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How to Buy a Car on an Online Auction

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The key to buying a car at an online auction is the amount of preparation you put into the purchase. Since you will likely not be able to see the car you’re purchasing personally, how you do your research and question the seller is very important. Skimp on these steps, and that’s where problems arise.

Do Detailed Research of the Car

Of course, you’ll find out details about the make, model and year of the car. Use a reputable resource, such as the Kelley Blue Book, to learn about any issues cars for sale are having for the year they were made. What are the typical things that fail in a 1968 Mustang? How much rust is normal for a 1972 Jeep Cherokee?

Start Your Car Search

Once you have a stack of notes on the car you want to purchase, start searching the auction sites. If there are a lot of listings for the particular car, narrow the list down to a dozen or so sellers. You can always go back and search for more, but with auctions, there are deadlines. You want to complete your research before the deadlines expire.

Interview Time

Sellers can only put so much information on their listing, so now it’s time to get all of your other questions answered.

  • How long have they owned the car? How many previous owners were there?
  • What work was done on the car while they owned it, and can they produce the receipts for proof?
  • Why are they selling this car? Why do they not want the car anymore?
  • Would they own another car like this, and why, or why not?
  • What do they like and not like about the car?
  • Has the car been inspected, and can you get a copy of the report?

The goal of this is to get answers to important questions, but also to get a sense of the seller. Does he or she seem like someone you can work with? If not, walk away, and find another seller. For this to work, you have to be comfortable with each other.

Getting the Car Home

Once you’ve purchased your car, your choices are limited to getting it home. You can drive the car home yourself, hire someone to drive it home, hire a motor carrier or use a freight service. You can use a shipping service to help you find qualified carriers that can get your car home. You will get a number of bids on your job, and you can select the carrier you’d most like to work with.

The process of selecting the right carrier requires its own research and interviewing. You don’t want to purchase a car just to have something happen to it on the way to your location.

Time to Deal

Once you’ve done all the above, make an offer. If you have done your research and feel comfortable with the seller, the transaction should go smoothly.

Do you have any tips for online car auctions? Leave them in the comments.

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