Jeff Aherne discusses used car auctions on Motormouth

Note: This article is a summary of Jeff’s contribution to the Newstalk Motormouth show which aired on Monday 22nd March 2010. A recording of the show is available online, just  select “Archives” when the window opens and scroll down and click “Motormouth” and select the specific show by date.

An auction is basically a sale of a product or item to someone who bids higher for the product than somebody else. It’s a controlled environment in that there is an auctioneer who accepts or rejects bids.

The Venue

On Tuesday 16th March, I went along to Wilsons auctions to remind myself of the process. In describing the venue, it’s warm and airy. There’s plenty of seating and it’s quite bright. There are screens to view and a programme is available with all of the vehicles on it.  Food, tea and coffee can be purchased. All the usual facilities exist in a modern auction venue such as toilets etc.  I’ve also been to Merlin auctions and again the facilities are modern. So it’s an inviting place to be. People don’t stare at you when you walk in and they don’t point and whisper. People are too busy. It’s not a place for Children though. In fact children are not permitted before during or after the sale for any purpose whatsoever. There is a cover charge of €5 at the door. I asked about this and to be blunt it’s to keep undesirables (and that’s the polite version) out.

The Buzz at auctions

For someone who spends a lot of their time trying to make the world a safer place for buying vehicles, you can forget what its like to be at the cold face. If you love cars, then this is the place to be. There is a buzz about an auction. It’s exciting. From talking to Ricky Wilson, there is a message that everyone including dealers and private punters are treated equally and I think Merlin will agree that everyone is welcome.

The People at auctions

Again the auctions are open to everyone. However there is a severe lack of women. It is a male dominated environment at least 95% but there’s no need to be. Half the population are women and they have the power to spend. I think a lady’s night is the way to go. Maybe there’s a business for a female mechanic to view the cars and help other women bid? I’ll even go a step further, I’ll arrange for one or two of our engineers to be available on a lady’s night to answer questions and I may even throw in a Cartell check. I think a female mechanics should be there on the night. Cartell has about 18% women using the site. It’s not about Merlin or Wilsons getting more punters rather trying to get some bargains for women.  There were two women on the night bought a 99 Bora for a €1000. Why shouldn’t other women get that chance?

The Bargains at auctions

Apart from the 1999 Volkswagen Bora above, I was tempted to buy a 2003 Mercedes E270 CDI for a measly €8,300. There was 102,000 miles on the clock not warranted but that wouldn’t be an issue for me given the ability I have to check the vehicles. A dealer has a 04 on for €16750 with 89,000 miles on the clock.

Checking the Vehicles

The biggest fear every private person who is not a mechanic or automotive engineer has at an auction is buying a lemon. There are a couple of things you must do before bidding on a vehicle. Go and view the vehicles before the auction. Bring an automotive engineer or mechanic to inspect the vehicles. Pick three or four vehicles that you want to buy and have all of them inspected. As you know we brought car history checking to Ireland and I feel it’s imperative that the vehicle is checked by us or one of the other companies doing history checks. It’s a cheap way of verifying the vehicles history and if there is anything about the vehicle that doesn’t feel right then walk away. I do like Merlin auctions for the grading system in place and the fact that areas of damage are highlighted to the punter, however I believe that all the vehicles should be independently checked by Cartell or the AA.

The Future

Both Merlin and Wilsons have an online facility to purchase vehicles. The jury seems to be out on whether it’s the way of the future with Dave Byrne of Merlin excited about the internet offering but Ricky Wilson is less enthusiastic. If you want to buy online, it’s imperative that you have seen the vehicles with your own eyes or someone else had on your behalf. Obviously you can’t get the same buzz sitting at a PC but for those whom have long distances to travel it’s a great idea.

Important Aspects of the Auction

  • Get a bidding number by paying a deposit to the auction house
  • Use this number to bid
  • There is an opening price which the auctioneer will set until someone bids
  • The bids go up incrementally and can vary from €50 to €1000
  • You can’t retract a bid
  • All private vehicles include VAT
  • You can pay by cash, bank draft or bank transfer
  • No warranty
  • If you default on payment you can loose the deposit
  • Collect the vehicle as soon as you can as holding charges can be applied
  • A private purchaser still has rights under the sale of goods and supply of service act 1980.
  • If the vehicle is not roadworthy you must give an undertaking not to drive that vehicle on public roads.
  • Some vehicles may not sell on the day as the vendor has a minimum asking price or reserve

Other Auction Houses

M6 Car Auctions– Galway

North East Car Auctions – Louth

Top Gear Auctions – Monaghan

Claremorris Motor and Machinery Auctions – Mayo

Irish Car Auctions – Cavan

(If you would like your auction house listed on this posting please contact us)