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Car Auction Bidding 101: Potential Strategies For Success


The digital age has revolutionized buying auction vehicles, offering dealers numerous advantages that boost business efficiency. Online vehicle auctions provide all the necessary tools to have customers develop a solid car auction bidding strategy, instilling confidence in buyers for their online purchases.

Not too long ago, used car auctions exclusively took place in person, where major car manufacturers and competitors gathered to acquire cars for their businesses. Participating in multiple auctions demanded commitment, involving travel, dealing with crowds, adhering to in-person rules and procedures, and meticulous financial planning.

In-person strategies for purchasing auction vehicles encompassed all these elements. Despite the challenges, some still perceive it as a simpler time compared to the current era of online auto auctions. Whether you are an old-school bidder or a modern buyer, you may have questions about online bidding.

Learning the ropes of bidding and buying online, including adapting to the pace of auctions and active participation in the auction process, can be a part of the journey. Understanding the benefits of online auto auctions beforehand is crucial when considering registering to bid in these virtual events.

One of the key advantages of digital auctions is the elimination of location constraints. As a buyer in Texas, you can bid on and purchase access to a New York car from the comfort of your home or office and have it delivered directly to you.

These virtual auctions are held throughout the week, featuring inventory from various locations across North America and the world. Buyers can participate in multiple auctions simultaneously, a common occurrence due to the frequent abundance of auctions.

Additionally, vehicles hit the online auto auction block and are sold on average in less than a minute. Given the high volume of cars auctioned daily from various locations within a short time frame, thorough preparation and inventory become paramount.

Choosing What to Bid On

When participating in auctions, choosing what to bid on requires careful inspection and preparation. Before the auction, you can check the arsc through online catalogs or physical ones handed out at the dealer or auction house. These catalogs provide detailed descriptions, history, and condition grades of each car for sale.

To make informed decisions, it’s advisable to review the online catalog in advance to get an idea of the vehicles you might be interested in and the best price. Additionally, research how much similar vehicles sell on online auto auction sites or used car pricing guides. This will help you set a rough budget or a ballpark figure for the maximum amount you will pay for a specific car.

After your initial research, you can narrow your choices by inspecting the selected vehicles on the auction day. There is a designated window, usually one or two hours before the auction starts, during which the cars are lined up, and potential buyers can walk around and inspect them.

While some auction houses may offer independent checks of the used and salvage cars before they sell to the general public, conducting your own inspection is still advisable if you feel confident enough.

During the inspection, focus on fundamental aspects like the engine, bodywork, electrical systems, interior trim, and tires. These simple checks will give you a general idea of the car’s overall condition. It’s essential to be thorough during this process to ensure you are fully aware of the vehicle’s state before making any bidding decisions.

How to Find Vehicles You Are Interested in Buying

In the quest to find repairable vehicles you’re interested in purchasing, online vehicle buyers can access enhanced features that simplify the process.

One such feature is the ability to build a list, allowing you to track vehicles of interest regardless of location. Each vehicle in online auto auctions has its own listing containing essential information, with the damage assessment being a critical category.

Modern auto auction platforms provide efficient and trustworthy tools to evaluate the damage, instilling confidence in buyers about these assessments.

Curate the search results

By curating your search results, you can clearly understand which repairable vehicles will be available for bidding and when they’ll be up for auction. This enables you to consider unique approaches, like submitting pre-bids before the auction and setting a maximum limit on your spending.

Check online car auctions

Online vehicle auction platforms offer smaller touches to streamline the experience and keep you focused on your priority vehicles for bidding. The Watch Lists feature, mentioned earlier, allows you to easily monitor when your chosen vehicles are up for auction in real-time.

If vehicles from your Watch List are being auctioned simultaneously, you can follow multiple auctions within a single browser view, making it convenient to bid on multiple vehicles.

Get access to numerous action formats

Furthermore, these platforms provide various auction formats for different preferences and interests. Some auctions specialize in specific vehicle types, such as motorcycles, trucks, or watercraft, while others offer heavy-duty equipment.

Additionally, online car auctions may feature salvage vehicles and rare and vintage gems. For those who prefer not to engage in the auction process, select vehicles are often available for direct purchase at a fixed price.

How Can You Purchase Used Cars at Live Auctions

Some auctions will require you to have a dealer’s license to get full access to their platforms. Here is a step-by-step guide to buying used cars at an auction or sale:

Browse Listings

Review the available vehicles on the online auction platform. Remember that the inventory changes regularly, so checking back frequently is a good idea. Some auctions specialize in specific types of vehicles, such as repairable cars with salvage titles or classic cars.

If you have a particular type of automobile in mind, look for auctions that cater to those offerings. Salvage titles indicate vehicles declared a total loss by an insurance company due to accidents, flood damage, or other unfortunate events.


Before bidding in online auctions, you must go through a registration process. This typically involves submitting identification and a refundable deposit, known as buying power, to ensure you can pay for the vehicle if you win the bid.

If you don’t win, the deposit can be used for other bids or refunded upon request. Take this opportunity to review the auction rules, including house fees like the buyer’s premium (a flat or percentage added to the final price) and the registration fee. While some online auctions are exclusive to dealers, public auctions like A Better Bid are open to all.


Thoroughly examine the photos and description provided in the auction listing. Additionally, consider purchasing a vehicle history report to gain insight into the car’s past. Many auctions offer the option to purchase history reports conveniently.

Depending on the auction, you may also have the option to hire a mobile mechanic for an on-site inspection. A Better Bid allows vehicle previews at the auction facility up to one hour before the live auction, providing more insight into your potential bidding choices.


Online auction bidding can be competitive, so you must be vigilant during the short bidding window. Pay close attention if you want to increase your chances of winning the car. If bidding doesn’t reach the reserve price (the minimum acceptable price set by the seller), the auction platform will connect the highest bidder with the seller to facilitate a deal.

Online auctions, such as A Better Bid, offer Virtual Bidding Technology (VB3), enabling buyers to bid from anywhere with internet access using various devices like laptops, tablets, or smartphones.


After winning the auction, paying for the vehicle promptly is time. Most auctions require payment within a business day or two of the auction’s conclusion.

Wire transfers are typically the preferred payment method, although some auctions may accept other forms of payment. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the auction rules to know when the payment is due upon winning the vehicle.

Vehicle Pickup

Once the payment is complete, arrange to pick up your newly acquired car. Salvage auctions may require only licensed and insured shipping companies to transport vehicles.

Ownership Documents

After collecting the vehicle, the auction will prepare and ship the necessary ownership documents to your provided mailing address.

Benefits of Purchasing at a Car Auction

A car auction is not just a marketplace but a battleground, a theater of strategy and suspense. Among the many venues for these automotive duels, the Tidewater auction inventory has garnered significant attention with its diversity.

The art of bidding at car auctions involves a fusion of knowledge, patience, and instinct that can be challenging to master, but with the right approach, it can lead to phenomenal deals. Here are some benefits to know:

Cost Savings

Auctions offer a more cost-effective way to buy a vehicle than auto dealers. There are no added markups like those imposed by dealers to make a profit, resulting in potential buyer savings.

Increased Confidence

Reputable auctions are transparent about any known conditions or issues with their vehicles. This upfront approach instills greater confidence in buyers.

For example, salvage auction vehicles are sold “as is, where is,” with no guarantees, but other auctions may offer return policies or guarantees. Additionally, some auctions provide auto loan services, creating a convenient one-stop shop experience that private sellers cannot offer.

Drawbacks of Buying at a Car Auction

Regardless of your approach to bidding on vehicles at online auctions, understanding the process and prioritizing your bidding strategy is crucial. Conduct thorough research, develop a sound bidding plan, and register to bid and buy with IAA when ready.

While buying and shipping and auction vehicles in the digital age is significantly different, online offers numerous business advantages, providing all the necessary tools to prepare and make confident purchases. Here are some drawbacks:

Extensive Research Required

Thoroughly researching auction vehicles is essential before considering any bids. This involves examining market pricing and assessing the specific condition of the auto. Conducting this research in advance is crucial for informed decision-making.

Fast-Paced Bidding

As an auction approaches its end, bidding can become fast-paced and intense, putting pressure on bidders to respond quickly. This accelerated bidding environment may make some buyers uncomfortable, potentially resulting in overpaying for a desired vehicle.

Immediately start bidding without a strategy

A novice participant in an auto auction can confidently purchase by adequately preparing. Furthermore, the registration process is straightforward, as is the payment and collection for a successfully acquired vehicle.

Vital measures involve researching market values and vehicle conditions, establishing a budget, gaining experience by attending practice auctions to understand the bidding process, and recognizing the right moment to withdraw from an overpriced auction.

Last Updated on: July 28, 2023

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