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Top 5 Tips For Buying From Public Auto Auctions

If you’re looking to buy a pre-owned vehicle and want to get it at a lower price than buying from a dealer, you may want to consider purchasing from an auto auction. However, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before you start your search.

Verify the legitimacy of the auction house

When you’re buying a vehicle at an auto auction, make sure that the auction has the necessary licenses to conduct business in your state. This information should be available on their website or when you call to inquire about the auction. Some states require that all businesses collect sales tax for items sold at an auction, so be sure to ask if this is required before bidding. Be sure that they have a license to sell cars and not just general parts or merchandise.

Cross-reference prices

Before you bid, be sure the price of the vehicle reflects its value. If the price seems too high, the auction may be trying to overvalue the vehicle. If the price seems too low, the auction may be attempting to hide problems or damages. Vehicles sold at auction can be in great condition, but it’s more likely that they’re not.

Read vehicle descriptions thoroughly

Don’t just read the description of the vehicle, make sure that it matches the actual car being sold. If there are any problems with the body or a history of mechanical issues, they will be noted in this section of the auction. Compare the mileage, colors, and other specifications listed in the auction with those on the vehicle itself. If you have any questions about the vehicle’s history or condition, ask the seller in advance so that you don’t uncover issues after you’ve purchased it.

Run a VIN check

A VIN, or vehicle identification number, is a 17-character code that identifies a vehicle and includes information about the manufacturer, model, and serial number of the car. Some older vehicles may have fewer than 17 characters but still be considered valid. A VIN reveals whether a vehicle has ever been rebuilt or salvaged. You can’t tell if a VIN is salvaged by just looking at it, so you’ll need to run a VIN check through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information system (NMVTIS). If your VIN is listed in NMVTIS, you won’t be able to get a title, even if the seller signs one over. Additionally, make sure that the decoding process reveals information that matches the vehicle you’re buying. If it doesn’t match the vehicle, it could indicate red flags of a scam.

Make sure the title is transferable

Some auctions feature military vehicles up for auction. It’s important to note that some states do not allow these vehicles on the road and that government-owned vehicles may have different paperwork details than civilian vehicles. Check to see what type of title transfer you will receive, whether the Standard Form SF97 or Transferrable Title is typically the title form provided. The title will provide info about your rights as a new owner, including whether you can keep it on the road in your state. In some states, such as Florida, forms other than the Standard Form SF97 cannot be transferred and must be returned to the original owner. If your state doesn’t allow these types of military vehicles to be on the road, you will not be able to get a title.

When you’re buying a car, don’t underestimate the importance of doing your research about the type of vehicle you want and anything you need to know about your local auctions. Auto auctions can be great places to find deals on cars and trucks. But before you head out to an auction, make sure that you know what you’re bidding on and have enough money set aside for repairs. Also, test drive any vehicle before buying it—you want to make sure that it runs well. With careful preparation and some insider tips, you can buy your next car at a great price at an auto auction.

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