Q: How do I sell a car at an auction?

-Mike Sadikian, Worldwide Rent A Car

A: The major auctions, such as Manheim and Adesa, are only open to new or used car dealers, automotive manufacturers, finance companies and rental car and other fleet companies. To buy cars at an auction, you must be a licensed car dealer in your state. If you just want to sell cars, you can sign up for auction access with a valid Federal Tax ID. 

While the general process is the same for all auctions, each auction is a standalone business and you need to educate yourself on the auction’s policies and processes. You also need to familiarize yourself with the auction’s fee schedule. The auction will be happy to provide you a variety of services such as washing and transportation, but they are not free.

Before you sell a car, go to the auction and see how it works. Ask the auction personnel and the regulars questions. Next you need to register your car with the auction for their next sale. You can do this online or take the car to the auction; for a fee many auctions will arrange for pickup. If you are using the auction’s drivers, check them for current driver’s licenses. You are liable if they get in an accident and are unlicensed.

After signing up with the auction, take a look at the online sales sites (OVE.com, etc.) to check pricing. Look at the Manheim Market Report. As of this writing, a 2011 Camry LE with 36,600 miles had an MMR average auction price of $14,145. However, lower mileage units were selling for more in Los Angeles, so you’ll want to use regional information to set your pricing. If you price above the market you are wasting your time at an auction.

Auctions have dealer sales once a week. Look online for the auction schedule and the number of vehicles scheduled for a sale. If there are few cars scheduled, not many buyers will show up. If there are a lot of cars, you could be lost in the volume. Auctions will run several lanes simultaneously, depending on size. The auction determines the lane you’ll be assigned to.

Your lane placement affects your chance of selling your car, and that depends on factors such as whether you run cars regularly; are they priced to sell; and is there anything special about them to get buyers excited. Usually buyers are tired by lunch and have spent their money by then.

Make sure your car is clean and ready to go to the sale. Clean cars have a better chance of selling. The auction can detail the car, but you might be able to do it for less. Find out the auction’s requirements and be there in time for an inspection. The auction will inspect your car and provide a condition report, which will increase your chances of selling your vehicle — especially on the Internet. The condition report may reveal things you want fixed before the auction. Auctions offer repair services, or you may want to do this yourself. Make sure you have all the paperwork for the car, including the title.

On the sale day, either you or a representative should go to the auction. You need to make sure the car is in the right lane, all the appropriate forms are filled out and your floor value is set. Auctions are really dusty and dirty, so make sure your car looks clean.

When your car goes up on the block, talk to the auctioneer. Let him know how much you want for the car and announce any problems. If the bidding reaches a point below your floor but looks like it will sell at a price you can live with, tell the auctioneer.

If the car is sold, you need to provide the title to get paid. Each auction has time limits for the delivery of the titles. The sale is not final until the buyer has signed the block ticket or appropriate document. Depending on the auction, there may be a test area where the buyer can drive and inspect the car. Any undisclosed conditions may void the sale or send the deal to arbitration, so know the auction’s arbitration policies.

If everything goes smoothly, which it usually does, you have a happy buyer and you get a check — minus the auction’s fees.

Eckhaus Fleet is one of the largest independent fleet suppliers to the car rental industry.

What's Your Question?

Email your fleet-related questions to Auto Rental News: chris.brown@bobit.com; or directly to Eckhaus Fleet at: tim@EckhausFleet.com.