Buying a repossessed vehicle at auction - good idea or not?

We need to replace a vehicle, but don’t have much to spend. We thought about going to an auction and buying a repossessed vehicle. Can you really get a good deal on a good vehicle?

Are there other options for buying repossessed vehicles other than at auction?

My husband know very little about cars… We don’t do our own tune ups or change our own oil… so I am fearful if we go this route we’ll get a dud because we didn’t know what to look for.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

You might get a gem, and you might get a dud. Don’t expect a car that was repossessed has received the recommended maintenance. If you don’t have money for a payment, you aren’t likely to have the oil changed.

You’re walking into a minefield, especially considering the lack of mechanical knowledge. Even being mechanically astute doesn’t mean much at an auction.
Auctions are often a dumping ground for problem child cars too. This means vehicles that are trouble-prone, have serious problems, or even one that has sat around on a lot for months on end with no takers. An auction is a coin flip at best.

I think you would be better off to buy a car from a private seller. A mechanical inspection is always a good idea but this is often not possible either. In the event an inspection cannot be performed what should be done is to take the car on a lengthy test drive of 40 miles or so while paying careful attention to how it drives, the transmission shifting, any odd noises, etc,

The radio should be turned off and any passengers should keep their mouths shut. Music and idle conversation distracts from the focus and job at hand.

“My husband know very little about cars… We don’t do our own tune ups or change our own oil… so I am fearful if we go this route we’ll get a dud because we didn’t know what to look for.”

For most of us who have spent a lot of time round/under cars, auctions are still scary. Chances are you will acquire somebody’s headache. I have seen a few lucky ones, but I have seen a lot of horrible stories too.

I would not recommend an auto auction to someone who does not know very much about cars. I’ve had two auction cars. The first one, my ex’s dad bought us. Turned out to have rust spots all over, on top of which was hastily slopped some sort of gummy paint which melted off. There was no way to see this from a distance and they didn’t let you get close to the cars. It needed a new tran$mi$$ion. Also, every time you took a sharp turn, one or two cigarette butts would roll out of gaps in the dash. As if by magic, the car never ran out of cigarette butts (neither of us smoked). After going seriously broke on that money pit we were happy to be rid of it for $500.

Second one was purchased by a dealership then sold to us. It was “certified” (BS). I consider myself lucky to get away with only non-functioning brake lights, a nail in a tire, steering problems, possibly broken passenger airbag and significant front end/alignment issues (might have been in an accident). Overall though, I am happy with the second car so far.

I think that’s very good advice from ok4450. In addition to listening carefully (I roll down the windows), I actually turn on the heater to see if I can smell anything weird as well. I take it on the freeway to check all the gears. I also check the VIN to be sure it’s the same car I came to look at. And its important to feel what’s going on. If anything is weird about the shifting don’t buy it! If the exhaust looks/smells nasty don’t buy it.

I’d suggest thoroughly researching your local used car dealerships, taking your time checking out the cars (don’t let them rush you or seduce you with their insane payment plans), doing research on the specific makes & models you are considering (some makes, models and years will be notorious for certain problems) and having a trusted mechanic check the car out for you before you buy it. Good luck! :slight_smile:

The bargains at auctions are difficult to spot among the junkers even for someone knowledgeable about automobiles. Like others here I would suggest looking elsewhere and doing some investigation of car prices, reliability, repair cost, etc. before jumping into a purchase.

Thank you all for your comments!!! This has been very helpful & eye-opening. We will not be looking further into auctions and go the private seller route. Thank you again.

I might add that if you test drive a car you should offer to put some gas in it; as least enough to cover the test drive miles and then a bit extra.

You may note that many times a used car for sale has a fuel gauge that is showing E.
While I can’t speak for private sellers it’s generally not an accident on dealer used cars.
What’s the one dashboard thing that people always pay attention to? The fuel gauge.
Someone gets in the car for a test drive, sees the gauge hovering near E, and the mindset of better not go very far appears. :slight_smile:

The problem with an auction is you have to be fast, and make those fast decisions. You don’t get to research the cars, apart from what ever very minor piece of paper they may throw on the dash about it. I recently sold a very nice car at aution, since it belonged to a deceased relative. Dealer maintained, and we got far less for it than it was worth. But it had to go, as I live in Texas, and the car was in NH.

But anyone looking at it would not have been able to tell. It sat for long enough to be dirty, and I tried to have someone clean it, but wasn’t able to check. /sigh.

Auction cars sell pretty cheap because of the RISK involved…A good place to wet your feet at a car auction would be a GSA sale of Government vehicles…At least the major defects are listed on the bid sheet…Also, car auctions are cash on the table…The government holds both open bidding sales and sealed bid sales, where you submit an offer by mail…High bidder wins it…

I’ve seen some very good bargains on cars at estate sales where only one or two cars or trucks are involved. However, caution is still necessary. I had a colleague who purchased cars that had been totaled, but rebuilt by a local body shop. She claimed that she got great buys this way. When she died quite suddenly, her estate was auctioned off. This was before the days of “salvage titles”. I think someone got a lemon in the car they bought from the estate of a deceased professor.
I’ve also seen people go hog wild on bidding at estate sales. I’ve seen people bid high prices on items and I have had identical items that I couldn’t give away. I’ve been tempted to sneak my junk into an auction and let the auctioneer sell it. Even though the heirs to the estate would get the money, I would have gotten rid of the junk.

Form what Ive learned on this sight. Though the big dealers are more expensive to buy from and get maintanance it may be better in the long run.

My credit union use to sell cars that were repossessed. But since the down-turn in the economy they got overwhelmed with so many cars being repossessed it is now handled by a third party.