to arrive early. Before bidding starts, there’s a few hours where you can preview the cars up for auction.

Examine the vehicles carefully, Car and Driver Magazine advises. Does it have original paint? Pop the hood. How does the engine look? Popular Mechanics advises potential bidders to pull out the car’s oil or transmission fluid dipsticks to see how well the car has been maintained.

The preview period is great for knowing which cars you’ll be interested in bidding on.

At most auctions, bidders also have to register to receive a bidder number. To do this, bring a copy of your driver’s license.

During the bidding 

The auctioneer will provide known information about the vehicle and the expected bidding price. At some places, auction ringmen help the auctioneer look for prospective bidders or bidding numbers, according to the National Auto Auction Association.

Once a vehicle comes up for auction that you want, get in the auction lane and listen to the auctioneer.

car for sale

As you might expect, the person who bids the highest becomes the buyer of the vehicle. Prices can vary depending on the bidders participating and the demand a certain vehicle has in the audience that day.

Once the auctioneer is sure there are no more bids, he or she will complete the sale and move onto the next vehicle up for auction.

At most auctions, you’ll want to see the block clerk, who records the winning bid for each vehicle, the amount and your name as well as other transaction details (at Chappelle’s, we have someone recording all of the purchases).

At some auctions, the company running it can reject bids. Each auction also has rules for the amount bids can be increased and by and how a buyer can pick up their “winning” vehicles. You’ll want to check out the the auction’s website to know certain rules pertaining to that auction. Chappelle’s Towing has all the information you’ll need about its auto auction in Vancouver and Battle Ground, Washington.

Know before you go

Before you go to an auction, know what you want to spend and don’t get caught up in the bidding process. Sure, it can be fun and fast. But if you don’t have the money to back up your purchases, you won’t be successful.

Be honest with yourself about what you can pay, know what you’re bidding on before your start, and have fun.

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