What to Know About Buying Salvaged Cars at Auctions


The term “salvaged car” can mean a number of different things, depending on who is using it. In the context of a used car auction, you need to determine exactly how the auctioneers are using the term, and decide whether to bid based on that information.

Your main concern is that the car is in good condition, or at the very least that you know about any defects, and that the title is valid.

What to Know About Buying Salvaged Cars at Auctions


Buyer Beware

The reason that you can get cars more cheaply at auctions is that they are less convenient and more risky than buying from a dealer. It is possible to get a great deal at an auction, but it’s also possible to get badly burned if you are foolish and don’t do your homework. Arrive at the auction early so that you can thoroughly inspect any cars that you are interested in.

Policies at auction houses can vary widely, but most of them operate on a “buyer beware” policy and will not react sympathetically if you buy a car and then change your mind and try to get your money back.



Be sure that the title of any car you buy is valid. If the car has no title, don’t buy it unless you are buying it for parts and don’t intend to put it on the road. You may find that a car with no title or with an invalid title is impossible to register, and you will be left with a very expensive lawn ornament.

If the auction house you are dealing with allows you to inspect titles or cars in advance of the auction, take advantage of this opportunity to do some research and make sure that everything is above board.


VIN Check

If you can inspect the vehicle ahead of time, be sure to write down the VIN. This is the Vehicle Identification Number, and can usually be found on a small plate that is attached to the dashboard under the windshield on the driver’s side. A number of websites offer VIN checking services for a fee.

If you have the VIN, you can find the history of the car, including when and where it was sold, how many people have owned it, and whether it has ever been wrecked, totaled or salvaged. This information can be invaluable in avoiding buying a headache.


You Get What You Pay For

Don’t go to a car auction with the expectation that you will buy a pristine vehicle for 10 percent of its value. Car auctions are frequented by many people with experience in the field. If a car sells for very little money it’s because they don’t want it, and if they don’t want it there’s certainly a reason for that.

If you are careful and pay attention, you can get a decent vehicle for less than you would pay a dealer, but, as in any other venue, the less you pay, the less car you will get.


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