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Buying Brand New? Try the Used Car Auction

There are many attractive reasons why people choose to buy from used car auctions and the reason that tops the list is price. Used cars are auctioned off in different ways: online, public, wholesale, insurance & salvage and police & government auctions.

Among these, wholesale and insurance & salvage are more often open only to dealers.

Types of Used Car Auctions
Online car auctions like those on Yahoo and Ebay are very convenient and you can shop for the car you like without leaving the house. Remember, though that you are buying a car you have never laid eyes on and have never physically checked.

This should not deter you, however. There are a lot of sellers online who are legitimate and if you are patient enough, you could just get a great buy.

Government auctions are also a good place to shop for a used car. These are usually government-seized or decommissioned vehicles. There are registered auction lots throughout the United States.

In order to participate, you will need to register and get a bidder number from an auction house before the sale. The registration is free.

A caveat: some of these cars have not been driven or maintained in a while, so they might not be in tiptop condition.

Some tips when participating in an auction
You've probably heard the horror stories: getting duped into buying what seemed like a great car on the outside, only to end up with an utterly useless piece of junk two days later.

There are these and worse, but there are also happy endings to some auction stories. The trick is to be prudent and to be prepared.

Check the car's history through Carfax, an Internet service that lets you search a car's background. A Carfax report will show reports from insurance companies, police, DMVs and other sources. A similar service is provided by AutoCheck..

While some auctions do conduct some history checks on cars on their lists, some auctions do nothing at all, so it is wise to do some sleuthing yourself. It's always good to check if the car has a clean title to spare yourself from potential problems.

Come early. There's less distraction because the auction isn't crowded yet. Plus, you can check the cars more thoroughly.

Inspect the trunk and hood and open all doors. If you have a VIN number with you, you can match the car with it. If the car doesn't match, then it could be a stolen vehicle or was fixed using another car's parts.

Protect yourself by knowing what needs to be checked tires, carburetors, mileage, steering wheel. Check for damages and signs of disalignment, rust, leak, paint chips, evidence of paint jobs or flooding, crooked windows, malfunctioning A/C, excessive mileage, dents and scratches.

If you don't have the knowhow, bring a trusted friend who can spell out the details for you and do the inspecting and asking.

"As is". Truly understanding these two simple words can save you from a lot of disappointment. So do the words "buyer beware". When you buy a car at an auction, or anything for that matter, you won't have the chance to bring the car to a mechanic to have it checked.

So what you buy is exactly what you see. And what you see is what you are going to get.

A car's title should be available for you right there, but if it's not, check the contract to see how long it would take for you to get it. If the contract says that you're supposed to get it in one week and they don't deliver, you can get your money back.

Your winning bid is not exactly the money you need to shell out. In used car auctions, there is a buyer's premium that you'll need to pay and can cost you anywhere from a few hundred bucks to about 10% of your winning bid.

So if you won a bid for $18,000 and there's a 5% buyer's premium, you'll pay $18,900.

Take your time so you don't get carried away. In the heat of the auction battle, you could let your passion take over and just keep bidding, forgetting about the buyer's premium and not realizing that you might be buying that used car at a higher price than fair market value, which actually defeats the purpose of your joining an auction in the first place.

When it comes to used car auctions, there is nothing wrong about being picky. After all, it's your money that's on the line. But getting a great deal is really not just about the price.

It's about buying quality as well so it's best to have the right kind of information before going in not only to get the right car at a good price, but also to avoid bad deals and unnecessary headaches.
About The Author Cordel Dietzig is a long time auto auction attendee and alsoco owner of where he helps shed some light on Auto Auctions
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