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Insider's Guide To: Selling At Auction

Selling a classic car at auction offers many advantages, not least realising a higher price than other forms of selling if the conditions are right. It can save you time dealing with possible buyers when selling privately. You also avoid having to re-advertise the car if a buyer pulls out of a private sale, which can also blight the car to other potential buyers. 

By contrast, selling at auction streamlines the whole process. Even if you sell the car for slightly less you can be better off when you consider the cost of the time spent dealing with prospective purchasers and going on test drives. Of course, they tell you they’re insured to drive your car, but are they?

Check out several auction companies and look at their previous sales to see what they sell and how successful their sale rate is. Find out what fees you to have to pay, too.

Typical fees:

• Entry fee, which varies between auction houses

• Cataloguing fee

• Vendor’s commission

Today, with the proliferation of auction houses, there’s a lot of competition for cars and, if yours is desirable, there can be room to negotiate. However, don’t be tempted by a low commission or tempting deal if the auction company is not the best platform to sell your car, as you could lose more cash by letting your car go for a lesser amount. Cars can be sold with a reserve price, below which it won’t sell, or without reserve. Discuss the reserve price and be realistic about the minimum you’re prepared to accept, with commissions deducted. It serves no one’s interest to run a car through auction that doesn’t sell. 

Some auction houses exert pressure and offer inducements, such as waiving or reducing fees, to consign a car at no reserve. This guarantees a sale for the auction house and can generate initial excitement among buyers who are tempted at the prospect of “pinching” a car below market value. But be wary: you could end up with the prospect of letting your car go for far less than it’s worth or even bidding on it your self - effectively buying it back – to prevent it going for too little. Then you could face paying the buyer’s premium as well as vendor’s commission to hold on to your asset. Not the great deal it may have seemed at the outset.

Other points to consider:

• Is your car the only one of its type in the sale? It might help the car stand out, but if there are others it could attract more marque enthusiasts to the sale. In that case consider how yours measures up in condition and value. If yours stands out, fine. If not, may be think about the reserve, or wait for another sale where the competition isn’t so stiff.

• Get your paperwork sorted. Organise registration documents, history, authentication, invoices and photographic restoration records, and present it neatly.

• If you supply digital images of restoration and video clips of the car being driven, some auction houses can upload these or make them available to interested parties.

• In the UK, pre-1960 cars don’t need an MoT roadworthiness test, but you can have the car voluntarily tested. Prospective buyers will be greatly reassured by an MoT ticket on a pre-1960 car. 

• Settle any outstanding finance owing on the car well in advance of the auction as otherwise you might find your car is refused entry to the sale.

• Be honest. If the car’s been the subject of an insurance write off and repaired (Category C or D), declare this. Many auction houses now run HPI vehicle data checks when a car sells and some auction houses ask vendors to state any insurance loss history in the contract. In these cases, if you don’t declare it, you will be liable for resulting costs if the buyer withdraws.That’s why you really need to read the contract and all the terms and conditions. The small print will also explain the procedure if a seller pulls the car prior to auction. In these circumstances, you could find you owe the auction company the commission they would have earned from selling at reserve price. 

Before a sale:

• Consign the car as early as possible to maximise pre-sale advertising. With rarer cars, it also gives the auction firm time to contact buyers they think might have a particular interest in your car.

• Prepare and present the car as well as you can

• Offset money spent on remedial work against the potential added value and/or saleability

• Get the car to the auction as early as possible to make the most of the preview

• Driving the car to a sale is useful as this can be mentioned during the auction

• If you trailer a car to auction, factor this into your costs

After the sale:

• Payment terms vary. Make sure you know how long you have to wait for your money and you’re comfortable with that. Additionally, some auction companies can arrange post-sale transactions if the car doesn’t sell on the hammer

• In the event of a no-sale, be familiar with terms and conditions relating to removing your car, otherwise it may be taken away to storage and you could be charged for removal, storage and release

By Al Suttie

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