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A guide to buying cars from the UK's leading online auction site.
4 Mins

Buyer's Guide: Cars

Jess Gibson
Jess Gibson

You may not be overly familiar with buying cars at auction but that doesn’t stop the process of buying, selling, and collecting cars via this method from being an increasingly popular endeavour for car enthusiasts. Up to 60,000 are sold through UK auctions (both on and offline) every month.

Online car auctioneers credit the pandemic for their increased numbers, with electronic used car sales exceeding 85% conversion rates. Many car dealers are witnessing huge stock turnover – rivalling pre-pandemic numbers – whilst experiencing a simultaneous drop in stock volume.

Whether you’re hoping to purchase a nifty little starter car for a reasonable price or searching for your dream classic car, online auctions are the way to go – all the benefits of auction excitement from the comfort and warmth of your own home!

What’s not to love?

For those looking to dip their inexperienced toe in the water but are unsure how to get started, take a look at our buying guide and pick up a few useful tips.  

Work out the ‘Why’

Before you even head online and get set bidding in a car auction, it’s a good idea to think about exactly why you want to buy a car. This will ensure you’ve got a clear picture in mind that’ll prevent you being blindsided by an attractive bargain – cars aren’t something you want to purchase on a whim.

Are you adding another classic to your collection? Planning on selling it for profit? Do you want to dedicate time to lovingly restoring it? Or is it a trustworthy ‘first car’ for the newly qualified driver in your life? Knowing the answer will hone down your search criteria and ensure that you find what’s right for you, easier.

Find a suitable space

Whatever it is you plan on doing with the car you purchase, you’ll need to have a place to store it safely – even if it’s just for a short while.

The more classic or rare the car, the more valuable it is – and, therefore, the more vulnerable it is. If you want to keep that prized possession safe, you’ll need to find somewhere secure to store it and where you have space to work your magic on it if you plan on restoring or tinkering with it.

Look around

Prior to the auction, spend some time scrolling through the online catalogue to get an idea of what it's available. Once you’ve done this, you can then do some research to get an idea of what similar examples of the model in question have been selling for and get a budget in mind before you begin bidding.

Check the detail

When you’re buying online without seeing the vehicle in person, you want to be confident you can see plenty of high-quality photos, showing all angles and any imperfections, along with a thorough description that should tell you all you need to know. If there’s something you want to know that isn’t mentioned in the copy or shown in the images, just ask. Here at William George we can speak to our sellers and get what you need.

Deciphering ‘car speak’

Even trips to the car garage to have your vehicle looked at can be a minefield full of indecipherable jargon if you’re not an expert and you want to be able to decode this so you’re fully up to speed with what you’re potentially trying to purchase. Some of the terms that crop up often are:

Appreciation: When the value of the car has increased over time. Depreciation is of course the opposite of this!

FSH: Full Service History, meaning you’ll have a full record of maintenance and proof of annual services from recognised garages. Also FDSH which means Full Dealer Service History.

HPI check: A service that will provide a report showing if a vehicle is stolen, accident damaged, written off or clocked.

No major mechanical faults: this phrase means that none of the integral car parts or function should have faults, such as the gearbox, engine, or suspension.

Specified faults: these will be listed in the car’s description, indicating exactly what the faults are.

Sold as seen: regardless of the faults listed and shown in the pictures – be they mechanical or cosmetic – the vehicle is sold as is.

Sold with warranted mileage: a report verifying the mileage of the car, produced by an independent inspection, will be the basis upon which the car is sold.

Getting the best deals

When looking around for the perfect place to shop, it’s important to make yourself aware of the buyer’s fees and any additional costs – such as delivery or a vehicle check. This will help you to assess the price differences vs stock volume and see which is the best fit.

Whilst cars are a big purchase to make, the move to online has made it much more accessible and the standards in place more stringent, easing the whole process for first timers and old hands, alike.

At William George we're transparent about fees and make the entire bidding and buying process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Take a look at our current auctions and see what you could be bidding on today!