The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : Top tips for buying a car at auction The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : Top tips for buying a car at auction
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Top tips for buying a car at auction

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Auctions are a great place to pick up a classic car. Depending on which end of the market you’re operating in, you might be able to get your hands on a bargain or that rare gem you’ve always wanted. But to come away with a good deal, you’ve got to play your cards right.

The key is to know what you’re letting yourself in for and to not deviate too far from your objective. The last thing you want to do is come home with a car that’s less vintage and more scrappage…

To help you avoid the pitfalls of buying a car at auction, we’ve compiled some of our top tips. Lancaster Insurance has supported a fair few auctions over the years, so it’s fair to say we know a thing or two about how the format works and what you need to do to walk away with the classic car that you wanted.

So, let’s get to it – here are our top tips for buying a car at auction:


1. Do a dummy run

If you’ve never been to an auction before, it’s worth getting familiar with the format before you part with any of your cash.

So, do a dummy run and attend an auction purely as a spectator. That way you can become immersed in the hustle and bustle without feeling overwhelmed.

You’ll also start to learn some of the auction jargon that gets thrown around such as ‘hammer price’ (the value of the vehicle before buyer fees are added) and non-runners (vehicles that won’t start).

With this experience under your belt, you’ll be much more confident when putting your number in the air to bid for a classic car that ticks your boxes.

Light shining behind the wing mirror of a classic car

2. Do your research

It goes without saying, doesn’t it? But we mean really do your research.

Not only should you know what specific model or type of car you want and how much you’re willing to spend but also things like:

·         Is the vehicle difficult to work on yourself in a normal garage?

·         How readily available are spare parts?

·         Is there a local club for owners of the classic car you’re bidding on?

·         What are the buyer fees at the auction?

You want to find as much out about the vehicle as you can including any associated costs.

Lots of auction houses will publish online what’s going under the hammer prior to the day (usually the night before), which allows you to do a bit of last-minute study.


3. Be patient

It’s normal for a car to unexpectedly catch your eye on the day and before you know it you find yourself lifting your bidding paddle into the air.

But that’s asking for trouble quite frankly, unless you’ve got a big enough budget that a bit of flippant bidding won’t hurt you.

Don’t let the excitement of the moment get the better of you. Hold fire, stick to your guns, remember your budget and focus on the motor that originally caught your eye.

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4. Be smart about inspection checks

You’re well within your rights to carry out an inspection of the car you’re interested in.

After all, if you’re going to part with some of your hard-earned cash, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting into.

The auction catalogue might only tell you half the story – the car’s flaws are unlikely to be listed for everyone to see so a closer look might be in order.

But before you go for a nosey around, opening bonnets and doors, make sure that there’s a specialist present. Why? Well, picture the scene, as the door comes off in your hand…

While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, you don’t want to be blamed for any damage.

In an ideal world, ask the owner, if they’re around, to talk you through the car’s condition and show you around.

Failing that, take a mechanic with you – or at least a friend with some mechanical knowledge. Two heads are better than one.


5. Set yourself a limit

It’s the one thing that everyone tells you before you attend an auction: set yourself a limit and stick to it. And a great piece of advice it is, too.

Providing you’ve done your research, they’ll be a very good reason that you’ve set yourself a specific limit. That’s what you deem the car is worth. It’s also a reflection of what you can feasibly afford.

Once your lot goes under the hammer, however, you’re sure to experience a short-term adrenaline rush that you’ll need to be prepared for. Adrenaline can make people do funny things – make sure you’re not one of them.

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6. Check for an insurance policy

Good, reputable auction houses will sell cars with an insurance policy that gives a buyer 30 minutes to identify any faults and, if they are serious enough, return the car.

You’ve not got long, but you really need to make the most of the half an hour. If you’ve got a good knowledge of what to look for, then, great.

But if you haven’t, it might be an idea to call on that mechanically-minded friend again who can give it a quick once over.


Choosing the right classic car insurance

It may seem obvious, but make sure you are insured and taxed before you move a vehicle if you successfully buy one.

As we’re specialists here at Lancaster Insurance, we have access to competitive classic car insurance and vintage car insurance schemes in the UK.

As a leading, reputable provider of classic car insurance for over 30 years, we are committed to offering our customers a wealth of experience and exceptional customer service.

We work with carefully selected underwriters to enable us to offer both comprehensive and bespoke insurance solutions, with our customers in mind.

Using our great experience and knowledge of the industry, we are able to quote for virtually every classic available, even those models that are hard to insure.

To get a quote for your classic, call our team on 01480 484826 today and you’ll be on the road in no time!



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