Here's why selling or buying a car at an auction, or online, is your best bet in 2020

Image: iStock
Image: iStock

"It all comes down to data" says Calvin Fisher on why selling your old car (or buying a new one) via auction is your best bet in 2020.

But first some perspective - I've done it all, physical car dealerships, Gumtree, Autotrader both online and in print. I’m even comfortable dabbling in the Facebook marketplace for a bargain.

On a few recent occasions however, I decided to throw caution to the wind and type the word 'auction' into Google and immediately got swept up down the rabbit hole that followed. 

Firstly, there are several options at your disposal but for the sake of brevity, I'll use as an example.

It’s online based so, easier still - a website with a community of over 25 000 users, with around 3 500 cars in stock and a history of over 250 000 cars sold thus far. But before we get lost in statistics, it's good to remember why the idea of an auction discourages us to begin with.

How about the fact that cars sold this way have previously been repossessed by banks and the like, from people who typically couldn’t afford to hold onto them? And folks like that well, and I say this with the greatest of empathy – but most likely weren’t able to keep up with servicing and general care either. 

Historically, this made the potential of buying a lemon greater, as did the fact that you wouldn’t get to drive the vehicle before buying it. Add to that your pay-to-play deposit, tax and commissions and the growing costs are rather different to shopping at your traditional ’brick and mortar’ auction house.

                                                   Image: iStock

So how do things fare buying or selling a car in this digital age?


Well, according to their website, the process and similar websites is as simple as registering and browsing their stock or adding it with the Buy or Sell tabs. Easy and with no hidden costs.

• As an oft buyer and seller, I am greatly relieved at the prospect of avoiding shady buyers bound to offer me dodgy payment plans in lieu of car-breaking test drives. No thanks.
• Prefer a physical car dealership? Well consider this, some of their stock are in fact purchased from auctions and marked up.
• The site gives you the option to view the prospective car in the metal.
• They will also send a professional to conduct an inspection on your behalf and advise on any repairs
• The potential for a bargain is rare, but it exists if you’re prepared to do your research. Online website make that easier.
• They’re no longer just repo’d vehicles – now that the power to auction your vehicle has become mainstream, private sellers have taken to the platform. And you can add to that a great contingent of fleet vehicles. Low mileage rental and demo stock make for excellent deals.


Voetstoots, or ‘as is’ – unfortunately what you see is what you get, there are no safety nets, warranties or guarantees.
But buying via this platform you get the security of receiving a detailed inspection report. 
• If you’re the tactile sort, not being able to kick the tyres, touch the metal and smell the leather can be a downer, ditto not being able to take it for a drive. This is a valid fear especially since some photos can be more flattering than others.
• It doesn’t seem to be where the old cars are.

I own an old Toyota Celica Supra and Chevrolet 4100, both classics in their own right, but unlike dealerships - online auctions only offer a limited number of models on their databases. But they do offer trucks and farming equipment!

In summation, auctions are a good option especially if you’re a shrewd buyer or pedantic researcher. You’re ultimately buying with your eyes and with anything mechanical, that can be a risk. 

Of the two cars I’ve purchased personally from a dealership in the last two years – one’s gearbox seized four months later and, via a loophole, I was held liable for its very expensive repair. On the other, a window-winder broke just days after driving it off the lot, and with much protest I managed to get the dealership to repair it at their cost. When you choose second-hand, you can’t avoid risk. So why not try out an auction platform?

News24's Duncan Alfreds, an avid car enthusiast, says: "Many cars at auction sell for much cheaper than they would on dealer showrooms, but you have to be brave because it's a fast-paced environment that takes no prisoners.

"You have time to examine the vehicles available so take your time and give each potential car a good look. Also, determine what you might be willing to spend on the vehicle and do comparisons based on the auction list.

"Remember that once the car is sold, that's it – sold as seen, with no guarantee or obligation to repair.

"Most auctions will not accept cash, and will give you a few days to ensure that the money is deposited into their bank account. You have responsibility to register the car in your name as soon as possible.

"Final tip: The auction will move fast and bid with your head, not your heart.

car searching online
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Selling a car online

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "Buying, or selling, a used vehicle can come with terrible headaches, and especially when you feel there is no other alternative. I always caution motorists to do their homework and proper inspections when buying a used car. But, what to do when you need to sell? We live in a digital age, and although we need to be weary, there are reputable companies out there that can make life a whole lot easier.  

And quite frankly, you can make your life a whole lot easier by opting to use an online service, even if you're not the most tech-savvy person on the block. 

WeBuyCars is another option for motorists who have been battling to sell their used cars. Gavin Clark from Knysna found himself in this predicament when he had tried several dealers - as far as in Cape Town - over a period of time, but "no one was interested" he told Wheels24.

Clark needed to sell his 15-year old Renault cabriolet which he had purchased brand new in 2005, and after many pleadings from his wife to get rid of his beloved car, and after seeing numerous ads during his trips up to Johannesburg, he thought to give the online company a call in absolute desperation. 

Clark says: "I gave them a call, and in less than 24 hours, it was done and dusted. A week later I received a notification that the car was already out of my name. I had filled in the online form, they gave me a call and by the next day a couple of guys arrived and inspected my car. They took it for a drive around the block, placed a call to confirm if the price could be paid. I signed the documents on their iPad and within three minutes the money was paid into my bank account.

"Although there is a lot of emotion attached to my car, I am happy because I probably never would have received the money I was asking for had I to sell the car to a dealership, or even privately."  
Communication is key, and Clark says he received notifications for every step of the process, either via email and, or SMS: "They let me know when they were on the way, what the driver's name was, how far they were from arrival, etc." 

At the end of the day, motorists wanting to buy or sell their vehicles online need to make a decision and follow through the process. It does help to do your research and check out all available options and choose the best route for you to go. 

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