How to buy from car auctions

If your reading this, then the idea of attending a car auction has popped into your mind. I have bought hundreds of cars, over the years through auctions and I consider myself a battle-hardened veteran.

Car auctions, can be a place where you make a fortune, save a fortune or lose a fortune.

Buying a car from auction, is not something you should do without reading this page. On this page, I am going to explain how prices work, auctions fees, mechanical reports, condition reports and everything you need to know in-between.

Where can I find an auction?

There are many across the UK and the biggest player in this is BCA (British car auctions, the owner of we buy any car)

BCA currently have 22 auction sites across the UK and most run five days a week. The reason why I am writing this page on BCA, is in my personal opinion, they have the biggest and best selection of cars and more buyer protection than any other auction.

To find out what cars are going through simply, visit their website and register for an account, it’s free. When you register, then you will be able to search for cars, by make, model, age, condition, millage, ect.

The unfortunate thing, with a private buyer account, you can’t view guide pricing (the trade and retail prices for cars). The only way to view guide pricing, is to register as a motor trader.

How to Buy

When you have found a car you like and want to bid on it, go down to the auction, as you have not got guide pricing, you best have done your research on what that’s car is worth.

Inside you can buy the catalogue, that shows you, what cars are going through which hall, which sale and what time that each sale starts. This costs around £5.

When the car you want is going through simply raise you hand to get the auctioneers attention and bid, each time you raise your hand or nod, this tells the auctioneers your upping your bid. As long as you’re the highest bidder / last bid you have won the car.

The auctioneer will ask you to the counter, where he will ask for 20% of the value, as a deposit, then you simply go pay for it half an hour later and collect the car.

Now before you do any of this read the points below, that will explain everything you need to know.

BCA assured mechanical reports

Now I would never buy a car without one of these, due to the risks involved. The only time you should buy one without, is if you’re a mechanic, or you have two coconuts hanging from your crouch.

This report is only on vehicles up to eight years old, vehicles older will never have one.

The report is done by AA mechanics, they will do visual and physical tests, on the engine bay, the engine running, Tyre tread depth, Dynamic operation and interior checks.


Engine bay

  • Battery State of Health (if the battery does nosn’t flat)
  • Coolant level
  • Power steering fluid level
  • Brake fluid level
  • Oil contamination (if oil and water have mixed together)

Engine Running

  • Starts
  • Engine running
  • Engine Smoking (if there is excessive exhaust smoke
  • Engine bay noise (if there is any abnormal noise)
  • Exhaust condition (no leaks and secure)


Checks the tread depths of all four tyres.

Dynamic operation

  • Brake test
  • Hand brake test
  • Static gear selection engine running (if the car goes into gear)
  • 1st and reverse drive test
  • Clutch / auto drive take up
  • Steering
  • Suspension noise / ride height
  • Aircon
  • Sat nav operates
  • ICE operates (in car entertainment e.g. radio works)
  • Central locking If the doors lock and unlock)
  • Roof eclectics (if the sun roof or coverable roof works)

Interior Checks

  • Engine management light
  • ABS warning light
  • Brake Wear indicator light
  • Oil warning light (low oil)
  • Air bag Waring light


This is if there are any faults that don’t come under any of the points above.

What the report covers

This report uses a traffic light system, green for ok and amber and red for faults. The great thing about this report, is you get a 48 hour / 500-mile warranty. So, if you buy a car with a fault not stated on the report, the auction will either pay for the repair or refund you. It is essential to read this report before bidding, due to, let’s say you buy a vehicle with a red mark against the engine and you didn’t notice, that’s you own fault and you can’t get refunded.


The grade of the car means the condition of the vehicle, the lower the number the better the condition. It also corresponds with the age and millage.

So, let say you have a grade 1 car that is a year old, with 10K miles, this car will be almost perfect and you will struggle to spot any damage.

Now let’s say you have a grade one car, that is 4 years old with 40K miles, this car is not going to be as cosmetically good as the one above, due to the age and miles, but it will still be good for it’s age.

There are six grades with BCA

  1. Very clean expect there to be maybe one curbed wheel or a tiny stone chip
  2. Again, clean, but expect there to be the same as above but with one panel needing paint.
  3. Will possibly need a couple of panels painted with some curbed wheels
  4. Bad condition, will need a lot of work
  5. Very bad condition almost every panel will have damage
  6. Unclassified, this car has had more hits than Elvis. This car has damage everywhere

When you’re at the auction, always look at the car before buying, to evaluate the damage yourself. When I bought cars from auction, I wouldn’t buy any cars below grade 3, due to the extent of the damage.

Warranted millage

When a vehicle say’s it has warranted millage, it basically means they can guarantee that’s the correct millage and the vehicle has not been clocked. If it turns out the vehicle has been clocked, the auction will refund you for the purchase and take the car back.

If the vehicle says not warranted, it basically means it has been clocked or they can’t prove the millage is genuine. If the vehicle has been clocked, you have no rights to return the vehicle, as you have been pre-warned before buying.

Do I need to HPI a car before bidding?

The simple answer is no. All vehicles, before being sold are checked for outstanding finance and they are also checked for accident damage.

If a vehicle if registered as a total loss (accident damaged cat c / d), the auction will declare it. If you bought a car that was not stated as a total loss and turns out it was they will refund you.  

Buyers fee’s 

When you win /  buy a car, there is also a buyer’s fee, when you don’t have a motor trade account, these fee’s can be pretty steep. Below is a link, for their standard buying fees for non-motor traders.

If your vehicle is BCA assured, there is also a fee for this report, for non-account holders this fee is £42.50 plus Vat

The one sale to avoid

At each BCA auction, there will be a multi-vendor sale, the unofficial name of this sale is multi problems.

These cars, regardless of their age and millage, they never have BCA assured reports. Buying from this sale is almost like a rite of passage for dealers, as we have all bought a car from there and we have all regretted it.

This sale has more lemons going through it, than a than the seven-up factory.

As explained on BCA mechanical reports, the oldest a car can be to qualify for one is 8 years old. If a car has a report, it will sell better than one without, due to knowing if there are any faults. So, you have to ask yourself, if the car is younger than eight years, why doesn’t it have a report?

The answer to this question is, because they have more problems than Jay Z. In other words, they are enough to give a Nurofen a headache.  If buying from this sale, you either have to be a mechanic or have a pair of coconuts hanging off your crouch.

It is almost certain, that a car from this sale will have a fault. Where these cars come from are usually private sellers, that can’t sell their car due to having something wrong with it, so they simply put it through an auction.

The one and only time I bought a car from this sale, it cost me £3,000 to repair it. so, to avoid buying a lemon, just simply do not buy anything from this sale.


With the information on this page, you will be able to bid at an auction, knowing the risks and fee involved. The main piece of advice I can give you, is simply read all of the information and never just assume something, in the immortal words from lock stock and two smoking barrels, “assumptions are the mother of all …. …”