How to sell a car at auction: A complete guide

February 29, 2024 by

If you’re looking to sell a car at auction, you might have a few questions on your mind.

How do you auction your car, how much can you get for it and is it guaranteed to sell? These questions and many more are answered in this complete guide to sellling your car at an auction.

You might not have considered selling your car at an auction before because, traditionally, auctions have been for trade buyers and sellers, but many accept private sellers. Think of it as an open marketplace, either face-to-face or online, where people can compete to buy your car.

An even easier option is sell your car with Carwo. All you have to do is give us some details for your car, upload some photos and we will enter if to our weekly online auction with dealers from across the UK bidding to buy it. Once you accept a price, the dealer will arrange to collect the car from you and pay you. The whole process can be over and done with in just a few days.

How do car auctions work?

Car auctions are a popular way for traders to buy and sell cars. Typically, these have always been hosted to sell cars directly to dealers — although auctions for private buyers happen too.

1. Find an auction house

Your first step is to find an auction house you’re happy to sell with. A quick search online should help you find one in your area.

2. Take the car in for a valuation

Arrange with the auction house to have your car inspected and valued. This is no commitment — an auctioneer can give you an estimated price and you’re able to sell with them if you’re happy with the valuation.

3. Have a reserve price in mind

Once you’ve had your car valued, establish a minimum price you’d take for the car. If bidding doesn’t reach this, your car won’t be sold and any bids are void. You may still have to pay fees though.

4. Let the auction house sort the rest

The auction house usually does the rest of the work — taking photographs, producing a lot description and arranging the time it’ll be auctioned.

From there, you’re at the mercy of the bidding wars. Auctions are live events, either in person at an auction centre or online. Buyers present can outbid each other for a car until someone comes out on top as the final highest bidder and wins the auction.

You’ll typically pay an upfront fee for your car to be listed at auction. If it sells, the auction house will likely take a cut of the sale too — often 10% or more.

Though you may be wincing at the thought of losing that money, remember the auction house will have it in its best interests to maximise the value of your car.

After all, the more it sells for, the more money the auctioneer gets. You might walk away with more money than you expected as a result if you sell your car at auction.

5. Take payment

You will be paid by the auction house once it has processed the sale and received payment from the buyer. If you haven’t already, you must now hand in hte V5C (logbook) for the vehicle. May buyers like to see the service history as well. You may have to wait a day or so to receive the money from the sale, less any auction fees.

Can I sell my car at auction?

These days, for a quick sale, private consumers can also sell their car at auctions.

To enter a car in an auction as a private seller, you must be the registered owner. You also need to check if there is an auction near you that accepts private sales (some only accept trade customers who are VAT registered). When you take the car to the auction, remember to take the car’s V5C document, service history and all keys.

Auctions may sound daunting and unfamiliar, but could be an option worth considering if you need to dispose of the car quickly and if there is an auction centre convenient to where you live.

When choosing where to auction your car, remember to ask what fees they charge as these can vary quite a lot.

Pros and cons of selling a car at auction

Pros

  • Can be a quick way of selling your car.
  • The leg work is often done by auction houses.
  • Minimises risk of time wasters who say they are coming to buy your car, but don’t.

Cons

  • Your car isn’t guaranteed to sell.
  • There may be a limited number of potential buyers present.
  • You’ll likely pay extra fees.

Where can I find car auctions near me?

The easiest way to find a car auction near you is to have a quick search on directories such as Yell or Google. Here you’ll find a list of auction houses within your area as well as contact information.

Auction houses tend to list upcoming events on their websites or their social media channels, so it’s worth having a look. If you’re unsure, a quick phone call should do the trick.

The frequency of car auctions will vary depending on the auction house.

You may have heard of some of the larger  auction companies: Manheim, Copart and British Car Auctions.

Are car auctions worth it?

Whether or not car auctions are worth it will come down to what you’re expecting from a sale.

When car auctions may be right for you:

  • You want a quick sale
  • You’re struggling to sell your car privately
  • You don’t want the hassle of producing a listing
  • You have a rare, sought-after car that’s hard to value

When car auctions may be wrong for you:

  • You have a solid asking price set in your mind
  • You don’t want to pay any fees for selling your car
  • Your car is extremely common

What price do cars sell for at auction?

Prices for cars at auction can vary wildly. This will depend not only on the car itself but also on whatever the buyers present are willing to pay.

You could be unlucky one day and have no interest in the car, only for someone to pay over the odds the next.

This can especially be the case if your car is selling in the same auction as a near-identical car, therefore splitting interest.

You may find rare, sought-after cars sell better at auction compared to a private car sale. In contrast, common cars may be an easier sell elsewhere.

Again, keep in mind an auction house will also usually take a commission for selling your car. This is typically at least 10% of the sale price, but sometimes more.

Sell your car with Carwow

If you want to take the hassle out of selling your car, but want to agree to a price rather than taking the risk of an auction, why not sell your car through Carwow?

All you need to do is take a few pictures, provide some info on the car and wait for the offers to roll in. Once you’re offered a price by one of Carwow’s trusted dealers that you’re happy with, simply accept and the buyer will arrange the rest.