Buying a used car at a public auto auction in California is a fun and exciting way to buy a car. It is a lot easier than one might think to buy an auction car for the first time. Auction staff are very helpful and will explain the process to you, if needed. Public car auctions tend to move a bit slower than most auctions so do not worry about the fast pace of car auctions. Anyone can go to a car auction that is open to the public in CA — even without a dealers license. Also, viewing auction cars for sale online is free.
For a dealer-only car auction in California, you will need a dealer’s license(auction license).
Below is some information and answers to commonly asked questions about the auction bidding and buying process.
What do I need to have with me to buy a car at an auto auction?
All you need to have with you is your driver’s license and your form of payment.
Where do the auction cars come from?
Typically, the cars do not belong to auto auction itself. Auction cars come from a variety of sources, including: local car dealers, private sellers, police impounds, bank repos, trade-ins, tow auction cars, among others. These cars often arrive in large numbers, which is why they are sold for low prices.
How much are the fees involved? Does it cost anything just to come look?
While it varies by location, most auctions have free admission to the public. Typically, a buyer’s fee is charged in addition to the price of a car, along with any sales tax and title fees as required by the state of California. The buyer’s fee can vary based on the price of the car, but figure at least around another $200-300 in addition to the price of the car.
Can I come early to view the cars before the auction starts?
Yes, this is highly encouraged for you to do. Contact the location you plan to visit to verify what times they allow the public to inspect auction vehicles. It is important to take advantage of this opportunity to familiarize yourself with any vehicles that you plan to bid on. The lighting will be better and you will be able to look over the vehicle at your own pace.
Do I have to attend the auto auction and bid to buy a car?
No – most locations do allow you to buy an auction car by making an offer on one before the auction starts. This policy varies by location, so be sure to inquire first. This can be a great way to save money at a car auction without the pressure and hassle of bidding in a crowded auction. You may also bid in online car auctions in California.