Metro Detroit Auto Auctions


Everything You Need to Know About Detroit Car Auctions

This page contains a large amount of material on avoiding scams and pitfalls when it comes to Detroit auto auctions, and it also contains specific information about auction locations and companies that we are familiar with.

As you well know, you can save a lot of money when you go to seized car auctions, but you've got to know how to avoid scams, how to spot a damaged and repaired vehicle, and also be aware of some controversies like the vehicles that were flooded by Hurricane Katrina that are still being auctioned around the country.

An informed consumer is a happy consumer, so take the time to digest all the information on this page and then you can go find the car of your dreams that will serve you well for a very long time to come!

Tip #1: Do Your Own Title Check Even If The Auction Company Already Did One

The first thing that you need to know, and possibly the most important, is to do a title check on the vehicle that you're planning to bid on. The auto auction companies usually do a basic title check that saves money for them and makes them look good in front of the consumer, but if you really want to know where your car has spent the previous years, whether it's been in any accidents, and whether it has undergone any serious repairs, you'll want to do your own title check.

There are many different title check companies online that are reliable and affordable, but we most highly recommend Their nationwide database is the most comprehensive that exists. When you enter the VIN number of the vehicle in question, you'll find out if it has ever been in any severe accidents on the road, if it has been flooded (see our Hurricane Katrina information a little further down the page), if it has any problems with the odometer or any other parts of the instrument panel, and of course if it's an outright lemon!

In terms of the previous owners, you'll find out exactly how many hands the car has been passed down through, how high the mileage really is, and whether or not it has ever been a rental or fleet car.

If the car has been in any accidents or has required any major service, you'll find that out too. If the airbags have ever been deployed in an accident situation, that will be on the report. You'll also find out about any frame damage, plus complete service records.

Not every title check company will have information on your vehicle. Their reports are based on the information that is supplied to them by motor vehicle agencies, police departments, fire departments, repair shops, and auto auctions across the United States and Canada. This is true of as well, but it's also true that they have the most comprehensive database in the entire continent, with more than six billion records. We're not professionals, just consumers like you, but this company has always served us well and that's why we recommend them to you.

Tip #2: Know Your Options

You certainly have more options than just attending a local auction. Online auto auctions are a great bet as long as you choose a reputable company and make sure that you're protected to the fullest extent of the law.

Two companies that we would highly recommend are eBay Motors, Dearborn Party Bus, and Yahoo Auctions. These are a couple of the most well-known and well-respected companies in the world, and both have certain protections in place to ensure that you are not scammed. Be sure to read their policies before you agree to anything, and make sure that you know exactly what you are responsible for as well as what the seller is responsible for.

If you prefer an in-person setting, you can take your pick from public auto auctions that are open to everyone, and police auctions and government auctions that are generally open to everyone. If you happen to be a car dealer you'll have access to wholesale auto auctions. Most of the information on this page will apply to both online auctions and offline ones, but note that our specific information on online auctions is here.

Government Car Auctions in Detroit

Tip #3: Know What It's Like Before You Go

Car auctions can seem crazy if you've never attended one before. There are several lanes of cars driving through, with people bidding on each one and inspecting the cars at the same time. HINT: Don't think that you can inspect these cars on the fly and know if they are good enough to buy! Arrive EARLY. Get a good look at all the cars and be sure you do those title checks.

When the auction starts, keep an eye on the traffic light behind the auctioneer. If it's red, that means the car in question has problems. It may have been rebuilt. The mileage may be incorrect. There may be issues with the title. Most of the bidders will drop out of sight when they see that red light come on, because the risk of taking a rebuilt car is simply not worth it.

If the light is amber, or yellow, it usually means that the title is in transit. In this case, the seller is usually right there and you will deal with them in person in the closing room. This is a tough call because you've got to fork over the cash without receiving the title. Ideally you would want to go for a car with a green light, which indicates that they have the title in possession and there are no problems with it.

No matter what color that light is, be sure to get it in writing. Make sure that your contract specifically states what color the light was during the auction, and make sure that's correct before you sign anything. Should a green light car turn out to have red light problems lurking within, you'll be protected by that contract.

Detroit Car Auctions

Tip #4: A Flooded Car is a No-Go, No Matter How Low The Price May Be

There are cars currently being auctioned around the country that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes. These cars were flooded with ocean water. Salt water. Salt plus water plus metal... that equals corrosion and rust. Even if the car is currently in working condition, it will likely begin to fail soon after your purchase due to its previous damage. If you take the time to do that title check as we have recommended, you may find that the cars with the lower asking prices are indeed some of these flooded cars. As always, be cautious, be careful, and be smart. A car purchase should be an investment, even if it is a low-priced auction.

Tip #5: Be Prepared to Pay More Than Your Bid

A beginner may not realize that he or she will be paying more for their car than their winning bid. There is a buyer's premium that you'll have to pay, which is sometimes determined by percentage (for instance, five percent of the winning bid), and sometimes defined in exact dollars.

During the auction it's very easy to get caught up in all that action, but remember that if your winning bid plus buyer's premium add up to more than the fair market value of the car, then you have wasted your time. If that happens, you'd have been better off purchasing the car from an individual on your block or in the classified ads. Remember that the point of an auto auction is to save yourself money. Don't let the rushed atmosphere push you into higher prices. Keep a cool head and be smart.

Tip #6: Make Sure Your Hot Car Isn't a HOT Car

Stolen cars have their own set of problems, not the least of which is inaccurate titles! With a legitimate sale you can check that title for the information that you need. With a stolen car, there may be different VIN numbers on the hood, the trunk, and the doors.

That also happens to be the best way to check for a stolen car. Don't be afraid to open it up, get under the hood, and check the doors for those VIN numbers. Make sure they match. If they don't, you know right away that the car was either stolen or was in a serious wreck, and parts have been replaced with parts from another car.

If it turns out that the VIN numbers do match, you'll want to run that title check at that point. Make sure that there's nothing shady in your vehicle's past! Just because it's not stolen doesn't mean it hasn't been rebuilt. Double check everything.

Bonus Tips: Keep These in Mind!

When it comes to running those title checks, you'd be wise to sign up for an account at your title check company of choice right now. Some companies offer an unlimited number of VIN number checks for a certain number of days, and since you'll be checking several during that time period, it will be well worth it.

Check to see if the auction house will accept a check, or if they'll need a bank draft. Also ensure that you have more than enough money to cover the cost of your winning bid and buyer's premium! A bounced check would be both embarrassing and costly, so be sure to double check that balance!

Arrive early, and be sure to bring your Kelley Blue Book with you. Better yet, bring that smartphone along and you can check all the information on their website during the auction. This is one place where today's technology really comes in handy. Even an in-person local auto auction becomes an online auto auction in that sense! If you can't do that, or if you don't have internet on your phone, why not set it up with a friend so that you can call them during the auction and have them run the VIN numbers for you on their laptop or desktop computer? That may turn out to be a quicker process, depending on what kind of connection you have (wi-fi versus edge, 3g versus 2g...).

We don't recommend bidding on a car that doesn't have the title immediately available, but if you do, make sure that your contract states exactly how long it will take to get that title. Should it take longer than the contract states, they will be in breach of contract and you can get your money back.

Resources for Auto Auctions in Detroit

Now that you know all the facts, you're ready to attend your first auction. Go ahead and take a look at the auction companies listed on the left of this page. You can contact any one of them for information on upcoming auctions, or continue to our links below about used cars and online car auctions!