How to Sell a Car Through an Auction

An auction gavel sitting on a stack of 100 dollar bills.
What You'll Need
Title or dealer's license
Blue book
Digital camera
Consignment fee

If you're having trouble finding a buyer, or you think your car could be worth good money, you can sell at an auction. Some auctions are specialized, while others are more general, so to attract the right buyers and achieve the best price, you want to enter your vehicle in one dealing with cars. After you've identified the establishment you want to use, proceed with the following steps.

Step 1 - Make Sure you Can Legally Sell

No matter the type of auction, you will need to first consider if you can legally sell your car. You’ll need to either have the title in your name or be holding a dealer’s license to do this. If you have neither, find out how you can get them or abandon this idea altogether.

Step 2 - Establish a Sale Price

You also need to be very aware of the value of your vehicle if you hope to make any money. Take into account its age, any wear, and, if applicable, its rarity. Finding the values of most cars is quite easy. You simply have to consult the blue book, the auto industry's standard for such a thing. With collector vehicles, you’ll need to research what similar models in the same condition have achieved at sale.

In both cases, use these figures to set your reserve, which is the lowest price you’ll formally accept. If there are no bids above the reserve price, the car will be returned to you, unsold. Set the reserve for the absolute lowest figure you’ll accept.

Step 3 - Sell at Your Choice of Auction

As mentioned previously, there are several kinds of auctions you might use. Each will have some varying procedures, so familiarize yourself with each and never be caught off guard.

Collector Auctions

With collector cars, your best route is to go with a company that specializes in collector car auctions. You'll find several dotted around the country. You’ll need to fill out a number of forms and give the company several pictures of your vehicle. You will pay a consignment fee as well, which is usually nominal. Be aware that the auction company will also take a percentage of the selling price, so figure that into your reserve and your asking price.

Public Auctions

If your car has engine problems or body damage, you might consider a public auction. While most dealers or private buyers will refuse to purchase a damaged vehicle, these events do draw in other buyers from scrap yards and elsewhere. They will see some value in cars in all kinds of conditions. Just be prepared to accept a low price.

Internet Auctions

These days, plenty of people sell their cars via internet auctions. It’s not a complicated procedure, although you can do a number of things to increase your chances of a sale. Be honest when you describe your car, especially if the body has sustained any damage. You don’t need to write an essay about the vehicle, but do offer a comprehensive description. Make sure you take plenty of photographs as well, inside and out, to show the car's condition. One of the pictures should be of the odometer, so you have concrete evidence of your advertised mileage.

You will have to pay to list the vehicle, and you’ll also have to pay a small percentage of the selling price to the auction site. Unless you simply want to be rid of the automobile, set a sensible reserve price and specify that the buyer has to collect the car.

With any luck, you will be rid of your car quickly and free to spend the extra money you've made.