Monday, 1 November 2010

Car Auction -Taking The Plunge - Tips For Buying At Auction

So, you're up for the challenge, and ready to enter the ring! Before you rush in and start waving your catalogue at the auctioneer, it's best to do a little preparation. One tip I see on a lot of other sites is get there early. I agree. Depending on which car auction you are attending, there may be up to 1,000 vehicles passing through in a day! If you've done your homework, you'll have a good idea of which model or models you are interested in. Don't be tempted to just get in amongst the cars in the viewing area, get an auction catalogue - you'll have to buy it, sit down with a cup of tea and identify which cars you want to look at. The reason for this is that at a car auction it's very easy to get carried away looking at all the lovely cars that are absolutely nothing like what you are looking for. One of the biggest and best tricks for buying at auction is to leave any emotion at the door. This is serious business! It is fun, and very rewarding if you come away with the car you want at a good price, but the heartache if you go wrong can be 10 times worse. Hopefully, if you've prepared right, you'll already know which cars suit your needs, or fulfill your desires, or both, depending on your buying motives! You should also know how much you would pay for one at a dealer, complete with warranty and all the goodies. Highlight all cars that meet your criteria, then proceed to the viewing hall and check them out. Start by walking right round the car, at first, just look for anything obvious - large dents and scratches etc. Don't forget the roof! It's unlikely if you're a novice that you'll spot any paintwork unless it's terrible, but try to look out for any colour mis-matches, dull panels, or poor alignment. If the left-hand side of the bonnet is 10mm away from the wing, and the right-hand side 20mm, it's a safe bet it's had some bodywork. Likewise, look for any gaps that just look too big, paint on plastic trim, foglamps or rubbers. Bear in mind, just because a car has had some paint, it doesn't necessarily make it a previous write-off, you just need to be satisfied that the bodywork is as good as you might expect from a dealer. If it isn't, then you need to estimate how much it would cost YOU to get it right. By the same token, also bear in mind that only vehicles that are written-off by an insurance company are registered on VCAR. What I'm getting at is that it's not unusual to see cars that have had extensive damage repaired but not show on HPI. Bear in mind also that it is not illegal to sell such a vehicle, or even not to declare it. There is only an offence if information is knowingly withheld. So, if you see anything at a car auction that makes you suspicious, it's best to cross it off your list. Once you have inspected the bodywork, try to check as much of the car as you can. Check tyre treads, windscreen for damage, interior etc, etc, then go back to the windscreen description. Check mileage, history, owners, whether there is a V5 and MOT, and whether it is sold as seen, or with no major mechanical defects. Once you are satisfied with all of these aspects, you need to value the car. Take into account all the variables that would affect the price, then adjust it for any work you may need to do. Costs of servicing and maintenance can vary massively, and it pays to have an idea of service intervals and maintenance schedules. Most Audis, for example will require a Cambelt change at around 70,000 miles. Chances are, if you're looking at one at a car auction with this sort of mileage, it won't have been done. There's no way of checking either! You may, however, be able to see when the last service was carried out. Chances are it's due, so factor it into your pricing. The last thing you want is to drive away feeling chuffed with yourself that you've saved £1,000 on a dealer price, only to find you need to spend £600-800 on a service and cambelt. Always take into account that there may be some unforeseen expenditure. Lastly, don't forget your buyer's fees. These are considerable if you are a private buyer, so be careful not to blow your budget. So, decide on your price and write it on your sheet. Do this for each car you have highlighted, then get ready for action! Until you are ready to bid, it's best to stay in the viewing hall. When the drivers start to run the vehicles through the hall you need to be on your toes. When they open one of yours, try to be close to it. Listen to it start and move, and watch for anything untoward. Follow the car until they pause, and you've got a few moments to properly check the interior, look for warning lights on the dash, get the bonnet open and check for leaks, signs of head gasket failure and anything else onerous. If you are still happy that you want to bid, follow it into the hall and get ready! Next post, we will look at the process of bidding at a car auction, and what happens if and when you are the highest bidder.

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