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Car Auctions - What You Need To Know - Part 2

Don't believe everything you see
Assume everything has been buffed up within an inch of its life at public auctions. You wouldn't believe how many cheap products are available to hide exterior signs of mistreatment. The sellers know you're relying on a visual inspection and will happily pour on as much Bondo, polish, and touch-up paint as they can. Don't be duped.

Concealment is less of a concern at government auctions, where you are more likely to find mechanically sound vehicles with small dents or weathered paint. Remember, unlike public auctions, these cars have known histories.

Look for a consistent VIN
You can find the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at the base of the windshield. Jot it down and then look at the doors, trunk, and any other place you can find a VIN. It's an appalling sign if the numbers don't match. Lack of a consistent VIN usually indicates the vehicle has been through a major accident and rebuilt with scavenged parts. Avoid it like re-gifted Holiday fruit cake.

Pull the dipstick
The engine oil and other fluids should be clear and clean. If not, stay away.

Know what It's worth
If a car catches your eye, pull out your Smartphone and check its value. Online resources like the Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can give you an idea of the correct value. If the bidding pushes toward or above the book value, it's overpriced. If the bidding is far below the book value, there's a good chance that the vehicle is an absolute stinker.

Final tip
Don't get carried away! It's easy to get caught up in herd mentality when bidding on the lot. Auction companies count on that enthusiasm, and they encourage it, but the last thing you want to do is fall for that encouragement. It's best to go to a few auctions before actually participating in one yourself. You'll get a feel for it and see what other bidders do, and you'll get an idea of the kinds of cars available.

You can get a good deal at an auction. There are lots of options available, and there will always be a few exceptional deals on offer. It's far from a sure thing, though, and those few good deals will be hidden among a large number of four-wheeled headaches. If you choose to buy at auction, do it with both eyes open and full awareness of the potential issues. You'll need knowledge, patience, and a skeptical eye, but if you know your cars and have the ability to stay calm and evaluate judiciously, you can find what you need!