Top ten tips: buying at auction

  • The tips you need to be successful at the auction house
  • Make sure you know all the fees and have a practice run
  • Be sure you don't pay too much with a Parkers car valuation

1. Research the auction houses you are visiting. larger more established auctions will have a greater choice of cars and more frequent auctions. Phone and ask them about their policies on mechanical checks and if they are a member of the Society of Motor Auctions.

2. Go a few times to familiarise yourself with the layout and pace of the auction before you even think about buying. You will want to know how many halls there may be and get a feel for how quickly the bidding process takes.

3. Find out what cars will be auctioned and when: the auction house will have different categories of vehicles on different nights of the week. You might be able to download the catalogue the day before but if not, be sure to buy one on the day.

4. Find out how much the fees are. These vary, and are added on top of the final sale price of the vehicle. If you know roughly how much the car will cost you can find a more accurate figure to keep in mind when bidding.

5. Before the action starts ask for the keys and documents for any car you're interested in. In most cases you will not be able to start the car but you can check inside for any damage or strange smells.

6. Get there early and have a good look around the cars that interest you making a note of the condition. Do as you would with any car you are buying: look for any body damage, condition of wheels and tyres and any rips, stains or marks on the interior.

7. Look at the stickers on the windscreens and be sure you know what relevant information to take from them. Mileage, documents (if they're present or not), service history and terms of sale are the most important. Also knowing where the car has come from can give you a good idea of its history.

8. Make sure you are there when the car is started; listen for any untoward noises as it starts and then follow it into the hall. Check where the car was parked for any recent fluids that may have leaked and watch for any smoke from the exhaust. You can even ask the driver how the steering and clutch feel.

9. Set yourself a realistic budget and don't get carried away. Remember you are there to try and get a good deal so don't get into a bidding war.

10. Make sure everything is in order to transport the car home once you have bought it; Insurance, valid MOT and V5 supplement to buy some tax. If you don't take the car straight away the auction house will charge a storage fee.