Before you bid on a car at auction read this

There are a lot of things you should think about before you consider bidding for a car at auction.

Auctions can be intimidating places for newcomers. If you’re thinking of buying a used car at auction, be aware that it’s completely different to buying a used car privately or from a used car dealer.

Download the buying a used car guidebook


Buying a car at an auction will cost you more than you think. If you bid on a car and your bid is successful, you’ll have to pay more than just the price you bid when the hammer hit the gavel.

You might have paid fees for vehicle inspections, and there’s an additional percentage of the sale price to pay, known as the buyers’ premium. You’ll also pay fees for payment by card and cash handling, storage and V5 DVLA notification services.

You may also need to pay to remove the car from the auction site if you’re unable to drive it away for any reason.

These fees vary from auction house to auction house, so You’ll need to check before you bid so there are no nasty surprises.
Also, consider how you’re going to get to the auction. If you’re thinking about driving your purchase away, you’ll need to get the vehicle taxed and insured. Although, if you buy through a dealer, they can do this for you.

Read our blog on the costs of buying a used car from an auction.


Do your homework

It’s important to have a good idea of what you want to buy. You should have a budget in mind… and you need to stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of a busy auction.

Keep the buyer’s premium in mind; your budget needs to factor in any fees or else your overall budget will be blown.

Remember! The car you buy from auction won’t come with a warranty, so check the vehicle and be confident that it’s running correctly. You could easily end up with some hefty repair bills down the line.

Visit auctions before you bid

It’s worth attending a few auctions to see what’s going on before you think about bidding. It’ll give you a chance to get used to the language of the auctioneer and the pace of the auction, as well as help you to bid with confidence. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you fully understand the process.

Need some tips on buying at auction? Check out our blog on everything you need to know about buying a used car at auction.

Who’s who?

You’ll be competing against professional motor traders at auction: people who really know their stuff. In fact, only around 10 to 15 per cent of buyers at auction are private buyers.

Knowing who’s selling the car you’re interested in will give you a good idea of how reliable, and therefore how much of a bargain, it might be.

Various organisations sell cars at auctions. They might be lenders, insurers, fleet managers or the police. In most of these instances it’s likely that the car, although it may have a high mileage, will have been well-maintained.

It’s worth remembering that car buying websites also sell their vehicles at auction. These cars could prove more problematic because it’s harder to determine service history and condition, so buyer beware!

Avoid salvaged vehicles and Cat D write-offs.

Things to do

At some auctioneers, such as BCA, you need to register your details to search their sales catalogues and to be able to bid, which can easily be done online.

Get yourself a catalogue and review the auction line up. View at least two of the type of cars that you’re interested in, so that you have a choice of lots to bid on once the auction gets going.

The auctioneer’s description is legally binding, so listen carefully to the auctioneer and especially to the description of the car. The car shouldn’t have any major mechanical faults and the engine, gearbox, clutch, brakes and transmission should have been checked by the auctioneer’s engineer.


If you have any difficulty with the terminology used then all should be explained in the terms and conditions.

There might be other specific faults with the car which the auctioneer will read out, so make sure you listen out for these. Note that cars at auction are sold as seen, with any faults, and will not come with a warranty from the seller.

In the same way you would go to view a car from a private seller, if you don’t know a lot about cars, take someone with you to the auction who does.

There are three vital things that you need to check on the vehicle before you bid to be sure that you are getting a true bargain: HPI or outstanding finance, service history and a V5 logbook.

Check out our blog on what to check when buying a used car.

Good luck!