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How to register for a car auction

Car auctions can be an invaluable way to buy a car when you’re looking for a bargain. If you can keep a cool head under pressure and are prepared to do your homework, they can be very enjoyable experiences when it comes to purchasing your next car. If you’re new to car auctions, you might be wondering just what is required of you to buy or sell a car in this way.

For example, you may be questioning if there’s a compulsory registration process you should be aware of. Can you simply turn up at an auction house and begin placing bids? Is it possible to find a car being auctioned online and make an offer right away? Is a licence required to take part in an auction-style sale, or can anyone attend an auction?

If you’re curious about how to register for a car auction, read on for the answers to all those important questions before you start bidding. Whether it’s an online auction or one taking place at an actual auction house, you’ll be fully prepared for what to expect.

Can anyone go to car auctions?

When it comes to attending physical auction houses, for the most part you don’t have to be an auto trader or a used car dealer to join in the proceedings. There are many auctions held in the UK that both those in the trade and members of the general public are welcome to attend and purchase cars. At a physical auction house, you can, in theory, simply turn up on the day, find a car you wish to purchase and start bidding when its lot comes up. However, this is not something you’re ever advised to do by the experts.

It’s generally considered best practice before bidding to attend several auctions without the intent to take part. Auction houses often suggest leaving your debit card at home, at least for the first three or four times you visit a used car auction. Auctions on pre-owned vehicles move at an alarming speed with prices starting slow but rising rapidly at a minimum increase of £50 at a time. If you’re not used to this pace, it’s very easy to either get swept up in bidding beyond your limits or missing an opportunity entirely when you freeze up and don’t get your bid in swiftly enough. By attending without intending to purchase, you can familiarise yourself with this speed and feel comfortable first before bidding. It also allows you to get used to the whole process from start to finish so you fully understand the auction and the transactions that take place.

Buying and selling vehicles at auction has become even more popular in the UK in recent years and because of this you may be prohibited from taking part in certain auctions. As a direct consequence of this popularity, many auction houses and online auction sites will hold sales that are open for trade-only businesses, such as used car dealerships. To join in an auction of this sort, you must be registered for VAT. These trade auctions are designed to assist used-vehicle dealers and car garages in ensuring they always have a strong and steady flow of low-cost cars required for their industry to continue successfully. Auto traders in used vehicles, auction houses and online auction sites are careful to make certain this agreement stays fixed in place as the presence of too many private individuals at car auctions can push up the prices too much. This would make this continuing arrangement no longer a rewarding option for both parties.

Unless the auction is for trade only, everyone is invited to attend a car auction at a physical auction house. But when it comes to an online auction site, anyone who wishes to take part must register first before bidding.

Do you need a licence to buy cars at auction?

If you’re a member of the general public looking to buy a used car at auction then no, you won’t need a licence to take part. You can purchase and sell on up to seven vehicles before you are considered a car dealer or auto trader in the UK.

While you don’t require a licence to buy a car at auction, if you’re an auto trader or car dealer, you’ll need to be VAT registered to take part in any trade-only car auctions as proof of your profession to receive the benefits offered. At both trade auctions and those open to all, VAT registered dealers benefit from discounted prices and special offers the general public are not privy to.

To buy cars on an online auction you won’t need a special licence, but you will need to register to use the site’s resources. For example, to search its listings, access online catalogues and to take part in the bidding, even the most common online auction sites like eBay, will require you to register before you can take part.

British car auctions register

The BCA (British Car Auctions) is one of the largest organisations operating and handling car auctions across the UK - both at physical auction houses and online. On their site you’ll find a wealth of information, from advice and support on taking part in auctions to guides on best practices and what you’ll need to take part. You’ll also find an extensive list of auctions happening up and down the country as well as online auctions taking place in real time. To use some of these assets and to take part in the auctions, you must register whether you’re in the trade or just a private individual.

How to register for a car auction

To take part in online auctions or use certain site facilities, you’ll often be required to register with an auction site. Exactly how much information they require from you and how much they’ll charge for your membership will vary from site to site. It’s worth researching all sites available and comparing just what you’ll receive if there’s a fee involved to join up.

There are sometimes different kinds of registration you can choose, with different prices allocated to them. For example at the BCA, you can register simply to search the vehicles up for auction or register specifically to bid in real-time online from your own personal device.

If you’re a member of the general public, you’ll typically just need to enter your personal details to register but if you’re an auto trader, more information may be required when you complete the online registration form. The name of your business or dealership will be asked along with your VAT number if applicable. How long you’ve been trading and how many cars you buy and sell per year may also be questions asked.

It’s not uncommon for online auction sites to also ask for proof of identification, such as a photograph ID like a passport or drivers licence, as well as proof of address, such as an up to date utility bill. These are also worth carrying if you attend a physical auction as some sellers require them from buyers.

How much does a car auction license cost?

If you’re looking to hold an auction of your own, your local council may insist you pay a certain fee. This will vary from area to area, so the best policy is always to contact your local authority and ask them specifically before arranging an event. Conducting auction without proper permission or registration can carry fines of up to £5,000.

How to buy a car from auction without a dealer license

Buying a car at auction when you’re not a dealer is perfectly possible. Always make sure that when you find an auction event you’d like to attend that it’s not one for trade-only. It’s best to look closely at what kind of cars the auction is buying and selling before travelling to the auction to avoid disappointment. Some auction houses hold events for a particular class of vehicle, like SUVs, so always check this out first. Conduct as much research as you can before auction day. Auction houses and sites release monthly listings of up and coming auctions where you can read detailed descriptions of cars going under the hammer.

If the auction is open to the general public, you don’t need to register beforehand. Always remember it’s worth attending a few auctions first before taking part. If you’re not an authority on cars, always make certain you take someone with you who is. Having expert knowledge when buying a pre-owned vehicle is vital when you’re entering any type of car sale. At an auction, this is even more important as, unlike other forms of buying, you won’t be afforded a test drive and will only get a short time to assess the car before bidding commences.

You’ll find plenty of opportunities to buy a car in online auctions that won’t require you to be a car dealer or auto trader. If you’re looking to try your hand at bidding and buying, there is a wealth of online auction sites including many that encourage the general public to join in.