As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, used car prices are dropping significantly — especially if you buy a car from auction. In fact, JPMorgan estimates they can fall by more than 15%, due to the market flooding with more supply.

If you were in the market to buy a car before the pandemic happened, then this is good news for you. Are you wondering how you can take advantage of this?

Here are the reasons why you should buy from online car auctions. Read more to learn about how to buy cars at an auction and save a truckload of cash.

Why Buy a Car From Auction Now?

Before we get started on how to buy a car from auction, let’s first tackle the why.

As we’ve mentioned above, the market is now saturated with used cars. This means you’ll have so many more choices than you did before.

Also, as more used cars are flooding the market, the demand for them is dropping as well. These two factors combined mean prices will drop to all-time lows, so you should take advantage of getting decent vehicles at very low prices.

In addition, ever since the pandemic started, it’s heavily impacted the auto industry, including car shipping companies. Because auto production slowed down, car shippers have far fewer clients; some have even closed down for business. For the ones still in business, they’ve drastically lowered their normal prices to attract more clients.

This is beneficial for consumers like you. This means you can look outside of your state and have a greater selection, all without having to risk exposure for yourself. Instead, you can get an auto shipper to bring your newly acquired car to your home so you enjoy your purchase, all without breaking any COVID-19 regulations and without breaking the bank.

Where Do the Cars in the Auctions Come From?

There are several types of car auctions, which determine how the vehicles are sourced.

For example, there are salvage auctions, where they sell you salvage cars. These are vehicles that have been totaled in accidents and would’ve otherwise gone to a junkyard to be sold for parts.

However, these are brought to salvage auctions to be sold to people who know what they’re doing. You’ll be able to get a vehicle for up to 80% off its regular price, so if you know how to fix up cars, this can be well worth it.

Many perfectly fine vehicles end up in auctions. For example, a dealer may not be able to sell their cars, so they sell them to an auction for cheaper to move their products and get some money quickly.

Other cars come by the way of auctions when they get repossessed from banks, are finished as leased or rental cars, or when someone trades in their old car for a new one. As you can see, there are a variety of ways auctions get vehicles, and there’s quite a range when it comes to their condition.

How to Navigate a Car Auction

How to purchase a vehicle from a car auction will depend on if you do it in-person or online. Below are some quick walkthroughs of each process.

Do note that some auctions require you to be a dealer with a dealer’s license. If you don’t have one, then it’s best if you stick to public auctions, such anyone can bid on these cars.


Companies like Manheim and ADESA will do in-person car auctions. To start the process, go to the company's website to see when and where the next closest auction will be. These locations tend to change often, so make sure you have up-to-date information before you go.

Make sure to go early so you get some time to inspect the cars yourself. You can even bring a mechanic if you want. If you’re interested in any vehicles, you can set a maximum bid.

When the auction starts, it’ll be very similar to how other auctions for items go. There will be a starting price, and interested parties will try and outbid one another.

If you’re determined, you can come out on top, with no one else outbidding you. This will mean you’ve won and the vehicle is yours. You’ll then pay that price, including auction fees, so keep that in mind when setting your maximum bid.


Companies that do online auctions include Copart and Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA), as well as Manheim and ADESA. Online might be a better choice for you, especially if you’re a beginner; this is because it’s less hectic. Online auctions also mean you don’t have to leave your house (so less exposure to the coronavirus) and you have a wider selection of choices since you can look at several out-of-county or even out-of-state auctions.

With an online auction, it’ll be easier to find cars you’re interested in since you can set the search parameters and filter only for vehicles that fit your “want” list. Then, all you’ll have to do is set your maximum budget and you won’t have to be present for the auction. After the auction’s concluded, the website will notify you if you’ve won.

If you’ve won the car you wanted, then you’ll pay for it, including auction fees. If the car is located somewhere you can’t easily go to, then the next step is to arrange for auto shipping services so you don’t have to leave the house.

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Auctions

Is It Safe to Buy a Car From an Auction?

There are risks involved with all car auction purchases. With no warranty, no test drive, and the potential of undocumented damages, you don't get many of the safeguards that you receive when you buy a car from a dealer. However, most reputable car auctions have extremely strong customer satisfaction rates -- both in terms of price and product quality.

What Do I Need to Buy a Car From an Auction?

It depends on the auction. If the auction is open to the public, you’ll need evidence of purchasing power, proper identification, and you’ll likely need to sign a pre-bidding agreement. For closed and dealers’ auctions, you might need a dealer’s license or previous authorization from the auction service.

Do You Need a License To Buy Cars at Auction?

It depends on the car auction. To bid against dealers at a dealers’ auction, you will. At most open and public car auctions, all you need is the ability to buy a car and the proper paperwork/identification to finalize things.

How Much Can You Save at a Car Auction?

The average savings for a winning car auction bidder is around 20% of the list price of a vehicle. That’s an impressive savings of $3,000 on a $15,000 vehicle or $6,000 on a $30,000 vehicle!

Should I Buy a Car at Auction?

If you’re looking for a fantastic deal on a used vehicle, gently used or otherwise, buying a car at auction is a very smart play. There are always risks to be considered and weighed. But, you can often find a dream car at an even dreamier price with a bit of patience and smart bidding practices.

Learn How to Buy A Car From Auction

Now that you know how to buy cars at an auction for amazing prices, this is a fantastic time to get started. Not only can you get affordable prices on great vehicles, but shipping also won’t cost very much either.

For those of you who are on a budget, there hasn’t been a better time to acquire a new vehicle so you can make life easier. The coronavirus has negatively impacted all industries, but in this case, it definitely works out in your favor.

Would you like to buy a car from auction and ship it to where you live or where you’re moving? Then use our cost calculator now. We’ll give you a quote in seconds!

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