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Tips for buying a car at auction

Bid like the pros when you visit auto auctions in Columbus, Ohio

From the call of the auctioneer to the whistle of the ringmen, that's what auto auctions are made of. Throwing in your bid at your first auto auction in Ohio is both thrilling and challenging. Read on for the best tips for buying a car at auction.

  1. Find an auction open to the public.
  2. Some auctions are dealer-only. Make sure to find one, like the bi-weekly Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio Auto Auction, that's open to the public and doesn't require expensive certifications.
  3. Look at the inventory listing and pick a few vehicles to check out.
  4. Check the auction book and/or online listing to narrow down your favorite autos. Are you looking to resell? For a muscle car? Something for your son or daughter? What is your goal for the day? It's good to know which cars you're keeping your eye out for before you get caught up in the excitement of bidding.
  5. Inspect the vehicles beforehand.
  6. Most public auctions, including Volunteers of America's, hold a preview the day before the auction where you can start the vehicle, but can't test drive it. You'll be able to check underneath for fluid spills, pop the hood and inspect the car like you would buying any used car.
  7. Establish what you're willing to pay.
  8. You'll want to have a price ceiling after you determine what you believe the cars you have your eye on are worth. Don't forget that your final price will include taxes, registration and other fees on top of the winning bid price. How can you determine what you should pay for individual cars? Keep reading.
  9. Use an independent source to determine the wholesale and retail values of your target vehicle.
  10. The most frequently used sites include Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader Classics and NADA Guides. Doing your due diligence will give you a good idea of what you would expect to pay for a car outside of auction.
  11. Get some practice.
  12. Auctions can be simultaneously thrilling and overwhelming. Volunteers of America holds auctions regularly—don't be shy to just stop in and observe. Sometimes it's best to attend an auction to learn the ropes before making the plunge. Watch the auctioneer, the ringmen who assist him and the other buyers so you can get a feel for the fast–paced culture of the auction ring.
  13. Stay near the auction ringmen.
  14. The auctioneer can only see so much, so the ringmen are his eyes and ears during the lightning–quick decisions buyers are making. You'll want to stay fairly close to the ringmen to make sure they can see you and your paddle, or you could risk losing a car to a buyer with a quicker draw.
  15. Stay flexible.
  16. You'll want to have a game plan as to the options you need, and the condition you're comfortable with and your budget. But at the end of the day, you need to roll with the punches to find the car that works for you. Be as flexible as you can.


Find auto auctions in Columbus, Ohio

If you're looking to head to your first auto auction, find the dates for the next preview day and Saturday morning auction at the Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio Auto Auction site. Ready to hit the auction? Head to the Auction Office located at 5640 West Broad Street in Downtown Columbus from 10 A.M. - 1 P.M.

Interested in donating your vehicle in Ohio? We accept nearly anything with a motor–cars, boats, RVs, motorcycles, tractors–running or not. It's as simple as filling out our online vehicle donation form or calling (800) 225-0732. We offer free same-day towing, not to mention you could receive more money for your automobile as a charitable donation than you would selling it privately.