Buying your car on auction – is it a worthwhile risk?

Buying a used car is always a risk. It usually requires shopping around before deciding on which one to buy. But at an auction, with other bidders vying for the same four wheels, you have just a few moments to decide on buying the most expensive item you’ll own after your home. So what are the pros and cons to buying a car on auction? Nicolette Dirk attended one of  Burchmore’s car auctions in Montague Gardens, Cape Town, to find out. And we asked the experts what consumers should watch out for if they want to purchase their car on auction.

What should you do before the actual auction day?

Prior to auction day there is a viewing day where you can look at the cars that will be auctioned. You are allowed to bring your own mechanic to examine the engine in more detail.

Burchmore’s auction assistant, Tazzwell Damon, says the majority of their cars auctioned were repossessed by the bank. On the day of the auction you pay a R5000 deposit and get a number to be registered as a buyer. The whole process happens so fast that, as an outsider, you hardly spot the person in the crowd who makes the highest bid.

Once you pay your purchase fee of R2500 and the 14% VAT price, you are the proud owner of a car. And often these buyers walk away with bargains. At the auction centre, a Toyota Corolla valued at R120 000 was sold for R88 500. Another lucky buyer went home with an Isuzu double-cab bakkie for R131 000. The normally pricey Opel Corsa OPC was sold for R120 000 at one of Burchmore’s auctions.

But it pays to be cautious

Damon says it is important to do your homework before attending an auction.

“Check that the auction centre is compliant with the Consumer Protection Act. The ones that are should display any faults of the car in writing for the public to view. Even faults like a noisy engine should be displayed for the public,” says Damon.

And when you do make a bid, remember it is as good as a written agreement. According to Damon, people who try to back out of a bid lose their R5000 deposit.

What are your rights?

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is there to protect the rights of the consumer. Gary Ronald, head of public affairs at the Automobile Association of South Africa, says knowing these rights are essential to ensure you don’t get ripped off during the purchasing process.

“The best defence against purchasing a potential rotten apple is to arm you with the correct information. If you are in the market to purchase a used vehicle make sure you know your CPA rights and enforce them.  Bear in mind too that there are any number of identical vehicles to choose from on the market, and, if a deal looks too good to be true – it probably is.  Walk away and shop elsewhere,” says Ronald.

According to the CPA, an auctioneer is prohibited from knowingly misrepresenting the value, composition, structure, character, quality or manufacture of the goods put up for sale at an auction.

It also states that the auctioneer must afford consumers a reasonable period of time and opportunity to inspect the goods on offer prior to the commencement of an auction, and no fee may be charged for such opportunity.

Moneybags says:

Prior to the auction, ensure you examine the quality of the cars on the viewing day.

On the viewing day, take someone along who has vehicle expertise and knowledge.

Make sure the auction centre is CPA compliant. This will ensure that all the vehicle’s faults will be publicly displayed.

Keep in mind that auction cars are not available for test-driving – so be sure about the type of car you are buying.