5 Essential Tips for Buying a Classic Car at an Auction


Many people love classic cars, and car auctions are a popular ways for collectors to obtain these beloved vintage vehicles. Auctions are exhilarating experiences; there’s an indescribable energy to bidding against other classic car lovers and potentially walking away with the car of your dreams. And with fewer cars entering auctions nowadays, there’s more competition to buy them: in 2017, 17.32 million cars were entered into auctions, compared to 17.74 million the year before.

Preparation, therefore, is essential. Whether you’re a first-timer wondering how to buy cars at auction or an avid auction attendee, there’s plenty you can learn about the auctioning process. We recommend reading our tips for buying a classic car at an auction before you attempt to place the winning bid on a vehicle and shipping it home from the auction.

Do Your Research

Prior to attending an auction, you need to do your homework. Review the printed auction catalogue if you bought one, or search the auction’s site for more information if buying a car from online car auction sites like Bring a Trailer or Cars & Bids. Determine what type of car you’re looking for and decide on a few you might want to place bids on. You should definitely have some backup plans in case someone outbids you on a car you really want. If you come prepared with a short list of options that really excite you, you increase your chances that you’ll leave the auction with a car you love.

Then, take the time to read about each car’s personal history and look at descriptions and photos. Remember to double check the vehicle identification number (VIN) of each car that interests you. These codes will help you determine whether you’re purchasing an original model or a clone. The VIN on the documents you’re reviewing should match the ones on the car. You should also investigate other pertinent details such as market values, production numbers, recent auction prices, and the auction house’s bidding rules.

If you still feel like you need a little help, don’t be afraid to hire a consultant or ask a knowledgeable friend to attend the auction with you, especially if it’s your first auction. They’ll essentially act as your wingman by not only walking you through the process, but also remaining calm and objective throughout the entire experience. They’ll also be your second set of eyes when it comes time to inspect the vehicles.

Tips for Buying a Classic Car at an Auction

Solidify Your Budget

Before you head to the auction, you should already have a budget in mind. Remember that the selling price isn’t the final price; there are a multitude of extra costs, including buyers fees, registration fees, and taxes. Additionally, most cars are sold as-is, meaning you should allow room in your budget for restoration and repairs. Plus, you may have to pay to transport the vehicle, so consider how much the shipping fees will cost you.

You also never want to bid blindly and potentially overpay. Sure, you may get carried away and bid more than you can spend. However, bids are final, so you can’t change your mind later and revoke your bid. There aren’t guarantees or warranties on these vehicles either. Simply put, set a budget and commit to it. You may have to let a car go during a bidding war, but you still may be able to secure your second or third choice.

Arrive (and Register) Early, Stay Until the End

You must register for the auction before you can bid on vehicles. If you’re joining the auction via phone or the Internet, be sure to register beforehand. If you?ll be present at the auction’s venue, you should pre-register to avoid standing in line to fill out paperwork on auction day. Don’t forget to have a form of identification such as a driver’s license or passport ready. Bring cash or a certified check with you; you may be able to use a debit or credit card to pay for the vehicle, but double-check the event information first to be on the safe side.

If you’re bidding in person, we suggest arriving at the venue early to get a good seat you want to make sure the auctioneer can see and hear you. Use the restroom before the bidding starts, as auctioneers can sell dozens of cars each hour. You don’t want to miss bidding on your favorite car! Plus, most of the time, you?ll also receive the opportunity to inspect your favorite vehicles before the auction starts. During this time, see if you can speak with the vehicles’ owners. Ask as many questions as you need to. Ideally, you should start up the car you’re interested in and take it out for a test drive before you bid on it.

You may also want to stay at the venue until the end of the auction. The crowd typically thins out toward the end of the event, increasing the likelihood that you?ll walk away with a good deal.

Obtain Insurance Beforehand

Standard auto insurance often won’t cover classic cars. We suggest purchasing specialized insurance designed for classic cars in advance. This way, you’ll know the vehicle you purchase will have coverage throughout the entire time you own it. A perk of classic car insurance is that it’s usually less expensive than a standard insurance policy. Just keep in mind that insurance companies mandate that your collectible classic is not your primary means of transportation.

Arrange Shipping Ahead of Time

When you’re ready to take home your new purchase, you’ll need to know whether you’ll be driving it, trailering it, or shipping it home. If you plan to ship it, make arrangements as soon as you officially seal the deal. Be sure to tell the vehicle shipping company if your new classic car does not run before shipping. Why not call our classic car shipping experts. Reputable auction firms such as Gooding and Company consistently partner with us because we make sure the auctioned vehicles travel from the venues to their new homes safely. Our experienced staff and state-of-the-art technology make us a top enclosed car carrier in the nation.

We hope our tips help you win the car you’ve always wanted. Above all, enjoy the experience, a classic car is a purchase you’ll never forget. We wish you the best of luck!

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