Blog: Ten reasons to buy from a car auction

DrivingTalk Blog: Ten reasons to buy from a car auction

By Tim Kendall | 31st August 2013

I caught an episode of Channel 4’s ‘The Dealership’ the other day. The show follows an Essex used car dealership and the dealings of its cheeky cockney car salesmen, forever chasing monthly targets. It’s an entertaining insight into the much-maligned, often murky world of used car sales – and whilst the dealership in question doesn’t come off as a dodgy bunch of real-life Swiss Tonis, it reminded me of why I never set foot on a used car forecourt, unless I absolutely have to.

Swiss Toni

I prefer to avoid this….

What’s your problem with car dealers?

Well I don’t have a problem with them. Live and let live and all that. But I never go near them, because car auctions exist, which means you can cut out these middle men if you’re after a used car. And it’s not difficult if you have your wits about you, know a bit about cars and do your research beforehand. I’ve bought more than 10 cars via the auction route and the majority of the time it’s been less hassle, more fun and crucially, a much cheaper way of finding the car I wanted.

Car auction

…and go somewhere like this

Ten reasons to buy from a car auction:

If you’ve never given it a go, I suggest you find your nearest car auction and pop along for a look. Here’s ten reasons to buy from a car auction:

  1. No smarmy salesman giving you the hard sell, or worse, bullsh*tting about a car they know little about;

  2. Choice – the array of metal on offer at the major nationwide auction houses like Mannheim and BCA is vast;

  3. They don’t peddle cut-and-shuts – cars come from reputable dealer groups, finance houses, fleet sources and private individuals*;

  4. Reputable auction houses will disclose if a car is on the V-Car register or showing major mechanical faults;

  5. It’s a buzz – bidding on a car really gets the adrenaline pumping;

  6. The scope for finding a genuine bargain is exponentially higher than visiting a dealer forecourt;

  7. You can spot some gems going for peanuts – like my recent purchase part-exed at a major dealer group in immaculate condition, but too old for them to retail;

  8. Major auction houses will disclose whether the mileage is warranted – i.e. traceable via VOSA or MOT history and service records. Unwarranted mileage doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been clocked, but do your own due diligence with the overall condition of the car;

  9. No pressure – walk away if you don’t find what you’re after or the bidding goes north of your limit;

  10. If you’ve got an ounce of petrol running through your veins it’s a good day out – and most of the major auctions have cafés attached, meaning you can pore over the price guides and enjoy a bacon buttie at the same time.

*Caveat emptor where private entries are concerned – there’s usually a good reason why these go to auction and you don’t want to be saddled with someone else’s lemon. Tread very carefully…

Car auctions

Tasty metal usually on offer at car auctions. Tread carefully with Ferraris though!

Ah. But what about a warranty?

If you buy under three years old, you’ll have some manufacturer’s warranty left to run. Go for an older car that’s out of warranty and there’s nothing to stop you buying an aftermarket warranty from the likes of Warranty Wise or Warranty Direct – if you buy correctly you should still be quids in. Most dealers will bundle you a policy on a used car, but it’s built into their margins so you can still add one onto an auction buy and save a chunk of cash. I’ve done it – particularly on the higher performance stuff to provide some peace of mind.

Money where your mouth is time: here’s some I bought earlier

Most of the cars I’ve bought over the last decade have been auction buys. So here’s a few fondly remembered – and some current – cars I bought under the hammer.

2002 Porsche Boxster S

Boxster S was picked well under retail value and provided a couple of years depreciation free motoring

2007 Subaru Legacy 3.0 Spec B

2007 Subaru Legacy 3.0 Spec B bought for my father. Handy in the snow.

BMW E39 M5

E39 M5 still current – and here to stay

2003 VW Golf R32

2003 Golf R32 was bought at two years old. Enormous fun over the snowy winter that followed

BMW 540 Touring

The most recent acquisition: BMW 540 Touring



Auction images © British Car Auctions

Other images © DrivingTalk

By Tim Kendall
31st August 2013

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