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How Much Can I Expect to Save by Purchasing a Car at Auction?

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Purchasing a car at auction rather than a dealership can potentially save you thousands of dollars. Your dream car could be going up for sale at an auction for a fraction of the retail price. Or, maybe you’re just looking to save major bucks on an economically efficient vehicle. No matter what your aspirations are, the auction will likely have something for you. Auctions have everything from vintage classics to last year’s popular hybrid. Many ca

purchasing a car at auction

This means the average price for exotic vehicles like a Ferrari can be much lower than what you find at a dealership. If you’re smart about it—make sure to do some research and inspect the cars thoroughly before the auction begins—the auction can be the perfect place to save big on your next automobile purchase.

When answering this question, you must consider a wide range of factors and details: the car’s condition, its popularity, its history, and the other bidders. Bidders can usually expect to save between 20% to 60% on the cost of a vehicle depending on factors addressed above.


  1. Prices are lower than retail.

  2. Government vehicles are almost always available, and they’re usually relatively new, well-kept, and have low mileage.

  3. Many vehicles are still under warranty.

  4. There are a lot of cars available.

  5. You don’t have to deal with pushy salespeople.


  1. Mechanical issues and cosmetic defects are common.

  2. Buyers cannot return any vehicle purchased from an auction.

  3. Careful research and attention to details are required for a positive outcome.

Tips for Purchasing a Car at Auction

There are many ways to save on a vehicle purchase. Attend a few auctions before you’re ready to make a purchase. It’s important to observe the auction scenario in order to get a good grasp on the regular practices and proceedings that you should be familiar with when bidding.

Avoid certain auctions altogether. Auctions that don’t allow bidders to check a vehicle’s VIN before buying should be avoided. You won’t be able to check  the vehicle’s history, and you don’t want to get caught driving around a stolen vehicle. Completely avoid salvage auctions. Someone might visit these auctions with hopes of finding a rare part for a relic they’ve been trying to restore for a decade, but salvage auctions are certainly no place for someone looking for a safe, reliable vehicle.

Do as much research as possible. Use every resource you can to determine the quality of the deal you’ll be getting with your purchase. Determine the vehicle’s year, make, model, and VIN. You can use the year, make, and model to determine a general value of the car on Kelley Blue Book. You can use the VIN with programs such as CarFax to look at the vehicle’s history report. And it may seem obvious, but don’t forget to do a thorough inspection of the vehicle with your own eyes. Use your hands if you need to!

You can visit a government auction or a public auction, both of which can offer some great deals. The cars at government auctions may be in better condition, but the prices are often higher due to the higher volume of bidders. At government auctions, bidders are presented with histories of the available vehicles, so you will know what you’re buying. At a public auction, always take advantage of the opportunity to inspect the vehicles before the auction begins. If you don’t know much about cars, bring someone who does.

Come up with a reasonable budget and stick to it. It’s easy to get caught up in the bidding war. For some, auctions are exciting, but they can be very nerve-racking for others. The key is to stay calm and focus on what’s important: the notes you took during the pre-inspection, the details of the car’s history and mechanics, and the difference between the current bid and retail price. If you focus on the mechanics rather than the paint job and the bidders instead of the crowd, the auction can be fun and rewarding.

Consider reading this article if you’re looking for more ways to save on purchasing an exotic vehicle.


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