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Tips For Buying a Classic Car at Auction


Classic Car Auctions, A Buyer’s Guide


Heading to your first auction? Read our buyer’s guide to classic car auctions

Heading to your first auction or want to ensure you get the most for your money? Read our buyers guide to classic car auctions for some tips and advice.

With Christmas fast approaching, you may be struggling for this year’s ‘big gift’, either for your loved one or maybe even for yourself (we know you’ve thought about it!). With that in mind, we thought we would take a look at buying classic cars at auction, a chance for an amazing present at the right price if you play your cards right.

There are lot of great auction houses up and down the country (this year’s Classic Motor Show at the NEC will have a two-day auction by Silverstone Auctions) and bidding can be fun if you’re well prepared.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking of going to the NEC or attending any classic car auctions ahead of Christmas.

Do your homework

You should be able to review and research the cars on offer before an auction starts by looking at printed catalogues or online. Once you’ve identified potential classics and researched them, you can determine the current market values and decide on your budget.

The auction

During the auction, the auctioneer will introduce cars and provide a little more information, so listen carefully as what’s said at this stage is important and can sometimes help you make or change a decision to bid.

Listen out for things like “sold as seen”, “specified faults” and “no major mechanical faults” to help inform your bidding decision.


Different auction houses may have different rules, so you should look into yours as part of your homework before attending.

Payment methods, bid rules and other elements will be detailed to help you.

Most auctions accept bids with a raised hand or catalogue, so be careful not to accidentally bid your life savings by waving to somebody.

If you win a car, it’s up to you to ensure it is properly taxed, road legal and insured. Lots of auction houses provide a one-day service of this type to allow you to get the car home.

So, to recap, when attending a car auction, do your research, set a budget and get a feel for the particular auction house you’re attending. But most importantly, have fun and enjoy all the stunning specimens on display.


  1. Take time to inspect your chosen car. Most classic car auctions open well before bidding commences to allow this, so make the most of it.
  2. Remember that all bids are final. If yours is the highest bid, then there’s no chance to change your mind at a later stage.
  3. You don’t always need to attend the auction to bid. Most classic car auction houses accept telephone bidding, online bids or by leaving a commission bid beforehand.
  4. Whatever way you are bidding then you need to register prior to the event. If you are attending the auction then you will most likely need to show some form of identification such as a passport or drivers license.
  5. Auctioneers don’t hang around and can sell up to 30 vehicles an hour, so if your chosen lot is coming up then don’t leave the hall to go to the toilet or you might miss it!
  6. Many auction houses charge at buyers’ premium which is added on to the hammer price. It would be sensible to check what percentage this is so that you can add it to the total cost of the car, plus ask the auction house if there are any other additional charges and what applies.
  7. Successful bidders need to arrange removal of the vehicle and insurance.
  8. Thoroughly research the car you want to buy before auction day and review all the paperwork when it is available.
  9. Listen to what the auctioneer has to say when they introduce the car. It could be that you hear something that will make you change your mind or make the car even more attractive.
  10. Most importantly, stick to a budget. In the excitement of bidding it can be easy to get carried away. While you might pick up a bargain, you also could end up paying well over the odds.