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A Beginner’s Guide to Online Car Auctions

Individuals who are in the market for a new car may be surprised to find that online car auctions can be a great way to find a good vehicle for a very reasonable price. Like all used car-buying ventures, it’s also possible to end up with a bad deal.

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But understanding how online car auctions work can help ensure you have a positive experience. There are actually several benefits of shopping for a car through an online car auction, and once common misunderstandings have been addressed. If you learn a little about the process, you’ll find that it isn’t as hard as you might think to successfully buy a decent car online.

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One of the benefits of considering online car auctions is that they occur regularly. You do not need to wait for a local dealership to put vehicles on sale. It’s common for auctions to be held monthly or even weekly.


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It is true that there are many car auctions that are limited to dealers with a license to sell cars. You might be under the impression that it is too complicated to obtain a license or that this means you are not eligible to purchase a vehicle through an online car auction, but that isn’t true.

One way unlicensed individuals can purchase through an online car auction is to arrange for a licensed car dealer to act on your behalf to secure a vehicle. There are also regular auctions that do not require individuals to have a license. Any person with money can bid at government auctions, for example. It’s important to check each auction’s policies, because some auctions do not require bidders to be licensed.


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You might be concerned about buying a vehicle online because you can’t see it or test drive it. There are still things you can do to improve your odds of striking a good deal. Vehicle Identification Numbers for cars sold through auction are often available. You can use the VIN to get the vehicle’s history. There are sites online that provide vehicle histories for free, so with a little time it’s possible to be well informed prior to the auction.


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Whether you’re in the market for a van, a car or a truck, you will find these vehicles available through online car auctions. There are some specific auction classifications used for vehicles. Understanding what they mean will ensure you understand potential risks of purchasing different vehicles so that you can decide what you’re comfortable with and focus on bidding for preferred vehicles.

The three main classifications are used cars, like-new cars and salvage cars. Used cars can include vehicles that have been repossessed. They may also refer to vehicles that were traded in when another vehicle was purchased by the last owner. This term also includes vehicles that dealers needed to sell because they had too many of that model in stock.

Car rental companies regularly purchase and sell vehicles to keep their stock new. Rental vehicles with low miles that are sold at auction are referred to as like-new cars. This term also includes used vehicles with two or more prior owners that don’t have many miles on them.

Ever wonder what happens to a vehicle when an insurance company writes it off? Salvage cars are vehicles where the prior owner was paid out at least three quarters of the assessed value of the car. Sometimes this occurs if the vehicle was in an accident or was damaged in another way, such as being struck by a tree that fell during a storm.


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One of the trickiest things about purchasing through an online car auction can be bidding. It’s a good idea to learn about how bidding works to that you have a clear understanding of how to determine the value of a vehicle and how to make reasonable bids.

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If bidding sounds too complicated there are also other options, such as hiring a proxy to bid for you. Pursuing this option will mean more research upfront. You’ll want to make sure you hire someone with a good reputation, and you will need to identify vehicles of interest before the auction and set bidding limits for your proxy.

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