Part 2 - The Importance of Getting a Full Vehicle History  

 

Now we start looking at each individual step involved in making a successful auction purchase. We will explain the importance of being well prepared for bidding on the vehicles you are interested in. How do you secure the true history of the vehicle? What about the title, is it really clean? These and many related "must-know-answer-to" questions will be thoroughly addressed today including how to carefully inspect an auction vehicle. 

 

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Precautions You Should Take Before A Car Auction 

 

Here are some basic precautions you need to take before participating in a car auction. Bring copies of the Kelley Blue Book and the NADA guide to check auto prices. Check to see if all the car's Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) match up.  Take care to examine the car itself for signs of past damage.  

 

In general with government pre-owned vehicles the risk for you as a purchaser is less than normal. As I am sure anyone can appreciate that the US Government does not want to be accused for selling vehicles without full disclosure. But you need to cover off everything regardless. Also, many vehicles are repossessed or seized. In these cases you must be sure the title history is clean and that the vehicle has not been rebuilt in any way. The vehicle history report will give you peace of mind. Most auctions provide a complimentary vehicle history report for all their vehicles. You should request one at the vehicle inspection day which is usually held 2 days prior to auction day. If you don't plan to attend the inspection day (you should if you can) then give the auction house a call and confirm they provide such information on auction day. If they don't then you should consider purchasing access to this information prior to auction day. Reports usually cost around $30 and, in our opinion, are well worth it for the piece of mind. 

 

Preview Opportunity 

Most government auctions provide a preview of their cars for sale at least two days before the actual auction. This is the time when you can get really close to fully inspect the vehicle. If you know someone that you trust and is good with cars, consider inviting that person to come along.

 

When buying cars at government auctions, inspect the car carefully for peace of mind. If you are not that familiar with, or if you are not really an expert in scrutinizing and eye-testing second-hand cars, you can also try to bring in an expert or a qualified mechanic. By doing so, the inspection would be accurate and you can be sure the price you would be paying, if you were the successful bidder, is worth it. This would apply more to vehicles that have been seized rather than vehicles pre-owned by an government organization. The buyer's objective at a government car auction is to save money. If you do not know the true condition and value of a vehicle, you may end up paying more money for it than it is actually worth. 

 

Below is a list of common things you should have a look at when considering buying any used car. There is no need to be intimidated by the list below, most points are just reminders. Remember that most government pre-owned vehicles are better maintained and serviced even compared to most other private cars. Work safety legislation and organizational policies stipulates this behavior. The list below provides  a practical step by step checklist/guide to ascertain the condition of any vehicle with no history or service records. 

Here are 27 valuable & practical tips which will give you an overview of the condition of the vehicle, especially older vehicles or seized/repossessed vehicles; 

 

 

 

      Bald or uneven tire wear (indicates bad alignment, possibly from a wreck). 

   

 

      Damaged wheel rims on one side of the car only, usually the side not facing the bidders. 

   

 

      Auto transmission fluid check: It should be a pinkish or very light reddish color, and smell like motor oil. Note: if its dark red or a brownish or smells burnt this a common indicator the transmission might be worn or damaged. 

   

 

      Engine coolant fluid check: The coolant should be a bright green color, (orange for some). Discolored fluid with a brownish tint could indicate that fluid replacement is past due or in worst case contains rust deposits from the radiator. 

   

 

      Engine oil fluid check: Engine oil should be a smooth darker brown or black colour. If it is a milky looking brown, that is an indicator that the oil is mixed with engine coolant, which in some cases be costly to repair. 

   

 

      Rebuilt title: This usually drops the value of the car by 30%. Vehicle report should state this. 

   

 

      If all VIN stickers from the doors, hood, trunk, dashboard do not match then the vehicle could have been wrecked or stolen. 

   

 

      No title present for you to take today: Avoid "title in transit" cars. Check the vehicle history. 

   

 

      Problem title cars (junked, salvaged, flooded, fire, etc.). Usually shows up in the vehicle report. 

   

 

      Rusty disk brakes and drums: Indicates the car has sat abandoned for some time (can be normal) or been flooded. 

   

 

      Check for excessive dimples, scratches, dings, dents, paint chips, especially on bumpers. 

   

 

      Malfunctioning air conditioning. 

   

 

      Airbag fraud: fake airbag covers. Hard to catch but the vehicle history will give you an indication what to look for. 

  

 

      New carpeting for no apparent reason: Could have been flooded or vehicle not well looked after. 

   

 

      Variations in thickness of the paint. (Requires a digital coating thickness gauge). 

   

 

      Look for traces of paint over-spray along windshield, engine compartment, inside door edges, along door seams. 

   

 

      Evidence of leaks or hand applied seal material to plug up window leaks. 

   

 

      Feel around door edges for leftover evidence of masking tape from body work, and doors that don't line up. 

   

 

      Loose or crooked windows, or power windows that don't work. Motors can cost over $500 to replace. 

   

 

      For convertibles: Check convertible top operates correctly. 

   

 

      Check for excessive exhaust coming out of the muffler. 

   

 

      Look for evidence of odometer tampering. Mileage is collected every year and shows up in the service/maintenance documentation. 

   

 

      Excessive mileage for the car's age: This gets overlooked by lots of people. We would recommend that you deduct $0.10 - $0.15 per mile extra from price of vehicle. 

   

 

      Check the steering wheel: when you move/jiggle it back and forth there should not be any "clunking" noise. 

   

 

      Check the frame of the vehicle: Any frame damage indicates the vehicle has been involved in a major accident. Look along the vehicle to ensure it is straight. 

   

 

      Check the pedals: Pedals are not usually changed or replaced so this may give you a hint as to the "real" condition of the vehicle. 

   

 

      Obvious presentation of vehicle, scratchy paintwork, smoke smell, etc. Use your common sense! Follow your gut instincts. If something does not seem right, do not buy that vehicle! 

 

 

Consider using a call out auto inspection service. For a fee, qualified mobile mechanics will go out to the car and check it out, test drive it and let you know what they find. Well worth the cost if you'd like more peace of mind. The service should cost approximately $100 or so. However you usually cannot do this on auction day so arrange it for pre-auction inspection day. You will need to confirm with the auction house if any prior test driving is possible as some only allow engine running for insurance and title purposes. 

 

Importantly, government (non seized vehicles) are usually always well maintained. Don't buy a vehicle without service documentation. Seized, repossessed and similar cars for sale rarely offer service documentation - that's normal. Go through the  check list above and be prepared to bid lower for such vehicles than for a vehicle with normal service documentation. There are so many vehicles available so be selective! 

 

Government bodies not only take great pride in the upkeep and maintenance of their vehicles but its also part of their organizational responsibility to comply with work safety legislation etc. You will find most of these vehicles come with stamped log books, complete with service history. Also many of them are still under manufacturer's warranty. Most cars are only 2-3 yrs old and majority have travelled between 40,000 -60,000 kms, or 25,000 - 40,000 miles. 

 

We look forward to seeing you again! Day 3 will teach you how to really get the best price! 

 

Day 3 - "Secure best deal day".  You will learn how and where to find out the true market value of the car you are interested in. We will give you hands-on winning bid strategies which are proven to save you a lot of money when bidding.  You will save heaps using our proven techniques. 

Finally, don't miss your emails with links to the two last remaining sessions. 

 

Day 4 - Special coverage of On-line car auctions. There are many advantages with Government online auctions such as they give you a much wider "catchment area" and also most online auctions offer you online search ability of available vehicles. We will give you the necessary information such as logistical considerations for purchasing interstate vehicles. 

 

Day 5 - Final day! We will summarize the important lessons learnt. But importantly we will also look at important questions to ask such as how you can obtain an extended warranty. We will also address the matter of favorable financing. You will also learn how to avoid the worst mistakes you can make as an car auction buyer.