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If you’re thinking of going to a car auction here are some tips on how to get your head right and ensure you keep your cool at the auction.  Whilst this article is less about how to buy a car there are aspects of advice that are just as relevant for bidding on eBay or hitting the local classified ads.

  1. KNOW YOUR BUDGET

Auctions are competitive by nature.  It’s very easy for a low initial bid to spiral into the high thousands within less than a minute.  You want to grab a bargain, and if you are particularly attached to a car you’ve seen then your emotions will take over.  This is where setting a budget that states this is the absolute maximum you will spend is essential.  Think of this as a “do not cross this line” situation.  

At an auction, your psychology is not necessarily your friend, because this is where your emotional brain will take over — the inner child in you that takes the wheel and says “but I want that one”, yet unlike a child, you’re the one that’s holding the checkbook, and if you get carried away in the somewhat addictive (and competitive) nature of an auction you can find your initial bid of $100 has shot up to $1,000 before you know it.  This is where the “adult” needs to step in and enforce the “do not cross line”.

2. DEFINE YOUR NEEDS

It’s easy to get carried away at a car auction, and having a strong outline of what it is you actually need/want can save many an impulsive buyer.  There’s an element of a child in a sweet shop, with regards to car auctions, in that one can become overloaded with choice – and all of a sudden, a basic runaround, turns into a game of upselling yourself on many of the more premium choices available – particularly if you feel you are onto a bargain.  Work out a list of must haves, nice to haves, and non-essentials; then compare your choices to this list in order to ground you and make sure you’re not just getting carried away.

3. TAKE A FRIEND

Take someone with you that can keep you in check and offer advice; remember you’re not looking for help with a car accident injury – meaning this friend doesn’t need to be an expert, their primary job is to make sure you don’t get carried away.

Share your “needs” and “budget” with them and have them as an accountability partner to make sure you don’t let your emotions get the better of you.  It would obviously be a massive bonus if this person happens to know what to look for mechanically – but most important, is that they keep you in check.

4. GET THERE EARLY

Often, auctions will allow you to view (and start) the cars prior to viewing – sometimes the day before; and this is a great opportunity to develop a shortlist without the hustle bustle of the auction itself.  You’ll be able to think straight, take time to reflect and sleep on your choices.  This is a very powerful tool.  The biggest challenge with a car auction is the temptation to be impulsive.  You want to research your options, reflect, and come back with a solid game plan – where you know your limits (and ideally have a supportive friend to enforce them).