How to sell a car at a UK auction

Car auctions aren’t for everyone, but they can be an excellent way to sell your unwanted vehicle quickly and, if you enjoy excitement, an auction might be a more interesting way to part with your car and get paid.

In the past, vehicle auctions have often been events seen as exclusive to those making money in the used car business. Auction-style sales are typically associated with large organisations aiming to cast off large quantities of cars in a hurry. For example, car leasing companies, the police, fleet management firms and dealerships are at times required to change over fleets fast, and when they do this, they often favour a quick sale over the best price.

Don’t be dissuaded by this; private sellers now make up a strong percentage of all vehicles sold at auction. Selling your car at auction can also be an option to consider if you’ve been struggling to secure a buyer through more traditional channels of selling. If you’re looking for a new approach to acquiring a good price for your vehicle, read on to discover how to sell a car at a UK auction.

Can I sell my car at auction?

For the most part, you’ll be able to sell your vehicle at auction either online or at a physical auction house without too much trouble. If you’re the registered keeper of the car, have legal and sole ownership and wish to sell it, then it’s your right to let others buy it in a private sale or through an auction.

Auction-style selling has become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years and as a result some auction houses will hold events open for trade-only participants. Therefore, in some circumstances, as a private seller you could be exempt from selling your vehicle at these auctions.To attend and take part in an auction of this nature, you’ll be required to be registered for VAT. These auctions are specifically designed to support used car dealers and garages, making sure they have a steady flow of the sort of cheap vehicles upon which the selling of pre-owned motors relies. Auction houses and auto-traders in used cars are careful to make sure that this agreement stands as the attendance and bidding of too many private individuals at an auction can push up the price, making the ongoing arrangement no longer mutually beneficial or financially viable.

Before selling your car via auction, it's worth doing some preparation work, just as you would before a sale of any kind, in order to secure the best price possible. If the car requires an annual MOT, get this completed before the auction; it will increase interest as those looking to buy will see the recently completed test as a statement on the car’s condition. Make copies of all the relevant documentation attached to your car, including the logbook and any service records, as this will also allow buyers to feel confident in bidding. A professional valeting is also a good move to make sure your car looks its best before it goes under the hammer.

How to sell a car at auction

If you’re looking to sell your vehicle at a physical auction, your first step will be to contact your chosen auction house and make the necessary arrangements to bring it to the location. The auction house will give you a time and date to arrive with your vehicle and, once there, your car will be looked over by qualified technicians who will inspect and assess it to create an accurate description before listing it in the auction guide. As part of this assessment, they’ll examine any damage your car may have sustained over the years since you purchased it and place a financial value on this, decreasing the price accordingly.

At this point, your vehicle will be fully photographed before being parked in an allocated lot, where it can be viewed by potential buyers who may be interested. Once allotted, your car will receive a unique number and be entered in the auction programme if the auction house supplies one. This programme is sometimes printed or can be published online if you’re selling your car via an online auction house such as eBay. In some cases, there will be both a printed and digital publication available to buyers.

When you put your car up for option, you must include the full complement of paperwork and manuals connected with your car. These commonly consist of your car’s V5C registration certificate (sometimes referred to as a logbook), your vehicle handbook, garage receipts, service book and any other relevant documentation.

After these initial steps are carried out, it’s a good idea to consider a reserve price. This is the fixed minimum amount you want to sell your car for and will not drop below. When deciding a reserve price for your vehicle, it’s often considered wise to take on the advice of the auction house. The auctioneers have a strong incentive to charge the highest amount they believe a car can get at auction, because they stand to benefit from at least 10% of your vehicle’s final value when sold. Although placing a reserve price on your car auction will involve an extra fee, it will make certain you don’t end up selling your vehicle for a sum far lower than you believe it’s worth. If, however, your circumstances involve you simply wanting to be rid of the car, and you’re not concerned about your final fee, you can avoid the additional cost by not setting a reserve price.

Once your vehicle enters the auction room, the interested buyers assembled will bid against each other, increasing the price in standard amounts until only a single individual remains as the highest bidder. All the bids made are done publicly inside an open saleroom, which is the traditional auction-style for England. Cars are driven one at a time inside the hall for those looking to purchase to study. All the available details on the car will be read out loud in full to all present prior to the auctioneer commencing the bidding process, and before the first bid is placed. A bid made on a car during an auction is considered a contract that is legally binding. Once committed with a bid, a buyer won’t be able to back out easily.

If you’ve put a reserve price on your car at auction and the highest bidder doesn’t meet this amount, the auctioneer may invite you and the buyer to settle the sale with a compromise between you. While attempting to come to an agreement, both you and the buyer are entitled to back out of negotiations, but if you come to an accord and accept the buyers offer, the sale will be accepted.

If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll be able to keep your car at the auction house under the agreement that it’ll be entered again in future auctions. You’ll need to pay the entry fee for each auction it enters, however, and the auction house may request payment in storage fees if your vehicle remains with them for a duration covering several auctions.

After your car has been successfully sold, it’s the responsibility of the auction house to manage all the necessary paperwork. After they have received payment in full from the buyer, they will send your payment to you.

Where can I find car auctions near me?

Vehicles are being sold at physical auction houses as well as in online auction websites such as eBay. While BCA (British Car Auctions) and Mannheim are two of the UKs leading organisations running auctions, a quick search online will yield results of all the car auctions happening close to your location, usually displayed in a map that pinpoints the different venues.

For convenience, it’s always the best policy to pick an auction house near where you live. For a fee, some of the larger auction houses will collect your vehicle, but this can be expensive.

After you’ve found auctions close by, you’ll need to carry out some research by visiting their websites and make sure the cars they deal in match the one you’re looking to sell. While many of these auction houses deal in a diverse variety of cars, they may have specific auctions for certain classes of vehicle, from SUVs to classic cars. Always match your car to the appropriate kind of auction to ensure the best price. For example, if you enter an older family car into an auction specifically for ex-rental vehicles, you’re unlikely to attract the same interest, and the quantity of bids you’ll receive will reflect this. Try to be as selective as possible when it comes to auction type to avoid disappointment.

How much are auction fees for cars?

The commission rate will vary, affected by the specific vehicle you’re selling and the final price it secures. You should account for an entry fee of between £100 and £150, plus additional VAT charged at 5% on the final price for which your car sells for at auction.