Cars at government and public auctions sell on visual inspection alone. So look at everything and look for telltale signs of repairs such as paint overspray, less than smooth sheet metal, puddles under the vehicle, scored brake discs, an uneven stance and a million other details. Use your nose, hands and legs, too. If a car smells musty or the carpeting is wet, run away.
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.