How to buy a car on auction


THE FIRST thing you need to know when buying a car on auction is that it is sold “voetstoots”, which means that you buy the item as is, so you need to make sure you do your homework.

Unless you take the time to bring any defects to the attention of the seller before you make a bid, any defects you find after you buy the car will be your problem and the seller will not be liable in any way.

You can buy either by way of a closed tender or at an open auction.


You send your offer to the auction house in a sealed envelope. All the sealed offers are then placed in a locked box. At an agreed time on the day of the tender, the box is opened and the car sold to the highest bidder. The disadvantage of this method is that you have no idea what the other bids are and you can only bid once.


You have to pay a refundable deposit, which differs between auction houses. For example, Burchmore’s requires a deposit of R5 000 per car. For example, if you plan to bid on two different cars, you will have to present a deposit of R10 000.

You can pay with a cheque, credit or debit card, or you can make an electronic funds transfer (EFT). It is worth noting that EFTs can sometimes take a few days to reflect in the recipient’s bank account and your EFT must be reflected in Burchmore’s account on the day of the auction. Most auction houses have accounts with all the major banks to accommodate this.

If you choose to pay by credit card, Burchmore’s will retain your credit card in a sealed envelope and will only swipe the card for the deposit payment if your bid is successful. After your deposit has been paid, you are issued with a bidding number. Remember that you also have to pay the following costs at a car auction:

. The handling or documentation fee. This is also known as the administration fee, which ranges from R1 500 to R2 500.

. The auctioneer’s commission, which can vary from 2% to 10%, depending on the auction house and type of vehicle.

. VAT, currently at 14%.

If you need to finance the car, it is preferable to have this prearranged because you have to pay the balance within 24 to 48 hours. If you are unable to secure finance, you forfeit the deposit, but you are not liable for any other costs. Once you have bought the car, you are responsible for the costs of a roadworthiness test and licensing the car.

Darryl Jacobson, the managing director of Burchmore’s, says after you have calculated what you can afford to spend on a car, you should go to a car dealership to look at the prices of second-hand cars.

“This will give you an idea of what car you want to buy and also the retail value of the car. Then approach an auction house to see what is available,” he says.

Before the auction starts, you will be given a guide that lists the trade price of each car that is being auctioned.

This guide can be used to make sure that you do not pay too much for any of the cars on auction. You can arrange to view the cars before the auction, although this may only be possible on the day before the auction, depending on the auction house.

For example, Aucor is able to give you a list of cars that will go on auction up to a week in advance. Contact the auction house directly to arrange a viewing. This will give you the opportunity to check the car’s service book.

You will also be able to get into the car, start the engine and examine the car thoroughly, but will not be allowed to take the car for a test drive.


On the day of the auction, make sure you bring along:
. Your identity document;
. Your driver’s licence;
. Proof of address. You can use a utility bill that goes to your physical address and is not older than three months; your TV licence or DStv bill; a telephone account or a clothing account statement; and

. Proof of your deposit.


You can buy warranties from the auction house. However, if something is wrong with the car, you cannot give it back and you will not get a refund. It is best to remove the car from the auction house premises as soon as you can because any damages incurred after the hammer has fallen are for your account.

Look carefully
When you inspect a car for auction prior to the auction, you should take along a mechanic or friend who knows about cars if you are not a car fundi yourself. The Automobile Association says you should use these guidelines when buying any second-hand car:

1 Examine the engine. Look for oil leaks under the car and any obvious signs of wear and tear. The wiring in the engine bay should be in good condition.

2 The radiator and cooling pipes should be free of leaks. If the engine is cool, open the radiator cap and check the condition of the coolant. This should be a transparent coloured fluid (it may be green, pink or yellow).

3 When you start the engine, listen to how easily it starts and idles. Rev the engine and listen for abnormal noises. Rev the engine with a short, sharp acceleration and check for smoke from the exhaust. Thick smoke is a bad sign.

4 The wear and tear on the carpeting and the rubber of the brake, clutch and accelerator should be consistent with the age of the car.

5 Uneven wearing of the tyres will tell you that the wheels are off balance, the suspension is not aligned or the shock absorbers are worn.

6 Look out for signs of an accident – mismatched paint on body panels, unequal gaps between panels and obvious signs of overspraying (particularly behind the rubber around the doors and windows).

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