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Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of putting their car up for sale at an auction. This is often because, in the past, car auctions have been viewed as almost exclusively for those who work in the used car trade. As such, auction sales are commonly associated with big organisations looking to dump large numbers of cars, quickly. For instance, leasing companies, fleet management companies, the police and dealers will sometimes need to change their fleets quickly, without necessarily needing to get the highest price.

Don't be put off. The truth is, if you want a quick sale and are open to a new and exciting experience, car auctions are ideal – particularly if your car is one that's proving difficult to sell privately.

If you wish to sell your car at a physical auction, the first step is to contact the auction house and arrange to bring it in. They'll give you a time to bring it along and their technicians will draw up an accurate inspection for the auction guide. They'll attempt to place a monetary value on the damage that's been done to the car over the years since you bought it.

Your car will be photographed and they'll 'lot' it, parking it in their lot so that it can be viewed by buyers. It's then given a number and put into the auction program (if there is one). This may be a printed program or an online publication selling your car on eBay, or both. When you enter your car to auction you need to include all of the necessary manuals and paperwork, including your car's log book (also known as a V5C registration certificate), handbook, service book, garage receipts and anything else that's relevant.

At this point, you'll need to think about the reserve price. It's a good idea to take the advice of the auctioneers on this, as they have an incentive to charge as much as they think they can get (since they receive at least 10% of the final value of your vehicle). The reserve price is the price below which you do not want to sell your car. Although this involves an extra cost, it ensures that you don't go home having sold your car for less than you think it was worth. If you just want to get rid of the car, however, you do not have to set a reserve price.

Generally, you'll pay the auctioneer a fee for entering your car into the auction. This will be somewhere between £15 and £30. This fee, plus the final percentage commission and the reserve fee, is all that you'll pay.

Once in the auction room, buyers will bid against one another, raising the price in standard increments until one person is left as the highest bidder. All bids are made publicly in an open room in the traditional English-style of auction. One by one the cars are driven into the hall and buyers will take a close look at it. The full details of the car will be read aloud to everyone present before the auctioneer starts the bidding process with an opening bid. A bid on a car in an auction is a legally binding contract that a buyer cannot easily bow out of once they have committed to it.

If the highest bidder doesn't meet your reserve price the auctioneer may attempt to make an agreement between the two of you. Either of you can pull out if the negotiations aren't working, however, if you accept an offer from the buyer the sale will go through.

If you fail to reach an agreement you can keep your car with the auctioneer, agreeing to enter it in future auctions and paying the same entry price each time. They may also charge you a storage price if your car is put through a certain number of auctions. Once your car has been sold, the auction house is responsible for handling all the paperwork and sending you the funds once they have been paid by the buyer.


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