Online car auctions offer an exciting way to potentially score great deals on used vehicles from the convenience of your own home. By cutting out dealership middlemen, online car auction sites provide direct access to discounted inventory. But navigating online auctions requires strategy and savvy to succeed.

Online Auction Options

Several major online auction sites list vehicles including:

  • GovDeals – Features government fleet and seized model auctions.
  • RideSafely – Specializes in rental car company fleet vehicle sales.
  • Auto Auction Mall – Offers inventory from various dealer and institutional sources.
  • Salvage Reseller – Allows individual sellers to list vehicles alongside auction offerings.
  • IAAI – Specializes specifically in insurance salvage auto auctions.

Inventory shifts daily. Checking back frequently improves the selection available.

Vehicle Sources

Online auctions draw vehicles from:

  • Rental car companies rotating out fleet units
  • Bank and lender repossessions
  • Government agency surplus and seizures
  • Dealer trade-ins not sold on their retail lots
  • Off-lease units after completion of lease terms

Reputable online auctions fully detail vehicle sources upfront. Avoid sellers lacking transparency on vehicle history and condition.

Buying Approaches

As with live auctions, online buyers must decide:

For resale – Target newer, high-demand models in good condition for quick turnaround. Avoid major repairs.

For parts – Good for older, high-mileage vehicles worth more from dismantling than as whole units.

For rebuilding – Allows buying rougher project vehicles needing work. Set limits based on required repairs.

Choose focus areas matching your budget, skills and interests before bidding.

Vehicle Research

Doing your homework is key to successful auction buying:

  • Review vehicle history reports to catch title issues, odometer rollbacks or accident damage.
  • Note equipment levels, condition details and mileage to gauge value.
  • Research common issues, repair costs for models on your watch list.
  • Set value limits based on comparable for-sale asking prices elsewhere.
  • Read inspection policies and sale terms to understand arbitration options.

Advance research ensures informed bidding and avoiding overpaying.

Virtual Inspections

Since in-person inspection is not possible, rely on:

  • Comprehensive photo sets showing all angles plus interior.
  • Details on paint, interior condition, mechanical operation and electronics.
  • Carfax or Autocheck vehicle history reports when provided.
  • Maintenance records, accident details listed in the auction description.
  • Discussion with seller via phone to clarify uncertainties.

Make the most of provided information to avoid surprise condition issues post-purchase.

Bidding Strategies

Smart online auction bidding tactics include:

  • Set firm price limits based on your inspection findings.
  • But also be prepared to adjust limits if competitive bidding emerges.
  • Avoid getting caught up in bidding wars that exceed reasonable value.
  • Bid early to discourage other buyers from jumping in.
  • Wait for the last minutes for possible deal opportunities as bidding winds down.

Discipline and experience helps ensure you don’t overpay in the auction environment.

Post-Auction Considerations

  • Ensure no undisclosed salvage/rebuilt branding exists on the title.
  • Note auction’s return policy timeframe to address mechanical issues found.
  • Factor transport costs into total vehicle price if not picking up personally.
  • Reserve funds for any expected post-purchase repairs or reconditioning.
  • Arrange financing before auction close to complete payment promptly.

Calculate total outlay, not just hammer price, when bidding online.

Payment and Paperwork

Reputable sites streamline purchase processes:

  • Registration and credit checks required for bidding approval.
  • Final invoices generated at auction close with title transfer paperwork.
  • Accepted payment methods disclosed ahead of bidding. Certified funds often required.
  • Title documents and bill of sale provided after cleared payment.
  • Transport arrangements required within set timeframe of sale ending.

Online auctions aim to quickly finalize sales, transfer titles and receive payment.

Vehicle Pickup or Shipping

Buyers must arrange pickup or transport after payment processes:

Pick up personally – Ensure flexibility to retrieve locally within the auction’s set window.

Transporter shipping – Cost-effective for distant purchases. Gets quotes from reputable auto transport firms in advance.

Factor pickup/transport costs into maximum bids on desired units.

Getting Started

For first-timers, local online municipal and police auctions allow low-risk experience. Vintage project collectors may find-$500 beater- options to practice bidding and buying processes before entering pricier inventories.

While requiring discernment and swift decision-making, online repairable classic cars auctions enable convenient access to discounted inventory. Do your homework, set firm limits and embrace the thrill of competitive bidding without overextending your budget. With the right preparation, online auctions can help build your collection one great score at a time!