27th January 2022

FJ Guide: How to buy from a classic auction

Knowing how to buy a classic car or motorbike from an auction is a desirable skill for the discerning enthusiast. While many of us dream of securing a bargain before a crowd of admiring punters, for most the experience is exciting and daunting in equal measure. It’s fair to say that it doesn’t always work out - browse motoring forums, and you’ll probably find enough auction house horror stories to put you off your breakfast.

Although it’s true that buying from an auction always carries an element of risk, there are a few simple steps you can take to help make sure you leave happy with your lot.

Decide your maximum price

It sounds simple, but it’s easy to get swept along in a fast-paced auction environment. By deciding how much you’re willing to pay for a vehicle ahead of time, you know when it’s time to back out. A good way of deciding your ‘max price’ is to research the final hammer price of similar vehicles, and of course factor in the cost of any work required.

Don’t be a stranger

Most auction houses welcome spectators, so why not head down to your local one ahead of time? Get familiar with the way it works – a bit of people-watching never goes a miss. It’s obviously much easier to view live online auctions whenever you like, but that won’t compare to attending in person.

Do your homework

First things first – do you know what you’re buying? If you’ve spotted something particularly special, make sure you know its authenticity before bidding. Don’t get stung by a sheep in wolf’s clothing, as replicas of rare models can be very convincing. It’s always wise to ensure that ‘RS Turbo’ didn’t start out life as a ‘1.3 Popular Plus’.

Check it out

So, you’re certain the vehicle in question is a genuine example – now it’s time to make sure it’s a good one. Attending a live auction in person can be the best way to do this; there’s no shame in getting on your hands and knees for a good look underneath it. There’s also a range of useful tools at your fingertips. A standard HPI check is always worthwhile, and don’t forget you can also check the recent MOT history of vehicles online for free via the Government website.

Final calculations

At most auctions, the final price is also subject to additional fees. Usually either a fixed sum or a percentage of the final bid, this is worth bearing in mind as the bids are increasing. Work this out before you begin, and make sure you have the means to pay on the day. Your vehicle won’t be released until it’s paid for in full - you may also need to arrange transportation if it isn’t roadworthy.

Do you have any auction tips to share? We’d love to hear about your experiences - let us know in the comments…