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How to Buy a Used Car at an Auto Auction, Pt. 3 & Key Strategies to Help You Find That Really Awesome Deal

So far in this series, we’ve shown you why an auction is a great place to buy a used car, and what to expect when you get there. In this final installment, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of your auction experience.

Remember that the auctioneer is not your friend.

Auctioneers work for the auction company, and their job is simple – to get the most money for each car that’s on sale.

A great auctioneer has all sorts of tricks to get you to go beyond your budget or comfort zone when bidding, so stick to your budget and don’t be swayed by anything they say.

Top Auctions by State

Alabama205-956-4700 5750 Highway 78 East
Birmingham, AL 35210
Montgomery334-290-80413711 Wetumpka Highway
Montgomery, AL 36117
Arizona602-794-25753420 S 48th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85040
Tucson520-574-2222 7090 S Craycroft Rd
Tucson, AZ 85756
Phoenix623-907-7000 201 N 83rd Ave
Tolleson, AZ 85353-3323
Arkansas501-565-17905809 S. University Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72209
California714-996-24001320 N Tustin Ave
Anaheim, CA 92807-1619
Riverside951-689-6000 6446 Fremont St
Riverside, CA 92504-1437
San Diego760-754-36004691 Calle Joven
Oceanside, CA 92057-604
San Francisco Bay510-786-450029900 Auction Way
Hayward, CA 94544
Colorado303-343-344317500 E 32nd Ave
Aurora, CO 80011-3316
Florida407-438-10009800 Bachman Rd
Orlando, FL 32824-8005
Daytona Beach386-255-25001305 Indian Lake Road
Daytona Beach, FL 32124-1039
Fort Lauderdale954-791-35205353 S State Road 7
Davie, FL 33314-6403
Fort Myers239-476-98002100 Rockfill Rd
Fort Myers, FL 33916
Jacksonville904-768-998110817 New Kings Rd
Jacksonville, FL 32219

863-984-15518025 N State Road 33
Lakeland, FL 33809
Orlando407-656-620011801 W Colonial Dr
Ocoee, FL 34761-3328
Palm Beach561 790-1200

600 Sansbury's Way
West Palm Beach, FL 33411
Pensacola850-484-7100 6359 North W St
Pensacola, FL 32505-1710
St Pete727-531-7717

14950 Roosevelt Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33762-3501
Tampa813-247-1666401 S 50th St
Tampa, FL 33619-3651
Georgia404-762-92114900 Buffington RD
Atlanta,GA 30349
Atlanta404-464-45672244 Metropolitan Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30315
Hawaii808 840-89001001 Ahua Street
Honolulu, HI 96819
Illinois 630-759-3800200 West Old Chicago Dr
Bolingbrook, IL 60440
Chicago815-806-422220401 Cox Ave
Matteson, IL 60443
Indiana317-862-86223110 S Post Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46239
Louisiana337-237-56201611 St. Mary Street
Scott, LA 70583
Maryland800-533-29237120 Dorsey Run Rd.
Elkridge, MD 21075
Massachusetts 508-823-6600123 Williams St
North Dighton, MA 02764-
Michigan734-654-7100 600 Will Carleton Rd
Carleton, MI 48117-9704
Flint810-341-16004109 Holiday Dr
Flint, MI 48507
Minnesota763-315-56008001 Jefferson Hwy
PO Box 408
Maple Grove, MN 55369
Mississippi601-268-75507510 U S Highway 49
Hattiesburg, MS 39402-9104
Missouri816-452-40843901 N Skiles Ave
Kansas City, MO 64161
St. Louis314-739-130013813 Saint Charles Rock Rd.
Bridgeton, MO 63044-3824
Nebraska402 896-80009201 South 144th St
Omaha, NE 68138-3634
Nevada702-730-14006600 Auction Ln
Las Vegas, NV 89165-1700
New Jersey973-227-0100100 Us Highway 46
Fairfield, NJ 07004-3217
New Mexico505-242-91913411 Broadway Blvd SE
Albuquerque, NM 87105-0405
New York518 371-7500459 Route 146
Clifton Park, NY 12065-0440
New York845-567-84002000 Dealer Dr
Newburgh, NY 12550-5067
North Carolina 704-978-2500287 Concord Parkway
Suite B
Concord, NC 28027
Ohio 513-874-93104969 Muhlhauser Rd
Hamilton, OH 45011-9789
Oklahoma918-227-35429101 Frankoma Road
Sapulpa, OK 74066
Oregon503-286-3000 3000 N Hayden Island Dr
Portland, OR 97217-8257
Pennsylvania717-469-7900488 Firehouse Rd
Grantville, PA 17028-8912
Philadelphia215-822-19352280 Bethlehem Pike
Hatfield, PA 19440
Pittsburgh724 452-555521095 Route 19
Cranberry Township, PA 16066
South Carolina843-393-28611111 Harry Byrd Highway
Darlington, SC 29532-3507
Tennessee615-773-38008400 Eastgate Blvd
Mount Juliet, TN 37122-3141
Texas254-742-77825615 SW H K Dodgen Loop
Temple, TX 76502
Utah801-298-7900 1650 West 500 South
Woods Cross, UT 84087
Virginia540-368-3400120 Auction Dr
Fredericksburg, VA 22406
Harrisonburg540-434-59913560 Early Rd
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Norfolk757-233-21001195-A Lance Road
Norfolk, VA 23502-2464
Washington253 872-680019711 77th Ave South
Kent, WA 98032
Wisconsin262-835-4436561 27th St
Caledonia, WI 53108-9785

Check your emotions at the door.

Bidding is, by its very nature, competitive. Many people find themselves caught up in the competition and become eager to win whichever item they’re bidding on – and as a result, they end up paying a much higher price than they anticipated.

If a car you want is getting swept up in a bidding war, stay out of it. There are other cars – and you’ll feel a lot better with extra money in your pocket than you will “beating” other bidders on a car.

1969 Mustang Coupe Classic

At an auction you can bid on newer practical cars or classics. Source: Didier Lahousse via Flickr Creative Commons.

Find out who’s doing the selling.

There are generally three types of dealers at an auction: financial institutions, new car dealers, and used car dealers.

Typically, you’ll get the best deal from financial institutions. They just want to get the car off of their hands at a reasonable price.

New car dealers are a little trickier – they’re usually auctioning off trade-in cars that aren’t worth selling themselves (usually because it’s too much trouble to fix them up to make them presentable).

Used car dealers auction off cars for a living. It’s probably best to avoid them until you really know what you’re doing.

You can never do too much research.

Before you go, pick out four or five cars you’d be interested in. Then, research them to the absolute best of your ability.

Top Sites to Research a Vehicle

RankResearch SitePercentage Vote
3Kelley Blue Book16.79%
8AutoTraders N/A

Note: Site with percentage vote are from on online poll from users. The last three are not part of the poll.

Poll provided by LifeHacker

Find out if they’ve had any major damage, who their previous owners were, what part of the country it comes from – literally anything you can find out. These nuggets will add up to give you a clear picture of what it is you’ll be bidding on.

The time you spent researching could save you thousands of dollars (and dozens of headaches), so really dig in.

Graph from a online poll showing which users preferred researching a vehicle.

Pay attention to the crowd before your car comes up for sale.

Try to get a feel for the mood of the auction. Is it a bunch of rabid buyers, driving up the price on every single car? Or does it feel like the auctioneer has to yank every little bid out of them?

This will give you an idea of how the action will go when it’s your turn to bid.

Above all, be willing to walk away.

Sometimes it’s just not your day – and this is true at auctions as well. Don’t go over your budget, and don’t talk yourself into falling in love with a car.

If the bidding gets out of hand, or if the car has a few red flags that have your sixth sense tingling, just walk away. There will be other cars and other auctions.

Good Luck

Buying a car at an auction can be fun and rewarding – especially when compared to the typical dealer experience. Hopefully this guide will help you get the most out of your auction experience – and into the car of your dreams. Need to review Part 1? Click here.
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Shaun Fyffe

Shaun Fyffe

Hi, I am Shaun Fyffe and writing is my passion. I have been researching and writing for the auto insurance industry for 10 years. In my spare time I enjoy the outdoors, spending time with my family, sometimes I might go hiking or riding a bike, plus doing the regular hanging out - New York Style!

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