Buying Cars in Online Auctions

By: Christine Harrell

You can get great deals when you buy a car at auction and the online world allows you to bid on auctions all over the world. Sometimes these great deals are suspiciously great deals. How do you avoid getting burned?

Buyer Beware

Though many online auction companies are very honest and reputable, many are not and the consequences can be severe. Buyers should never take the dealer's word for anything. There are a lot of scams run by professional-looking sellers and even legitimate companies can make mistakes.

Always run a history report on the vehicle's VIN through a service like AutoCheck or Carfax. Not only does this show obvious things like title checks and accident history, but it can also draw your attention to things that might not ever occur to you. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of cars have been salvaged, rebuilt, and sold in out-of-state auctions.

Get a third-party inspection. Use a mechanic you choose not the one the seller might recommend. Don't believe pictures, you don't have proof those pictures are even of the car you are bidding on. Some online auction sites like eBay offer their own car inspection services.

Get an Extended Warranty, But Not from the Seller

Used cars are used cars and, no matter how carefully rebuilt, are more prone to breakdowns and other problems than new cars.

Extended warranties have a bad reputation and many of them deserve it. Businesses generally make more money on the extended warranties than they do off the products they sell, even offering expensive warranties on items with very low incidence of breakdown.

However warranties are still a good investment, especially on a used item. Rather than going through the seller, purchase a policy through an independent warranty company. Shop carefully and don't automatically choose the cheapest policy; you get what you pay for. Get the warranty quote before bidding on the car.

Use a Reliable Car Shipping Service

So you won the auction and you now have a car, but it's a thousand miles away. Now what?

Some dealers include car shipping but many won't. Sure you can fly out and drive the car home. That means the cost of a plane ticket, a night or two in a motel, fuel expenses, plus a lot of wear and tear on the vehicle.

Instead, contact a car shipping company and have them do the work. They will pick up the car, put it on a truck, and drive it right to your door. Even if the seller offers car shipping, you can probably save money by arranging the auto transport yourself.

Buying cars online can be a safe experience that saves you money. Use a little common sense and you'll save yourself headaches as well.

New Car Buyers
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