10 Things to know before hitting a Government Auto Auction
Even though this page centers around Automobiles, It holds true for planes, homes, land, electronics, etc… Short of experience, this little bit of information should get you what you are looking for. So lets begin
#1: Locating the Auction
The government is required to advertise there auctions, but they only need to do it in one publication. Below you will find services to locate them for you.
# 2: Arrive early
Auctions are frequently held at a commercial towing facility contracted by the police or at the police storage lot. Some auctions will not even allow you to see if the vehicle starts. Even if you are an ace under the hood, best to bring a second opinion with you.
# 3: Bring cash.
Most sales are final, and the auction house may only accept cash or certified checks IF you have a letter of guarantee. Rarely will they take plastic.
# 4: Bring a valid driver's license and proof of insurance
If you end up winning the bid, you will need to pick up a temporary permit to drive the car home (permit regulations vary by locality). Once paid for, they should sign the registration over to you right there.
# 5: Pay the nominal bidder registration fee.
Usually for under $5 you can get signed up and are issued a bidder number Bids are accepted only from registered bidders. A good thing to know before you get there is if they require a $200 ( for example) refundable deposit.
# 6: Look for clues that the car was moving under its own power recently.
Some police stickers, such as "driving with license suspended" (DWLS), or as in Texas, being involved in an accident without insurance, - may indicate it probably runs OK. But - impounded vehicles could have been sitting for a year or longer with no maintenance whatsoever.
# 7: Reference Material
(like Kelley Blue Book) once you've seen the cars, look up trade-in values of the vehicles you are interested in to set you bid limit. If you own a PDA with wireless Internet connection, get the VIN # and run a Carfax.com vehicle history report before you even think about bidding.
# 8: Don’t get ahead of yourself
Familiarize yourself with the rules of the auction before the bidding starts, even sit through a few to learn the lingo. For example, an absolute auction means there's no reserve (minimum) price, in which case a car might be picked up for an extremely low bid. Taking your time could same you costly mistakes in the long run. Some auction houses charge a 5 to 15 percent buyer's premium on top of the bidding price. So do your homework.
# 9: “as is” means “as is”
When you bid for these cars, you're not likely to get any warranties or guarantees. It may not even start. Some auctions won’t let you start it up and none let you take it for a test drive. The auction house asks that you pay and remove your new purchase the same day. It would be wise to know the name and number of a local towing company.
#10: Save yourself time and avoid going it alone
Contact one of these services to locate just what you are looking for, or keep track of what’s available in your area.