Ford F-150

Online Salvage Car Auctions – How to Be a Successful Buyer

Salvage car auctions offer a unique opportunity for savvy auto buyers. Whether the auction is online or offline, it’s possible to pick up a serious bargain by bidding on a car that can be repaired relatively easily, even when it’s been classed as a write-off by the insurance company.

However, online auctions have a particular advantage: you’ve got more time to do your research beforehand. This gives you a far better chance of competing with professional dealers, compared to pressurized offline auctions where experience gives them a greater advantage.


Beware of the Salvage Pitfalls

Unfortunately, while it’s possible to buy very well at a salvage auction, it’s also easy to waste your money if you bid badly. Not every vehicle will be fixable, and all the cars are sold as-seen with no warranty or comeback if you buy a useless heap of metal.

Nonetheless, with a little care and preparation you could pick up a repairable auto for cents on the dollar. What do you need to do to get the most out of online salvage auctions?

Assess the Cars Damage

Before even considering bidding on a vehicle, make sure you know exactly why it’s a salvage case. While some types of damage are reasonably easy to repair, it’s not always clear from a photograph how bad things are.

For example, water damage from a flood can have serious long-term effects which make the car basically unfixable, even though it looks okay at first glance.

Also, you should probably ignore any car with frame or suspension damage. These particular issues are usually too expensive to fix, if it’s possible at all, and those vehicles are usually bought for their spare parts only.

Arrange an Inspection

Even if the auction is online, it’s wise to arrange a physical inspection beforehand if you can. Preferably, you should take a qualified mechanic or knowledgeable friend with you for an expert opinion.

Research the Autos History

Once you’re interested in a vehicle, use the vehicle identification number (VIN) to check out the car’s history, using a site such as or This will alert you to many potential problems, although the final incident which totaled the car might not be included.

Decide on an Auction Bid

Research the market rates for the car, using online dealer sites and private sales listings. Take these prices as a starting point, slicing off a generous discount to allow for repair costs and the lack of warranty.

Check that the model you’re interested in has good spares availability so that repairs won’t be too difficult or expensive. Crucially, don’t forget to allow for towing or transportation costs, which can be expensive when the vehicle isn’t roadworthy.

Dont Get Carried Away

Lastly, don’t let yourself get caught up in the excitement of an auction, and don’t be tempted to exceed your budget. There are plenty of salvage autos available and relatively few buyers willing to consider them, so it won’t be long until the next potential bargain comes your way.

Salvage car auctions offer a great way of picking up a low-priced vehicle, providing you know what to look for and can arrange repairs at a sensible cost. However, there’s a greater risk involved than buying at a dealership, so make sure you’re properly prepared before placing your bid.


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