Buying a Car at an Auction? Buyer Beware!

by | Aug 30, 2016 | Auto Tips, Buying/Selling

“Going. Going. Gone!”  

That’s it. You have “gone and done it!” You’ve purchased a car at an auction.

It’s yours for better or worse!

Buying a car at an auction is a very risky business. We have seen very few cases where it has turn out well.

We were reminded of just how risky car auctions can be a couple of weeks ago when a customer brought in a 2014 Mercedes Benz that had been purchased at a car auction.  The customer requested that we “just” fix a couple of electrical problems.

Our auto technician was authorized to spend between 0.8 hour and two hours to check and diagnose the problems. We started with a complete body scan, and wow, he found there were dozens of problems or ‘codes scored,’ each representing a system that had failed!

The technician cleared the codes and performed a short road test.  Then he rescanned, and half of the codes came back! This was a major “red flag”! The technician performed a courtesy check, and he found:

  • wires hanging in the engine compartment not connected
  • the right-hand fender not fitting correctly
  • the trunk would not shut without slamming it
  • wires hanging loose in the trunk
  • right-hand door out of alignment…


The list went on and on! After looking into a few of the codes in depth, he realized it was going to take thousands of dollars to diagnose and fix this car!

It would not be so bad if cases like this were isolated, but they are not. The risk you take purchasing a car at auction is simply not worth it.Going to an auction should be left to those who do it for a living.

The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies to buying cars at auctions.  You may even get less than you pay for!

Check out this video from JamieJoneheCarMan.  It’s a longer video, but he lays out a lot of the problems with purchasing a car at auction in the first few minutes.  Essentially, his recommendation is like ours.  If you can’t have it checked out first by an experienced auto mechanic, don’t purchase it!



If you are in the Columbia, MD area, and need to have a car checked out.  We can help. This blog article highlights all the systems we check out when we evaluate a used car.  We call it a pre-purchase inspection because when you inspect before you buy, you become an informed buyer. You are in a much better position to determine a fair price.


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About the Author

About Brian England

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care), got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD. A few years later, he started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. Brian is a big believe in preventative maintenance, and his philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of a regular maintenance plan.