"There are two types of public auctions," explains Steven Lang, who runs a used car dealership in the Atlanta area and once owned a dealer auction (not open to the public). "There are government auctions and there are public auctions." Both are full of potential pitfalls. Here's a quick rundown on both and 10 tips for getting the most out of either. That is, if you dare to venture into the auction pit.
Do your research. Check Kelly Blue Book for the proper price for the vehicle, including its mileage and apparent condition. Always downgrade the condition by one ranking for government auctions. Also, do some smart used-car research, such as checking Consumer Reports for reliability and the frequencies of particular repairs, and checking our road test information if it's a recent model vehicle.