With auto auctions, you should also look for an honest dealer. You want someone who will tell you outright if a vehicle was wrecked, rebuilt, and was given a salvage title. Normally, a car that has been rebuilt due to water damage, accident, or fire, will be sold at twenty to thirty percent the market value of the vehicle.
For example, a 2000 Honda Odyssey EX with 200 miles that was totaled and received most of the damage to the back end of the van would only be worth a bit more than the $11,000 a dealer paid for it before turning it around and asking $22,000 for it.
Some dealers try to hide the salvage title, so buyers are always encouraged to check out the vehicle’s CARFAX history report in order to not get scammed.
When watching the cars go down the line at the auto auction, take into account everything that you don’t see – that it may have a cracked engine or blown head gasket and overheat immediately after it rolls through the line.
That older model car with the spectacular paint job and fairly low miles could turn out to have a bent frame, bent axle, bad brakes, no reverse, no high gear, transmission problems, bad radiators, and other problems that an untrained eye wouldn’t catch in the ten minutes the car is in sight. By the time you get to the car to drive it, it’s no longer drivable.
Be prepared for bidding to be competitive, especially if you want a popular car that is in good condition, and be ready to pay for the entire bid amount, plus ten percent, as soon as the auction ends.
Trust your gut instincts, and know that if something is telling you not to purchase a car, don’t buy it. Make sure you protect yourself against a future where you would need legal assistance.