Buying a salvage vehicle at auction can be a great way to find a deal – especially if you know how to make repairs or have a reliable mechanic. It is also a way to pick up valuable or hard to find parts. 
If you are new to buying salvage at auction, or in general, here are some tips.

Not all salvage is created equal

Some damage, such as flood, fire or a bent frame can be costly and difficult to repair to a roadworthy state. Unless you are in the market for scrap or parts, you should carefully consider the risks before buying one of these vehicles. If you are looking for a salvage car that has the least amount of damage, finding a theft recovery can be a big win. These vehicles often have little or no damage. Likewise, older cars with minor crash damage are often given a salvage title based on the fact that they have a lower pre-damaged value and the cost to repair exceeds that value. These vehicles can be a great deal for the right buyer. 

Know what you are getting into.

At a salvage auction, vehicles are sold “as is”, with no warranty. While you can view a vehicle prior to auction, you cannot start the car. Keep in mind that some damage may not be visible.
Also, understand what’s need to register the car after repairs. In Australia, the Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR) is a nationally coordinated database of vehicles that have been assessed as written-off. WOVR vehicles are not recorded on the Written-Off Vehicle Register and, for all intents and purposes, are treated as regular vehicles when it comes to registration (must pass a roadworthy test, etc.). Repairable Write-Offs must be repaired in compliance with Australian standards. Once repaired, the vehicle must pass a Write-Off Inspection (name varies by state) and customers must provide receipts for parts and services to repair the vehicle in question. After the vehicle passes inspection, all other standard checks must be completed to register the vehicle.
Remember, a WOVR vehicle will always be recorded in the WOVR and it is a legal requirement to notify a buyer of its WOVR status when selling the vehicle – so expect to get a lower price and have a tougher time finding a buyer.

Get ready to bid 

Do your research ahead of time and identify the cars you are interested in. Get an idea of what the vehicle’s trade-in value was pre-salvage. The auction listing should provide a description of the damage and images. You can also view a vehicle during designated times prior to an auction. Understand repair costs for the make and model you are looking at – and don’t forget labour costs. If you are looking for parts, research what parts are selling for. Determine ahead of time the maximum you will bid and stick to it. Generally, a salvage car that has been completely rebuilt is worth about 60% of the value of the same car if it had a clean title.
Let’s say the car you are looking at has a trade-in value of $10K. That would be a salvage value of approximately $6k. Subtract from that estimated repair costs and you’ve got your maximum bid. That’s not considering fees or transportation costs to collect your vehicle… more about that in tips #4 and #5.
Auctions can be intimidating for first-timers. Consider online bidding through a system like PicklesLIVE – it’s convenient, private and you can participate from anywhere.
Whether online or onsite, be sure to register ahead of time!

Be ready to pay if you win and don’t expect to drive your car home 

If you win a salvage auction, be ready to pay the full amount by cash, cheque, credit card or transfer. Finance is not available.
Understand that the winning bid does not include processing, administration and online bidding fees, so understand those ahead of time. Also, because salvage vehicles cannot legally be driven off an auction house lot, be prepared for the cost of a tow truck or trailer to transport your vehicle. Cars with collision damage often require the use of a forklift to be moved and loaded onto a tilt tray. Note that minor forklift damage can occur in the process.

Buy from a reputable source

Even before you start checking out specific cars, check out the lot or auction house where you plan to make your purchase. Ensure that their cars are procured from legitimate sources – like insurers, governments and banks and that the business has a long-standing reputation for successful salvage sales.
And, particularly if you plan to attend and do vehicle walk-arounds in person, ensure that the lot is clean, secure and takes precautions to protect customer safety as well as the environment. At Pickles, we are proud to be accredited with the highest occupational health & safety rating in Australia/New Zealand: the AS/NZS 4801:2001, as well as an Environmental Management System certificate.
With a little knowledge, research and the right expectations, buying salvage at auction can be a good deal.
Looking for a salvage auction near you?
Pickles is the largest auto and equipment auctioneer in the country, conducting more than 150 vehicle, industrial and salvage auctions each month across 20+ branches. See upcoming salvage events.

01 Jun