Last updated December 21, 2022
The prospect of selling your car at an auction may seem daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process. However, if you carefully research the market and choose an auction house that will put your car before the right audience, you may be able to sell your car at a great price.
In this guide, we will explain how to sell your car at an auction house – and some of the fees that may be involved. We’ll also highlight some of the benefits (and drawbacks) around selling at auction to help you judge whether this is the best option for selling your car.
If you would like to sell your car through a car auction, the first step is to contact an auction house and express an interest in selling through them. They will likely ask you to provide details of your vehicle. If it is of interest, they will ask to evaluate your car with a view to auctioning it.
Next, you will need to take the car to the auction house to be photographed and valued, so that it can be advertised to prospective buyers.
You should make alternative travel arrangements for the return journey, after the auction organisers have hopefully agreed to auction your vehicle. However, bear in mind that they may also decide not to auction it, meaning you will have to try to sell it elsewhere.
The auction process will differ slightly, depending on whether the auctions are conducted online or in person, though the principles are fundamentally the same.
Between Spring 2020 and Summer 2021, UK-wide Covid restrictions meant that bidders partaking in any type of auction had to attend virtually. Since these restrictions were lifted, many auction companies have continued to operate on an online-only basis, although some have re-admitted in-person bidders in addition to allowing online participation.
Bidders attending in person can make a bid by raising their hand clearly when the auctioneer mentions a vehicle that is of interest.
Virtual attendees can make real-time bids in a similar manner whilst watching the auction in their web browser. Online auction companies sometimes also allow users to make bids by proxy. To bid by proxy, users submit their maximum bid to the auction company. If a proxy bidder wins an auction, they will not necessarily pay the full amount of their bid; auctioneers raise bids in small increments – therefore, the first unmatched figure will be the final sale price.
Whether online or virtual, a bid made at an auction is considered legally binding.
As a seller, you have the option to set a reserve price - the minimum price at which you are happy to sell your vehicle. If none of the bids match this figure, you can dismiss them. However, if you don’t want to leave without making a sale, you’ll need to compromise here.
Once your vehicle has been sold, the auction house will oversee the payment process, acting as an intermediary between the buyer and seller – and will usually charge fees to both.
Before getting paid, you’ll need to make sure that the V5C logbook and other pertinent documents and accessories have been handed over and wait for the buyer to make payment.
After selling a car at auction, you will sometimes receive the money reasonably quickly. However, if there is a delay for any reason on the part of the buyer or auction house, this can lead to a longer wait.
If you choose to sell by auction, the organisers will help to advertise your vehicle and display it before a room full of prospective buyers. Therefore, you are less likely to waste time with viewers who have no intention of buying a car at auction.
There is no guarantee that your car will sell at auction – and you will have to pay an upfront fee to list the vehicle, regardless of whether it sells. Remember, if you do successfully sell, you will likely have to pay additional fees to the auction house.
Search the web to find auction houses in your local area. Next, take a few minutes to browse the websites of any relevant auction companies. Pay attention to the type of car auction (e.g. modern, performance, salvage or classic) and choose one that is relevant and convenient for you.
You will usually have to pay to auction your car. This fee will vary depending on the auction house, and the type of vehicle. You’ll also have to pay commission on the sale; often around 10% of the sale price - sometimes more.
Buyers will often be charged a fee of 5% (or more) of the purchase price by the auction house (VAT may also apply) although this figure will vary depending on the auction house’s policy. You should factor this in when setting your minimum price.
If your car isn’t MOT certified, you’ll need to arrange for the vehicle to be transported to the auction house or pay for a collection service. On the auction day, you will need to travel with a friend or use public transport if you are selling your main car.
You should be able to sell a car with minor damage at a traditional car auction, although its sale price may be reduced. If your car is severely damaged, you may have a greater chance of success selling it at a salvage auction.
At an auction, you can potentially sell your car for more than your reserve price. However, bids may fall short of this figure. When selling at a fixed price, the process is simpler, as the buyer agrees to pay a pre-set amount.
If you are curious to know what your vehicle may be worth at auction, use our free car valuation tool to get an estimate of its value. Remember to subtract the relevant seller’s fee from this price to get a more accurate figure.
Owners of rare, collectable and sought-after cars often sell at auction rather than privately, as auctions are frequented by car enthusiasts who may pay more to add them to their collection. Auctions can also be a viable alternative for those who have struggled to sell their car privately.
Rare, limited and collectable models often sell for more at auction, as a room full of like-minded car enthusiasts can drive up demand. Conversely, more common cars may not fare as well at auction and may command a higher price through other selling mediums.
Most auctions allow members of the public to bid for and buy the cars on sale - unless the auction is open to trade only. Car auctions are attractive to many private buyers, as vehicles can be cheaper than the dealership price.
The most expensive car bought at auction is a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, which was sold for €135 million (approximately £123 million) at a special auction in Stuttgart, Germany. The opening bid alone exceeded the previous record for the highest car sale at auction by £43 million!