A common question we regularly receive is;
“Is it a good idea to buy a car from a public auction and what advice can you give on the best way to go about it?”
From a professional motor traders point it’s not an easy one to answer and it’s a question I have, in the past asked myself.
If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would buy a car from auction my answer would have been a resounding no. At that time, the cars I bought in the trade were sourced from a network of friends and colleagues built up over years, all of whom held positions within main dealer franchises and were responsible for disposals of part exchanges. It was a simple process; customer walks in chooses their new car, the salesman fills out an appraisal of their old car, takes it to his sales manager who then calls me, I get out of bed, answer my massive Motorola mobile, pick up my Glass’s guide and tell him how much its worth. If the customer buys the car I get the phone call a couple of weeks later to pay for it and pick it up. Why would I have even considered standing in a draughty auction hall to look at the cars that no-one else wants?
Anyone who is familiar with modern day trade vehicle disposals will know that, for the franchised dealers, the days of the above method, are pretty much over. The shadow of corporation loomed and was understandably not happy with the lack of control and possible corruption. The result is that over the last 10-15 years all of the big main dealer groups plus many smaller ones now dispose of their cars in one place, the public auction. So what did this change mean? For me working as a tiny independent in the multi billion pound sea of the motor trade it was indeed a major shakeup. As with any major change that is completely out of your control you either adapt or get out.
So what to do now, did I really have to purchase my own sheepskin and join the bacon roll brigade to play infantile games such as penny up the wall? Did I have to join every local trader/loser who’s got nothing better to do on a Tuesday but talk to me about the Cortina they doubled their money on by selling it to their elderly next door neighbour? Well yes there was a bit of that, not the coat fortunately but learning to buy cars in a different way. The auction halls were evolving fast, larger modern premises were being constructed to cater for the high influx of cars coming from leasing companies and big dealer groups alike. And although still public, the auction took on their own corporate style. What surprised me the most straight away was the number of really good cars that were on offer. All of the cars that I was buying before were there, granted there were a few horror stories being fed through but avoiding these few stragglers was obvious and easy. All of the cars were clean, lotted up, (had their auction lot numbers) and best of all were available to buy that day, I was for the first time since working on my own, able to manage my time and my money rather than having to be a slave to my ever reducing in size mobile phone.
OK all good stuff but I know what you’re thinking. The skating over of that bit in the last paragraph about easily avoiding the few “stragglers”, why can’t Motor Trade Insider tell us how to do that? Well, there’s already stacks of quick fix advice that gets dished out by seemingly everyone. You can build up your ‘knowledge’ with auction buyer top tips in this month’s Which Car? But then find your confidence drained away by your 84 year old Aunt who will rightly say ’ooh don’t go down there dear all that noise, you’ll buy a lemon..’
I can advise you to lift oil caps and check for gunk, roll around on the floor underneath the car, bounce up and down on the bonnet like Zebedee but all this is going to do is cement you in the hall as just another auction “newbie” and wannabe car dealer. You do not need a Hadron Collider to answer this question but it needs a bit more discussion and thought than reading a so called “carefully researched” article and check list written by a motoring journalist, who doesn’t need to buy a used car because he gets to try a brand new one every week thanks in part to the £4.50 you spent in the news agent!
We will over the next few weeks answer this question in full and it will be for all to see. Yes there’s a lot to be said and the chances are that by the time you have read the full answer to the question cars will not be running on fossil fuel anymore but we will be able to offer an insight into exactly what happens down at your local auction house as we go there and buy every day.