Ready, Set, Drive: How To Gear Up for Your First Online Auto Auction

Written by T.E. Wing

Online auto auctions can save you thousands on your dream car. Here’s how to get in on the action.

aNewDomain — Can’t afford that dream vehicle? Think again. Online auto auctions are taking over America by letting people save thousands via online car auctions that are open to the public.

There’s a lot to recommend shopping at online auto auctions. The process now is convenient, safe and efficient. Many even offer worldwide shipping. So not only can you buy luxury cars, you can buy them from different countries or states and have them shipped right to your door.

But how does the whole process work?

Glad you asked. I swung in for a closer look.

Auction basics

Dealer-only auctions aren’t like other auction websites, where you find the car you like and then have a bidding war until the timer runs out. Dealer-only auctions list the cars for auction on the website prior to the live auction.

This allows the car buyer to research the vehicle and determine whether or not the vehicle is right for them. The listed vehicles have a timer on them and when the timer reaches zero, the bidding will begin.

Once the bidding begins, participants have approximately two to three minutes to bid on the vehicle. If you like a vehicle, you just click on the “attend” button on the page and you’re added to the list. If you win the auction, the auction specialist will inform you of the sale approval.


Before you begin the bidding process, always check to see if the auction site requires a security deposit. The security deposit is typically 10 percent of the amount of money you’re willing to spend on a car, but cheaper cars sometimes have a minimum deposit amount.

Some sites don’t allow bidding unless they receive this deposit before the auction begins.

Don’t get too excited and start pre-bidding on vehicles. Pre-bidding drives up the price of the vehicle and typically only benefits the seller. It is important to know when you’re bidding that the bid is binding and you cannot cancel it.

If you make a bid and end up winning the auction, you will be responsible for the sale.

Some auto auctions also offer financing. The financing option allows you a certain amount of money (depending on your credit history) which you can use for bidding.

After you win

If you win your car auction, you’ll be notified by the auction specialists. They will tell how to proceed next, depending on their specific rules, of course.

Typically, an invoice is sent to you: this invoice includes all of the costs for the sale and the applicable fees. Normally, shipping isn’t included in the invoice, as shipping is usually done through a third party vendor.


Depending on which website you’re using, you have 24 to 48 hours to pay your invoice in full before incurring late fees.

After the payment is received, you pick up the vehicle using a trailer hitch, shipping company, or tow truck. This is because the vehicle will not have the proper tags to be driven off the lot.

If you don’t have a way to transport the vehicle, some auction sites have a shipping option, which is typically done through a third party. Documentation needed for the DMV will be shipped to you, including the title of the vehicle.

Buying a car has never been so convenient. Using a online auto auction may seem like it’s a lot of work, but there are auction specialists available to answer all of your questions.

These auction specialists can even share their screens with potential buyers and walk you through the buying process so the transaction is seamless.

So feel free to make your next car purchase in your pajamas and shop with an online auto auction.

For aNewDomain, I’m T.E. Lee reporting.

Cover image: Xcira, All Rights Reserved.