You don’t need to be an ‘auction professional’ to make the most of the huge range of used cars on offer at car auctions these days. As long as you do your research, take your time and keep your common sense around you, there is nothing stopping you bagging a bargain used car.

Here are a few tips on what to look out for at car auctions and how to ensure you get the best deal on the car of your dreams.

Make your purchase plan early

Don’t just jump out of bed in the morning and decide that you’re going to buy a car from a car auction today, without any idea of what kind of car you want and what purpose that new car must perform for you. It’s true that auctions have a huge stock of used cars, vans and trucks for sale on any one auction day, but having a clear idea of what you want – and sticking to it rigidly – will help keep you away from frivolous purchases that are way out of your budget and go against your buying plan.

What car do you want or need? Is it a family hatchback or saloon, an estate car with tons of space and a frugal diesel engine, or even a city car that’s good for nipping around your town? Decide well ahead of the auction as to a handful of models of the right kind of car, set your absolute maximum budget, and stick to that budget on the day of the auction. Self-restraint is everything.

Do your research before you go

Once you have your handful of models set out in concrete, it’s time to do your research thoroughly. Work out what you should be paying for these cars, up to your budget and no more. Perhaps go online and use a website like Parkers to get approximate valuations of potential cars.

See what age, mileage and condition your budget will get you for each model you have chosen, and use these figures as a guide on auction day. You can then work out how much you’re prepared to pay for each kind of car when you come across them on auction day. You’ll know a bargain then when you see one, instead of guessing what’s a good price, or what isn’t. You can also then keep an eye out for any known faults with the cars of your choice, once you spot them at the auction.

Stick to your budget

Set a maximum budget for what you want to spend, and stick to it. There’ll be other cars along and there’s always plenty of choice at auctions, so if the one you want has gone over your budget, bow out and let it go gracefully. Let your head buy the car and not your heart.

But don’t go too low

You might find a car that fits with what you want, and on the face of it looks like a good deal. But, if no-one is bidding on it, there may be a reason for that. Have you had a good look around this car before the auction? If you have and you’re certain that the car is as good as it looks, then bid away; it could just be that no-one else is interested in the same car as you. If this happens, it’s happy auction days!

Finally, here’s a funny video of the Top Gear guys at a car auction:

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