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Buying a classic car at auction

You’ve read the guide, dreamed a little and decided you need a classic in your life. Now it’s time to buy one. Here’s our handy guide to buying at auction


Buying a classic or high-performance car from auction can be risky, although the potential benefits can be enormous – so it’s worth weighing up your options. When you are planning your purchase, it’s also worth bearing in mind that, in the current market where dealers are struggling to secure good stock, you might find yourself in a competitive situation. So long as you’re switched on, are hyper-aware of the speed at which an auction progresses, and stick to these ground rules, you shouldn’t get your fingers burned.

1: Do your homework

Buy a catalogue and get a full description of the car you’re interested in buying. Classic auction houses are excellent at providing historic information on the cars they’re selling, but a call to the auctioneer in the days leading up to the sale can also be very revealing.

2: View the car at your leisure

Bear in mind that, on sale day, you might struggle to get a good look at the car as the auction hots up. So, if you can, try and turn up on preview day to have a good poke around. Do all those buying guide checks you’re advised to and satisfy yourself that the car is exactly what you’re looking for. At this point, decide the maximum you are prepared to pay for the car.

3: Make sure you take money to the sale

Sounds silly, but don’t forget to take enough with you to cover at least the deposit on the car you’re bidding on. Each auction house is slightly different in terms of what this is, so make sure you check for details in the catalogue.

4: Have a friend with you

Taking a friend with you could be one of the most sensible things you do. They won’t be as engaged as you, so will look at the situation more dispassionately. They may even spot faults with the car that you might miss. Most importantly, make sure they know how much you have – and that they are briefed to stop you making any rash bids.

5: Be prepared to get dirty

Wear old clothes so you don’t feel reserved about looking underneath the car. Make sure you have a torch and magnet so you can look for underbody issues and check for thick layers of filler.

6: Listen and watch

Once you’re happy with the car you have in mind, and you’ve checked it the best you can, make sure you’re close by when it’s driven into the auction arena. Watch it being started, listen to the engine, make sure it sounds sweet and doesn’t smoke – and, if you can, take a look at the gauges to ensure that vital signs, such as oil pressure, are healthy.

7: Pay attention to the auctioneer

Before the bidding starts, the auctioneer will describe the car. Listen closely to this, as his words are legally binding. Then, before he starts the bidding, take a deep breath, compose yourself and focus on the maximum price you set yourself. This is very important, as once the bidding starts, the adrenaline can kick in, and it’s very easy to run away with the bids.

8: Make your intentions clear

Make sure you’re in full view of the auctioneer. Do not be tempted to raise your hand first – the auctioneer may suggest an opening bid, and usually it is on the high side. See who else is interested, watch around you, and don’t get drawn straight away.

9: Bid confidently...

...and don’t worry about your intentions being misread (you can’t buy a car on a sneeze or a wiped nose). You can tell the auctioneer to lower the bidding increments, and make sure you’re actually bidding against someone, rather than just an auctioneer taking bids off the wall. All the time, consider your maximum figure, and make sure the adrenaline doesn’t take over.

10: You won!

If your bid is successful you will need to pay a deposit, followed by the balance within a short period (usually 24 hours). Delay and you may be charged storage. Now it’s time to calm down, take stock, and remember that if you’re taking the car home, to consider the MOT, tax and insurance situation. If in doubt, bring a trailer.

Ferrari 430 Classifieds

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