Classic car auction tips

There are many different ways to buy a classic car. You might find one through an online ad or get an inside tip through an automotive club. But one of the most exciting ways to buy is through a classic car auction.

One advantage of classic car auctions is that they bring together a large variety of makes, models and years. You might view some cars you’ve never seen but only heard of before; even if you don’t buy, the viewing experience alone can be exhilarating. They also come in many conditions, so you can find a great restoration project, or a pristine vehicle that’s ready to show off.

If you’re planning to buy a classic car at an auction, here are six things to do before you go:

1. Set a budget

Knowing how much you can spend is the first step. It will help guide your research on different cars and let you know when to put down the auction paddle. The hard part of setting a budget can be keeping to it, particularly as bidding increases in intensity. Know your limit, and commit to it. It can also be helpful to take a friend who will keep you from spending more than you planned.

2. Factor in extra costs

The selling price of the car isn’t your final price; remember that you also need to pay the buyer’s fee and make any necessary arrangements to have the vehicle shipped to you. Know your numbers and add them up to find out what your true cost might be.

3. Prepare finances and paperwork

Being prepared before you attend the auction involves getting some registration-related and financial paperwork in order. Purchase a bidder's pass from the auction company to obtain a detailed auction catalog and access to the auction stage. You may be required to make a cash deposit after winning an auction. You'll likely also need to return later with a letter of credit or a cashier's check from your bank to finalize your purchase if you win.

4. Have more than one car in mind

There’s a chance that you'll be outbid on the car you really want. Look at your other options. If you have a second (or third) choice, you can help increase the chance of leaving the auction with a new purchase.

5. Do extra research

After you’ve reviewed what's available at the auction, it’s time for some homework. Most auction catalogs (available in advance) will include the car’s personal history, photos and other important information. Familiarize yourself with each car you’re interested in bidding on, and search online for details like classic car values, what classic cars make the best investment, recent selling prices and production numbers. If you have questions, a classic car forum or classic car club can often provide a lot of helpful information.

6. Plan your day

Whether the auction is across town or across the country, you want to ensure all the details are covered. This means planning to arrive early to walk the car corral and getting a good place to sit or stand during the auction. If you're planning on buying, it helps to check with a shipping company beforehand to anticipate costs and verify their availability.

7. Insure your classic

Get a classic car insurance quote in advance so that as soon as you make your purchase, your car will be covered. This will ensure it’s insured during transport, too. Learn all about what classic car insurance is and what it covers before you start bidding.

With thorough preparation, you’ll have greater confidence in your bidding for a classic car and be more likely to walk away with a deal that will make you happy. Being surrounded by other auto enthusiasts and bidding against them will only add to the experience. Classic car auctions offer a unique, often electrifying environment for car buying.

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