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Auctions reinvented

Auctions reinvented

“It all comes down to data” says Calvin Fisher on why selling your old car (or buying a new one) via auction is your best bet in 2019 

But first some perspective - I've done it all, physical car dealerships, Gumtree, Autotrader both online and in print.  I’m even comfortable dabbling in the Facebook marketplace for a bargain. On a few recent occasions however, I decided to throw caution to the wind and type the word 'auction' into Google and immediately got swept up down the rabbit hole that followed. 

Firstly, there are several options at your disposal but for the sake of brevity, I'll use Auction.co.za as an example. It’s online based so, easier still - a website with a community of over 25 000 users, with around 3 500 cars in stock and a history of over 250 000 cars sold thus far. 

But before we get lost in statistics, it's good to remember why the idea of an auction discourages us to begin with. How about the fact that cars sold this way have previously been repossessed by banks and the like, from people who typically couldn’t afford to hold onto them? And folks like that well, and I say this with the greatest of empathy – but most likely weren’t able to keep up with servicing and general care either. 

Historically, this made the potential of buying a lemon greater, as did the fact that you wouldn’t get to drive the vehicle before buying it. Add to that your pay-to-play deposit, tax and commissions and the growing costs are rather different to shopping at your traditional ’brick and mortar’ auction house.

So how do things fare buying or selling a car in this digital age?

Pros

Well, according to their website, the process on Auction.co.za and similar websites is as simple as registering and browsing their stock or adding it with the Buy or Sell tabs. Easy and with no hidden costs.

  • As an oft buyer and seller, I am greatly relieved at the prospect of avoiding shady buyers bound to offer me dodgy payment plans in lieu of car-breaking test drives. No thanks.
  • Prefer a physical car dealership? Well consider this, some of their stock are in fact purchased from auctions and marked up.
  • Auction.co.za give you the option to view the prospective car in the metal.
  • They will also send a professional to conduct an inspection on your behalf and advise on any repairs.
  • The potential for a bargain is rare, but it exists if you’re prepared to do your research. Online website make that easier.
  • They’re no longer just repo’d vehicles – now that the power to auction your vehicle has become mainstream, private sellers have taken to the platform. And you can add to that a great contingent of fleet vehicles. Low mileage rental and demo stock make for excellent deals.

Cons

Voetstoots, or ‘as is’ – unfortunately what you see is what you get, there are no safety nets, warranties or guarantees. But buying via auction.co.za’s platform you get the security of receiving a detailed inspection report. 

  • If you’re the tactile sort, not being able to kick the tyres, touch the metal and smell the leather can be a downer, ditto not being able to take it for a drive. This is a valid fear especially since some photos can be more flattering than others.
  • It doesn’t seem to be where the old cars are. I own an old Toyota Celica Supra and Chevrolet 4100, both classics in their own right, but unlike dealerships - online auctions only offer a limited number of models on their databases. But they do offer trucks and farming equipment!

In summation, auctions are a good option especially if you’re a shrewd buyer or pedantic researcher. You’re ultimately buying with your eyes and with anything mechanical, that can be a risk. 

Of the two cars I’ve purchased personally from a dealership in the last two years – one’s gearbox seized four months later and, via a loophole, I was held liable for its very expensive repair. On the other, a window winder broke just days after driving it off the lot, and with much protest I managed to get the dealership to repair it at their cost. When you choose second-hand, you can’t avoid risk. So why not try out an auction platform?

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