How to Make Real Money at a Public Auto Auction

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With the right tools, you can actually make a ton of money off buying and selling cars at an auto auction. It’s why we see the same people at our auctions, over and over. If you were able to pocket $1,000-$2,000 per week from these events, wouldn’t you come every time, too?

And no, you don’t have to be a car expert. But you do need a bit of expertise.

Different people have different methods. We’ll share some best practices.

  1. Set your price points and know what you’re bidding

Just about all auto auctions will post their available vehicles before the event. This is when you do most of the work.

Start by scanning Kelly Blue Book to see trade-in value. These are generally rough estimates, though; the real pro will find out what the Dealers are paying for them at Dealer auctions.

You can do this by calling a local bank, speaking with their loan department and asking for a Manheim Market Report (MMR) price. This gives a more accurate value. Since cars at public auctions go cheaper than dealer auctions, you can set your buying price lower than the dealer value.

  1. For your first auto auction, start with small profit margins

The real professional will try to profit around $1,500 per vehicle. Starting off, we suggest you go for $500. After all, it’s not so bad for a few hours’ work, and this won’t be a huge risk for you.

Read: Tips for attending your first auto auction

  1. It’s the inside that counts

Many people avoid a car with a flat tire, or a punched in headlight. A faded paint job will scare off buyers into thinking the car was neglected. We say good, meaning less competition for you.

Sometimes, a car is repossessed and the dealer just doesn’t want to deal with these issues, so he’ll send it to our auction. Just always remember:

A car that goes for below-market price is still great value.

You do want to consider the time it’ll take you to fix these. Cosmetic repairs on a well-kept vehicle are easy fixes, though, and well worth your time. For a vehicle where the owner never changed the oil, though, you’ll want to avoid.

  1. Low mileage and quality brands win the game

Mileage is the golden metric of auto auctions: the lower, the better. If you find one ten years old with, say, 50,000 or so miles, then you’re looking at a real find.

In regards to brand, certain manufacturers just carry more buying power. For example, Honda, Volvo, Toyota are all brands associated with reliability. They tend to sell well.

Ready to start bidding?

We offer public auto auctions at our Vancouver and Battle Ground locations. You can preview the available vehicles on these auction pages. Doors open at 8am for previewing vehicles, auction starts at 11:15am.

Now, go get to work!

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