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What Are Public Car Auctions?

Public and government car auctions usually sell vehicles that have been seized by the government or decommissioned by government agencies.
Vehicles purchased at public car auctions may come with hefty maintenance fees.
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  • Written By: S. Gonzales
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Car Leasing Made Simple, Uwimages
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Public car auctions are auctions that are meant to sell cars to private consumers within an auction format. Some private buyers prefer buying vehicles at public car auctions because they can be purchased at below fair market value. However, consumers should be aware that they are solely responsible for spotting scams and cars that are not worthwhile investments. In many public car auctions, vehicles are sold on an "as is" basis and sales are final.

Car auctions can take many forms. Consumers may be able to purchase vehicles from online auto auctions, wholesale auto auctions, public auto auctions, police and government auctions and insurance and salvage auto auctions. Auctions that are usually made available to the public without any extra requirements are online auto auctions, public auto auctions and police and government auctions.

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Online auto auctions present a few challenges to the novice consumer. First, since the vehicle is purchased remotely, the potential buyer cannot inspect the vehicle personally. This is why it is important for the potential buyer to do as much research as he can on the vehicle with the information that he is provided. Using a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to run a thorough title search can spare a potential buyer the loss of his investment. Online auctions may also provide buyers with an escrow service option with which the seller is not paid until the buyer receives the car; in addition, buyer and seller can agree to have the vehicle inspected by certified mechanics or other professionals for damages after the car is purchased.

Police and government auctions are public car auctions that may be prematurely dismissed by the individual consumer. These types of auctions are open to the average consumer and usually sell vehicles that have been seized by the government or decommissioned by government agencies. Consumers should exercise the same type of caution at these auctions as they would at regular public car auctions. Vehicles coming from this source can suffer from the same problems as vehicles from other auctions. Title histories should be researched, as these vehicles may have been abandoned for years, have been stolen and can come with hefty maintenance fees.

Regardless of the type of public car auctions preferred, consumers need to exercise common sense and caution when purchasing cars at an auction. They should become familiar with the type of vehicle they are interested in buying and research its value and its title history. All contracts should be closely examined and no vehicle should be purchased without the benefit of a close inspection.

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