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Insider’s perspective: Is it better to buy a car on auction or from a dealer?

Inside one of We Buy Cars showrooms

Inside one of We Buy Cars showrooms

Published Mar 16, 2021


JOHANNESBURG - Auctions can be a fantastic place to pick up a great deal, but what are some of the challenges faced by consumers when buying on auction?

According to Janson Ponting, sales director at WeBuyCars, online auctions provide an easy-to-use platform that enables consumers to find “value buys” from the comfort of their homes. It is not only straightforward and convenient but gives consumers access to multiple vehicles that can be viewed and evaluated simultaneously.

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Selection is a big factor

Businesses use auctions to promote special prices, liquidate large quantities of stock and promote unit sales resulting in auctions giving consumers an opportunity to find a vehicle for much less than they would ordinarily pay when buying a vehicle off the showroom floor.

Technology also plays a significant role in buyer’s choice

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Premium online auction platforms provide high quality 360° photographs of the interior and exterior of a vehicle, together with independent mechanical condition reports to support consumers in their quest to find that special vehicle.

Yet Ponting cautions that as always, consumers should take the time to do their homework before deciding on a pre-owned vehicle and this is especially true for vehicles purchased under auction terms and conditions.

Buying cars “As is”

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“Auction terms and conditions effectively means the vehicles are sold ‘as is’ without any warranty whatsoever. By entering a bid, the buyer confirms that he/she was given enough opportunity to inspect the vehicle.

“As such, consumers should therefore be discerning when selecting an online auction platform. Review the company’s social media business ratings and be cognitive of the number of ratings received. Generally-speaking, it is always safer to rely on a big player with many customer reviews.”

He says consumers should be aware of the vehicle’s published retail price, confirm which additional fees and charges may apply and try to test drive the vehicle before deciding on the maximum price they are willing to pay. If possible, buyers should ask a “mechanically inclined” friend or family member to accompany them when they inspect the vehicle.

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One of the historical issues surrounding auctions is the perceived lack of transparency, yet this is something on which WeBuyCars places the utmost importance. All its newly acquired vehicles are made exclusively available through the online “New Arrival Auction”, which runs from Monday to Saturday, giving the public the opportunity to compete with dealers for the upwards of 350 vehicles bought by the WeBuyCars buying team on a daily basis.

WeBuyCars has invested in technology which saves time and effort and allows potential buyers to review and evaluate vehicles online at their leisure. All vehicles have an online Dekra condition report providing an independent evaluation and detailed 360° photos are available. Furthermore, sales staff providing personalised service are ready to assist with the vehicle evaluation and sales process, Ponting notes.

He explains that not all auction houses are created equally, and there are several additional aspects that differentiate WeBuyCars’ online auction from traditional auction houses: “Firstly, test drives are welcome as opposed to many other auction houses which do not allow consumers an opportunity to test drive a vehicle before the auction commences. Registration is easily done online, bid prices includes VAT and WeBuyCars charges a flat R1500.00 admin fee compared to auctioneers that add additional percentage-based commissions and fees to the bid price.”

“Auctions will always give consumers the opportunity to pick up a bargain, but it comes with more risk as the vehicle is sold “as is” without any warranty. The WeBuyCars New Arrival Auction platform is easy to use and reliable but with any big-ticket purchase, the onus is on the buyer to do their homework before deciding to bid. Ultimately, the decision on whether someone feels comfortable to bid on an online auction platform comes down to personal preferences, but it is an option that is fast growing in popularity and we are confident that this trend will continue.” Ponting concludes.