Online auto auctions work in much the same way that regular, live auctions do. Typically, a seller sets up an auction listing and consumers bid against each other for the right to own the vehicle. However, with online auto auctions, there is one important distinction: consumers enjoy the benefit of doing all their bidding with their fingertips.
Participating in an online auto auction offers many advantages to the online consumer. A consumer's search for the right car is often simplified, as he can easily search for cars by make, model, year, color, starting price or other factors. This can save time and open up markets to a consumer that would otherwise remain closed without the benefit of online auto auction listings.
The ease with which a consumer can obtain a car through an online auto auction may prove to be attractive to the average consumer, but he should not make the mistake of allowing himself to be taken advantage of. An online auto auction can give consumers greater selection at better prices, but sellers may not always represent their vehicles accurately. It is the duty of the consumer to protect himself against dishonest sellers who intentionally post false information or simply forget to add pertinent details to their listings.
As a protective measure, a consumer should first obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of every vehicle that he is interested in purchasing. Reputable websites and trustworthy sellers should make this information easily accessible and should not have a problem verifying it if asked to do so. After the VIN is obtained, consumers should then run title searches on the vehicles. Detailed information about the vehicles' pasts, including accidents, repairs, lists of previous owners and the fair market values of the vehicles should be used to determine if the vehicles are suitable to be bid on during online auto auctions.
Consumers should also consider going above and beyond basic title searches to ensure a good purchase. Generally, investing in the most detailed title search available is advisable, since consumers will need all the information they can get, as they are not present with vehicles during online auto auctions. The best online auto auctions will offer consumers extra options like providing escrow services so that payment is contingent upon acceptable receipt of the vehicle. Consumers can also explore the option of having a certified, professional mechanic inspect the vehicle before he bids on any online auto auction listing.