Driver's Guide

13 Strategies to Win an Online Car Auction [2023 Guide]

You should know how to win an online car auction; otherwise, you might end up with a bad autos auction deal. I will reveal my online car auction bidding strategy so that you can win the bid for your favourite car.

To win a car auction online, learn about the auction site, sign up, and research the vehicles in the listing before the auction date. You can subscribe to the premium plan of the site and add the car you want to your watchlist for an email reminder. You will receive a notification about the vehicle bidding on or before the auction day.

Winning a car auction online is not solely about outbidding other bidders; you would win the bid for an unworthy vehicle. Of course, you do not get to test drive the car to tell its problems.

In the sections below, I will provide you with tips to win an online auction as I do. Read down to learn the tricks other bidders may not know.

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Strategies to Win an Online Car Auction

Below are the tips regarding how to win an online car auction.

Budget for the Car

The first thing you want to do regarding how to win an online car auction is set a budget. Otherwise, you may get caught up during the bidding online.

While budgeting for the car, consider the competition, the type of car, and its actual value. Of course, your budget for a used car would not be the same as a salvaged car. So, if you are okay with a salvaged car, you need a lower budget, and you should expect weaker competition.

For a used car, the competition and the value will inflate the auction price of the vehicle. So, you have to increase your budget to accommodate the potentially high costs.

Know the Car You Want

You do not know the vehicle model the auction site will list until they do so. But, if the auctioneers already have a vehicle listing available, then decide on the car you want. As I mentioned, you must choose between bidding on a used or salvaged car.

And if you decide to bid on a salvaged car, you know what to expect. First, the cost of repairs will be high, and second, you will face low bidding competition.

On the other hand, a used car attracts intense competition from several bidders. Often, the price of the vehicle is inflated in the process.

Understand How a Live Car Auction Works

Various sites each have multiple setups for auction sales. I advise you to participate in a live autos auction online to learn how the auctions work. Find out the feature of each bidding platform and its function so that you won’t face difficulties when the auction date for the car you want arrives.

Hire an Auction Specialist

If you are new to bidding on car auctions online, you should consider the service of an auction specialist. Otherwise, make time to understand how the auctioning process works. Bidders typically make the mistake of overbidding out of emotions or desperation for a car. Regarding how to win an online car auction, you do not want to be a victim of emotions.

Worse, if you are bidding on a clean-looking but salvaged car with a nice interior, you might end up paying several thousand, which is not a great bargain. And you will later wish you never outbid others. A vehicle auction specialist could do the job while you hope for a positive outcome.

Inspect the Car

Before you go to bid to win a car auction online, inspect the car. Make a thorough review of the images on the website and pay attention to details. Sadly, images will not reveal all you need about the vehicle. So, you can use the VIN to lookup for advanced information.

Some sites to get complete VIN information are VINCheck.Info and CARFAX. You may have to pay to get the full details available for the VIN.

Value the Car

To boost your confidence in a car you want to bid on, you should self-value the car. Go online and read about the pros and cons of the vehicle from consumers. Consider the car’s actual price and compare the price of a new one with a used one.

Add to Calendar

If the auction site provides an option to add the car to the calendar, do so. Make sure to include the auction time in the calendar to remind you of the auction date and time online.

Add Vehicle to Watchlist

To avoid missing the auction date, you can add the car to the watchlist for an email notification. Some auction sites provide the email reminder feature for a fee. So, check out the auction site you are signing up for.

Copy Out the Row and Item Number of the Car

To participate and win an online car auction, you should know where to locate the row and item number of the car. With the information, you can easily find the vehicle you want to bid on during the live auction.

Get a Premier Account or Add a Deposit

Some vehicle auction sites, such as Copart, offer premium plans that boost your chance of winning an online car auction. When you upgrade to the premier, you secure buying power to exceed limited bids.

When normal account users bid out their limits, you can outbid them and win the online vehicle auction. Of course, they will be unable to increase their bid. However, I recommend this option only if you bid for a used car with a clean history.

Join the Live Auction

When you get a reminder, log in to your account quickly and navigate to the live auction page of the car. Remember that you are responsible for whatever you bid, and do not start bidding on a high.

Start Bidding

Regarding how to win an online car auction, do not be the first to bid on the car. Wait for other bidders to make their bids before you begin. If two bidders start to bid against each other, you can bid below their recommendations if it is accepted.

how do online car auctions work

After a tense while, increase your bid slightly above theirs. If the auctioneer sets a price, offer above other bidders but below the auctioneer’s asking price. For example, if the highest bid is $500 and the auctioneer asks for $600, bid $550.

Meanwhile, a simple trick I use is to retract my bid once in a while. But I do it cautiously and occasionally if the live bid permits.

Be the Highest Bidder

Your most excellent chance of winning a car auction bid online is to become the highest bidder. However, it would be best if you were stiff not to overprice the vehicle.

Note: The winning bid goes to a live bidder, not a pre-bidder.

Final Thought

Above is my online car auction bidding strategy, which I hope will help you win a car auction online.

When you find the car you want to bid on, thoroughly scrutinize the images and VIN. Do not be carried by the lovely pictures you see because the internet is good at marketing an inferior as a superior.

Do not be intimidated by the live bids when you participate in a live car auction online. Do not also attach emotions because I understand that your love for a particular car might cause you to overprice the vehicle.

The common mistake autos bidders, especially newbies, make online is inflating a vehicle’s price. If the bids exceed your maximum budget, do not embrace the temptation of increasing your bid above your budget.

Better still, you can use a site like Craigslist, where you can bargain and force the price of a car down.


Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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