Buying a car at an online auction: Your handy guide

If you’re not able to head to your local car auction in person, some auction houses do them online — and they’re easier to navigate than you think. In some cases, online auctions offer more choice, as several may be combined from different states. 

How do online auctions work?

Auction methods vary between auction houses. But online car auctions typically feature virtual bids, videos of vehicle lots, photos and virtual tours, all accessible from the comfort of your living room. Auction houses understand online bidding can be unfamiliar, so guidance is often provided throughout.

Before the auction

Do your research

In the words of auctions manager, Christophe Boribon, ‘’make sure it’s a reputable auction house with known locations and reviews’’.

It’s important to understand the company’s bidding system, and how you register. If you’re bidding on a handheld device, make sure its operating system is up to date.

Find out if the car you have in mind is registered. Used cars usually come with license plates, but not all auction house cars do. It’s sometimes up to the buyer to get plates and a roadworthy certificate.

Do a pre-inspection

Many auction houses provide pre-auction vehicle reports, carried out by independent mechanics. Some auction houses may even, by request, let you use a mechanic you trust. 

If you have a specific car in mind, learn as much as you can about its history and servicing details. This includes a Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) check.

‘’Photos can sometimes make the lot look better than it actually is,’’ says Christophe Boribon.  If in-person inspections aren’t available, try organising a virtual one. Thorough research reduces risk and lets you attend an auction more prepared.

On the topic of risk, don’t forget to add car insurance to your auction win. We cover certain auction house cars, as long as they’re roadworthy. With our Comprehensive Car Insurance, you’re covered for theft, fire (including bushfire) and damage to your car as well as other people’s property. For more information on whether your specific auction house car is covered, contact us today. 

Get a Car Insurance quote

Read the fine print

Remember, all auction houses are different. Reading the fine print also lets you spot hidden fees. 

Start as a spectator

People are often caught off guard by how fast the whole online auction process can be. It’s common to have 300-400 cars featured in one session, so a winner is sometimes determined in under a minute! Starting off as a spectator (if the auction house allows it), can help you get a feel of the process.

Determine your budget

Know your limit beforehand. Don’t forget to factor in the extra costs, such as:

  • the buyer’s premium (auction house fee)
  • storage
  • transportation
  • transfer and stamp duty
  • registration costs
  • CTP or MAI Insurance, and
  • potential repairs.

The day of the auction

Know bidding techniques

There are no magic strategies. Success depends on the group and situation. Even seasoned bidders differ in their method of choice.

Biding one’s time

Some bidders like to drop a surprise bid at the end. In some cases, if there’s plenty of activity in the closing moments, a bidding extension will occur. If so, you’ll likely get a text or email stating that you have another chance to bid. 

Getting in early

‘’Some bidders like to put their bids early. It knocks out the opportunists — the people just looking for a bargain,’’ says Christophe Boribon. Serious bidders often like to get the ball rolling.

Reserving a bid

If you need to leave before an auction closes, you may be able to bid in advance. This way the system automatically bids on your behalf to your limit.

Expert Bio:

Christophe Boribon is the National Auctions and External Relations Manager for Shannons Auctions Ltd. Shannons specialises in the auctioning and sale of veteran, vintage and classic motor vehicles, as well as memorabilia and number plates.

Chris, who has been with Shannons since 1997, is responsible for the performance and growth of their national auction business. He also carries out valuations for motor vehicles, specialised number plates and motoring memorabilia.

In his career, Chris has advised the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority in setting up and conducting major auctions of number plates. Additionally, he previously assisted the Victorian Police and fraud squad on the identification and values of classic and collector motor vehicles.

Chris has conducted over 220 auctions, auctioning over 6,500 vehicles Australia-wide. He is involved in many motoring events nationally, and forms part of the advisory board for Australia’s largest collector car concourse show, Motorclassica.

Read more:

Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law (including the Australian Consumer Law), we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.