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Buying A Classic At Auction

Though a lot of classic car sales go through privately, rare, unusual or difficult-to-sell classics are very often put under the hammer and the savvy classic collector can easily pick up a bargain at auction. If you know what you’re doing and you’ve researched your buys well, there’s no reason that buying at auction should be any more risky than buying privately, but under the pressure of the sale-room anything could happen! So to avoid coming out disappointed or, worse, out of pocket, here’s our guide to buying at auction.

Knowledge is Power
Almost every auction will give you the opportunity to research, view and think about the lots on offer long before the auction. Some will give out a brochure and some will afford you the opportunity to view or even test cars before you buy. This process is almost more important than the buying process itself and you need to research every aspect of the classic you’re looking at buying.

From condition to desirability to cost of the classic car insurance, every detail you can know about your lots is extra information. All of this should collate into what you think the car is worth and, hopefully, this should be in or around the expert valuation. Of course, the point of an auction is that paying more or less than a valuation is quite reasonable, but if you’re well clued up then you’ll know what is reasonable and what is crazy money for any given car.

Gleaning Interest
Talking to the auctioneer and other bidders can be a great way of finding out who is seriously interested in a particular car, and who is just looking. You’ll be much more likely to find serious collectors in the big auction houses, whereas smaller local sales might only attract a small amount of casual buyers.

A part of this process is also finding out, if possible, whether there are reserves or advance offers on any lots. If you’re hoping to pick up a cheap renovation project, a high reserve can really dampen your plans and it might be the difference between you needing to turn up to the auction house and not!

Smart Bidding
The final part of the process is actually bidding. Most bidders are quite conservative, pokerfaced and will have a set budget in mind. There’s no reason to deviate from this attitude; try not to give your intentions away and be modest about your losses and successes. Statements like “I will be going home with this car” might just attract speculative bidders who will drive up the price artificially.

The law of round numbers is also a powerful one in the auction house: if you’re bidding on a car worth £7950, it’s quite possible that other bidders will drop out at £8000. If you can push that extra £100, you might find yourself securing a quick sale for not much more cash.

Remember that adrenalin and competitiveness are your two main enemies in an auction: keep cool, keep collected and stick to what you know.

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