People Who Bid/Bought from Car Auctions

I've been lurking around big auction websites (e.g. Pickles) for the past few days and will try to visit one of the lots this coming weekend taking chances to buy/bid my very first car. How was your experience from bidding to driving the car? How often is it a bargain? How's the bidding competition? How's your car experience after acquiring it?


  • +1

    How was your experience from bidding to driving the car?

    Bought from Pickles, no other bidders, bought at reserve/min price I think. Process was pretty straight forward. Put in bid, notified you won, bank transfer the money, pick up the car.

    How often is it a bargain?

    Only did it once so no idea, but it was about $2k cheaper than similar models at used car yards.

    How's the bidding competition?

    None. Guess it depends on the car?

    How's your car experience after acquiring it?

    No issues but I did have a "friend" (read: mechanic) come with me to check out the car beforehand.

    • Non-live online bidding? what was the car you got then (e.g ex-gov car)?. This really adds to my verdict of where to buy. Almost all the experience were positive.

      • Buying at auctions is great from a price perspective, the downsides are generally all potential downsides that you can mitigate or otherwise work around:

        1. Lack of variety: you're pretty limited in that what's there is what's there, and
        2. No warranty basically of any kind and no test drive, so you've really got to do your own due diligence.

        And uh, ex-long lease I think. Not govt. Can't remember much else I'm sorry, was a while ago.

    • Are you allowed to test drive or only check?

      • +2

        Only check. No test drives.

        • +1

          This is what prevents me from buying auction cars. I just simply need to drive it to find the problems that caused it to find it's way to an auctions.

          • @zeggie: Sometimes it's pretty obvious, other times it's just ex-govt or fleet or lease, which get sold at auctions because it's not worth the effort of the seller to sell to a car yard themselves.

            But yeah - anything that's not ex-govt/fleet/lease, I'd stay away from too.

          • +2

            @zeggie: Most cars are ex fleet or gov. You can tell because they are pretty bog standard, 2 years old, with about 40k km on them, and there'll often be about 30 of the same model in the same colour every single week.
            Sometimes they'll even have council stickers or something on them.

            I figure they probably come in two types. Shared cars, which many people (eg in an office) will jump in and use, and more likely to be a basic cheap runabout. Or personal cars, eg that some manager gets in their package, or an employee leases for themselves. These are more likely to be a little bit nicer and uncommon.

            Shared cars sound more risky, almost like rental cars that might be thrashed. They could even be ex-rental. Personal cars seem like they'd be okay though. Basically single owner cars, with some additional accountability. And all of these cars are regularly maintained, no one gets to mess them up too much.

            But they all end up at auction because of the end of a contract. Absolutely nothing to do with their condition. It's actually less suspicious than private sales, but lack of test drives makes it a gamble nonetheless.

            I've also heard of dealers dumping the previous years unsold models to make room for new. Dad's friend got a new Renault or Peugeot for something like 60% RRP because it was unpopular

  • +1

    Great experience at the fleet auction at Pickles. It was my first car too.

    I was young and excited and pulled the trigger far too quickly. I still think I got a bargain regardless.

    The competition are mostly car dealers. Their bids have to be low enough so that they can on sell the car at a profit. There were maybe 50 others.

    The car ran great. Every car has an inspection slip and feature list on it so look over that in detail. Obviously check the model of the car (I didn't check the model carefully enough myself).

    The auctions go in order by line so note the cars that you are interested in. Have a price in mind for each car, and check the prices on carsales. Don't bid on the first few cars (of that model). The later cars will have less competition.

  • +3

    I'm also lead to believe you receive a free pickle with every successful bid at Pickles.

    • +2

      Do they hide the pickle?

      • Only if you ask them to

        • Sounds like a pain in the tightarse

  • +7

    If dealers dont go for a particular car, be worried.

    Many dealers bid online from their offices, rather than sitting in on the auction.

    Make note of budget, including the fees they charge, as well as stamp duty and anything that needs to be done to the car. Don't get caught up in the frenzy and go over the budget.

    Years back I did hear of dealers purposely bidding up a car when they saw a guy was keen on it, so just be careful

    • This is helpful. Too bad for the guy though but its part of the game

    • +1


      I know some dealer accounts, its illegal (Shill bidding) but they do it anyway. That said this is where a lot of used car dealers get their stock from.

  • +1

    I bought a 2yr old BA Falcon from govt auction 14 years ago. Half retail price of a new one.
    I was bidding against a dealer.
    Car is still running great, drove it to work this morning.

  • +2

    Bought 6 cars through various auctions, last one was a 17 Subaru WRX STI premium.

    Need to know what you're looking at, I call it trash and treasure. most is overpriced trash once you factor in fees, onroads, repairs etc….

    -How was your experience from bidding to driving the car?
    I love it but need patience, just because you want a car doesn't mean you'll get it and at a decent price. I wanted a white auto wagon (Levorg STI) but ended up with a black manual sedan (STI). So also need to be flexible.

    -How often is it a bargain?
    Depends, need to know cars and what you're buying.

    -How's the bidding competition?
    Depends, need to know cars and what you're buying. Forget Toyota or Mazda get it privately or dealership, n00bs buy these cars at stupid prices.

    -How's your car experience after acquiring it?
    I picked good ones all have been great actually, but there is a lot of trash out there. again need to know cars and what you're buying.

    • +4

      Fitting username.

  • +2

    As a bargain hunter I've always gone into the Canberra Pickles car auction super optimistic and always walked away sorely disappointed. Have registered and bid at over 20 Pickles vehicle and computer auctions. Huge waste of my time and petrol.

    Check out more than a hundred negative reviews on the ProductReview website.

    For me, I suspect fake/shill bidding is occuring on most of my bids. It's impossible to prove due to telephone and internet bids. The "best" discounted cars (at my local Canberra Pickles) save only 10% compared to the price of used car dealers in the surrounding suburb. That's terrible value considering the higher risk due to no warranty, no test drive, no inspection, etc.

    Be prepared to pay commission, fees and upsold useless warranty.

    If you've never been to a see an auction then I'd seriously try bidding and winning at a non-vehicle type of auction first. Vehicle auctions tend to move very fast and vehicles are not a generic item since they all differ in milaeage, year, damage/wear, repair costs, owner servicing, etc. Vehicles require a lot more fore thought and planning than say computers or general household.

  • +2

    I bought an old Ra rodeo diesel from pickles a few years ago. Bought it sight unseen and had them deliver it to my house. Ended up having almost new shocks and tyres all round, long range tank and a few other extras. Ended up selling it about 2 or so years later for more than I payed for it. I am a mechanic though so was happy to take the risk.

    Risk on late model stuff is probably fairly low, anything a bit older is probably at the auctions for a reason.

    • Man, It kind of feels like winning the lottery for you. I'm eyeing a 2015 model right now. I agree, logically late models should have lesser chance for problems unless its born with defects

      • +1

        Yeah at the price I paid I didn't really care, was only 5 or 6k at the time, and it worked out surprisingly well.

        What sort of car are you looking at? If it's one that has a fixed price, they have to (iirc) provide the normal statutory warranty. Most of the late model stuff they have at auctions is end of lease stuff, and fairly safe.

  • +1

    Be careful with the auction cars, you need to check them over thoroughly. Fixed price a safer bet, but they are often not priced that keenly so might as well go to a dealer. Sometimes they have bargains though. With fixed price you get 3 month warranty and they run promotions throughout the year, the last one was a bonus $100 gift card and 1 year roadside assistance. Its probably worth heading along to a few auctions though, they do get some very nice cars and if you check it thoroughly and get it for a good price your laughing.

    • +2

      I appreciate the heads up. My strategy right now is not to rush things and hopefully find a bargain

      • Turn your PM's on

  • +2

    I have both won an online car auction / bought a car, and bid many times and had ones passed in, including from eBay and Pickles.
    My car won on eBay had undisclosed issues and cost me a bit to get up to scratch, but was still worth it as was $4k below RedBook price.

    Pickles are often not the bargain you think they are - I spent hours on the Pickles Online auctions thinking people were getting bargains until I actually won one. What they don't make obvious is when there is a reserve and it can be unexpectedly high (depending on their fleet vendor) - Despite it being a competitive auction (with 3-4 active bidders), I was shocked to find out I hadn't actually won the car…! Afterwards I received an email saying that unfortunately I hadn't met some reserve price (I naively didn't know existed) and someone would contact me with a purchase price for the car. The next day a salesperson called with a proposed purchase price for the car - the lowest they would go was too expensive, a few thousand more than I could get the car from a private seller on carsales for, about the same as an advertised dealer price (without any haggling), despite the Pickles car being a fleet car online I hadn't test driven, with no rego, minimal warranty, no RWC, and no trade-in opportunity! They tried to then upsell some of these things but it seemed just like a car dealer then so I figured I may as well just go around and test drive cars at a conventional dealer instead.

  • +4

    A few people here are saying no warranty which is partly true however if you buy a newer car the remainder of the new car warranty transfers with the car.

  • +4

    Bought a VW Golf a few years back. Went and looked at the cars on the yard, got a sense that all the Golfs all just seemed like decent cars that were probably driven by some manager somewhere. Bid online, hadn't actually seen the one we got but the pics and description seemed fine, in line with expectations, so I went for it. After fees and everything, probably saved $2k.
    Car was pretty good, but suffered the common VW gearbox issues. Warranty was still valid though so we sorted it and had no other issues.

    Overall a good experience. Just be very clear on the fees, because they add up. I think I paid 14k on a 12.5k bid

    I kept a close eye on auctions for a while. You can watch live bidding online, Do this for a few weeks to get a sense of how it all works.
    Things I've noticed:

    • Prices generally go around the middle of Redbook trade-in price and private price.
    • Prices are very predictable for common models, eg 20 base model Corollas in a government auction will sell right in that redbook range.
    • Gov/fleet cars all have similar age and mileage, about 2 years and 40k. I'd be wary of anything far from these numbers.
    • But uncommon models can end up very overpriced or underpriced compared to redbook. Seems to depend on the perception/demand for a given model.
    • This may indicate that more private bidders are active for these cars, and/or that dealer bidding is driven not by the value of a car, but the effort for a dealer to sell it. eg Corollas and WRXs could be flipped in a week, while a Renault will sit around for a while longer.

    eg I once saw 2 VW convertibles, same year, no apparent defects in the online descriptions (I didn't see them in person), sell for about the same price. But the Golf was above redbook private price, and the EOS (a higher model) was under trade-in (or at the low end). There should have been $4k between them but it was only a few hundred. I assume because the Golf name is very strong.

    Personally I'd try to get a slightly nice but common car from a government auction. That's what our Golf seemed to be.
    But also, I might also keep an eye on the odd models and do some research, in hopes of a deal (definitely inspect in person though).

  • +3

    We bought a car from Pickles about 2 years ago. We had tracked their auctions for a few months and been along to several in person and had kinda given up on finding what we wanted. We were after a family vehicle - ideally a wagon but the ex government Fords/Holdens were be strongly sought out by the second-hand dealers and going beyond our price range. The auctions themselves can feel a bit intimidating, some of the dealers seem out to make it clear it's their territory, just ignore them.

    My partner spotted a (relatively rare make/model) wagon at a fixed price one evening in the online listing, but soon after it disappeared and reappeared in the auctions instead. I was busy at work and couldn't check it out and could only rely on my wife's inspection, but photos seemed ok, just some minor cosmetic wear inside that matched with the km's and google showed no major warnings from car owners groups. We agreed our price and on auction day my partner made a bid online. Hers was the only bid and it passed in under the (unknown to us) reserve. But she got a call a few hours later to say the owner (one of those salary packaging companies) accepted her bid. We got very very lucky in that we got it for well below red books value, it had been serviced regularly, and while we did have to pay for some small repairs following a full mechanical inspection- as crentist says above, it ended up being an uncommon model that went well underpriced. I imagine the dealers figured it would be too tough/slow for them to flip which is probably true.
    We also got the remainder of the new car warranty.

    Be prepared with the price you are willing to pay, don't go past it, there's always more cars. Don't expect to get a huge bargain - us winning so cheaply made us even more stressed until we could get it thoroughly inspected. We had budgeted an additional allowance for commision, stamp duty, car rego, potential repairs etc and were also lucky enough to be in a position where worst case we could lose that money and not be financially ruined.

  • Bought a Camry Sportivo in 2007. As above, look for Govt. / Fleet vehicles which have full service history and around 3 years old. Private cars can be a lottery especially if no history or lot of K's. Visit Pickles a week before the auction to the check the vehicles.We decided on 3 cars that we would buy before we got there. 3 bidders on the first so backed off. Got the second car as the only bidder. Car finally traded in, in July 2019. Worked perfectly over the years. Bought another second hand Camry still in warranty from dealer this time in the End of Year sales.

  • I bought from a Hail Damaged auction at Pickles a few years ago. Paid deposit, came back a couple of days later with an unregistered vehicle permit and a spare battery and drove it away. Lots of nice cars were minor cosmetic damage from hail were going cheap.
    I've also bought from pickles e-salvage auction. It was more risky (no inspection, photos only) and a pain to collect the car as the insisted it be towed not driven.

    Make sure you know all the fees and details of collection/delivery etc.

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