a gavel resting on a toy car showing that cars from auctions are a risk vs. reward

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car at an Auction

Buying a car at an auction could be a great way for you to get an affordable vehicle, but what’s the catch? Auctions may not be the best decision for those who don’t know a lot about cars and can’t spot a “lemon.” Here are some general pros and cons you should be aware of before buying a car at an auto car auction. 


  • Price: Houses auction vehicles off at a much lower price than you can find at a dealership or from an individual. Of course, saving money is one of the biggest pros of buying a car at an auto car auction. The prices aren’t usually available anywhere else, which can attract retailers, dealers, and individuals looking for a good deal. You can potentially find a well-conditioned car at a very reduced price.
  • Volume: You could go to a dealership for variety, but many auction autos have a huge amount of volume that appeals to someone looking for several different types of vehicles. Dealer car auctions have even more volume and can be cheaper than public vehicle auctions or government vehicle auctions. Due to the large volume, bidders have a higher chance to find the perfect car for them. 
  • Vintage: You can’t go to a dealership to get a vintage car, but you might find one at an auto car auction. Government vehicle auctions often have items that were seized in various methods including police investigations and abandoned vehicles in public areas. Sometimes, you can get a great vintage car for a fraction of the expected price.
  • Salvaged Cars: Mechanics or people who are knowledgeable and interested in cars can purchase a vehicle that is “salvaged.” This means that the state has declared it in a condition that is unfit for the road, but a mechanic can repair the vehicle to a running condition and get it a new title. Essentially, this gives a buyer a good chance to get a cheaper car as long as they’re willing to make repairs. 


  • As-Is: Auction autos aren’t always in the best condition. They’re sold “as is,” meaning what you see is what you get. There are no warranties of any sort, and there’s no guarantee that the vehicle will run at all. Plus, many auctions won’t allow test drives before bidding begins. The motor could blow the moment you drive away from the auction, and it’s an issue you’ll have to handle. 
  • Legal Issues: Another reason a car could be available at an auction for used cars is due to repossession or confiscation. The problem with a confiscated car is that the owner could have prepared the auto for illegal purposes, making the vehicle essentially worthless. Additionally, there is a possibility that the car is stolen or has been acquired illegally. 
  • Quality: The quality of auction autos can sometimes be questionable. Public vehicle auctions may sell cars explained as “mileage exempt,” which means the odometer may not reflect actual mileage. It isn’t uncommon for sellers to roll back the odometer to make it more appealing to those that are less experienced—which can cause major problems to the vehicle in the long run.
Last Updated: December 18, 2018