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Buying a Car at Auction: 8 Things to Expect from Salvage Car Auctions

Posted on Categories Salvage

Every week, more than 12,000 vehicles are sold at auction in the UK. Buying a car at auction is an increasingly popular way to get a new auto. Do you know what to expect at a salvaged car auction?

Salvaged car auctions are a little bit different from regular auctions. If you plan to get a car this way, you can save lots of money on a great auto. But you’ll need to prepare yourself so you get a good deal that you won’t regret.

Wondering about buying at salvage auctions? In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to proceed with confidence — keep reading to get prepared!

What Is a Salvage Auction?

The term “salvage” applies to a car that’s been in an accident or otherwise sustained damage.

If the insurer considers the car a loss due to the extent of damage, they’ll label the car “salvage.” Insurance companies often choose to auction these damaged cars off instead of scrapping them, so they can get the most possible money back.

However, this doesn’t mean that salvage vehicles are a rip-off or a bad deal. It just means you need to know what you’re doing in order to get a good deal.

Salvage cars are damaged, and you’ll need to invest in the work (or do it yourself) that it takes to get them up and running again. However, if you make a good choice, you can get a car for much less than you’d have paid normally — even factoring in the cost of repairs.

What to Expect When Buying a Car at Auction

Let’s take a closer look at what you might encounter when shopping for cars at a salvage auction.

1. Set Your Price or Lose Money

When you’re buying cars at auction, it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the moment. When buying at a salvage auction, it’s especially easy to get caught up in what looks like a great deal.

These snap judgements can lead to a lot of lost money if you aren’t careful. To play it safe, set a price before you head to the auction. That’s the maximum amount you can spend: commit to not exceeding it.

You can check for online guides to what’s available at the auction, as well as reading the catalogue that you’ll get the day of. This might help you set your prices. Don’t forget to also find out what the buyers fees are so you can factor those into the price you set.

2. You Can’t Drive It Off the Lot

When buying a car at auction, most of the time, you can drive it home that same day. However, when you buy at a salvage auction, you can’t drive home that day even if the car can be driven. It’s not legal to drive a salvaged vehicle until you get it fixed.

The car might be running, but you’ll also need to repair it to get it street legal, so don’t buy a salvaged car if you need one right away. Prepare for the expense of getting the car towed to your home after you buy it.

3. Not All Salvaged Cars Are Equal

Buying a salvaged car means looking at cars with many different levels of damage.

The worst of the salvaged vehicles will never be road-worthy again and should only be sold for scrap. Ideally, you won’t encounter any vehicles like this at the auction, but it’s not impossible.

Other cars might never be driven again, but have parts that you could reclaim to use in other cars. If you have specific parts you need, this can be a good way to get them. Otherwise, there’s no reason to buy a vehicle so badly damaged.

Finally, you have cars that can be repaired and driven. Among those, some have repair costs higher than the vehicle’s value. Others have repair costs that make up a large portion of the vehicle’s value, but don’t exceed it.

For the most part, you’ll want to look only at that last category of cars. It’s up to you to make the judgement as to which ones are worth repairing.

4. Not All Dealers Are Trustworthy

Not all salvaged cars are equal, and not all dealers of them are equal, either. While there are plenty of dealers you can trust, you also need to look out for the bad ones.

Look for a dealer with a long, steady track record of selling salvaged cars at auction. If you can’t find out any information about a dealer, there’s probably a reason why.

5. You’ll Need to Inspect the Car

Since you’re buying damaged goods, you need to inspect them yourself to see just how bad the damage is.

This requires some knowledge about cars in general, so you’ll know what to look for. It’s even better if you know about the specific make and model of the car you’re looking at.

When inspecting the car, pay close attention to the major visible parts of the car, like the windows, body, and upholstery. Try to check the tires, and any electrical components, too. Look for a car that you’ll be able to repair with a minimum of effort and expense.

Ready to Try Buying a Car at Auction in the UK?

Buying a car at auction might sound like a risk that’s not worth taking. But it can actually be very worthwhile, as long as you know what you’re getting into.

This is a good choice for someone who already has knowledge about cars, and some hands-on repair skills. If you can quickly assess damage and have certain makes and models you’re familiar with, buying a salvaged auto might be right for you.

Looking for a reputable dealer of salvaged cars? Learn more about our auto salvage here!