Buy a Car at an Arizona Auto Auction
Buying a used car in Arizona is fun and easy when you attend a public auto auction! Auction staff are trained to help out new customers with the auction bidding process so that you can save money on a car, truck, or SUV without worry. Most first time auto auction bidders are surprised at how seamless the process is. In fact, you will probably enjoy yourself in the exciting atmosphere of a public car auction in Arizona.
What do I need to bring with me in order to attend the auctions and bid?
All you need is a valid U.S. driver’s license. Friends and relatives are welcome to accompany you and will not require identification. You should also bring your preferred form of payment. Most locations accept credit and debits cards – while all locations accept cash. Checks are usually not allowed as a payment at public auto auctions. However, you may contact the location before your arrival to verify or to ask for an exception.
Where do they cars come from? Are they damaged? Are they drivable?
Most of the vehicles at Arizona Auto Auctions are from local dealers and private sellers. These include: trade-ins, bank repos, police impounds, abandoned tow lot vehicles, and private individuals selling their own cars. All vehicles are sold with a clean title, unless otherwise stated. Typically, 99% of the auction’s inventory will have clean titles without any salvage history. If you are unsure, just ask before you offer to buy the vehicle. Auctions are required by law to inform you of the title status of the vehicle before you purchase it.
All vehicles are typically drivable unless the auctioneer states otherwise. You are also welcome to bring a mechanic along with you to inspect the vehicle you are interested in prior to placing your bid. Some locations also offer warranties at an additional cost.
How long does it take before I can take the auction car home after I buy it?
Once the bidding ends and you are the winner, you will go into the auction office to pay the balance. After that, you will be given a temporary tag that will allow you to legally drive the vehicle until the auction processes your title. (You are responsible for obtaining insurance for the vehicle)
Can I arrive early to look at the auction vehicles before the bidding starts?
Yes – most locations are open at least an hour prior to the start of the auto auction to allow public buyers to look over the vehicles at their own pace. Some locations are open even earlier, while others may allow you to visit on non-auction days. Contact the auction location** to verify their preview policies for public buyers.
When it comes to buying a used car, proper inspection of potential buys will save a lot of money, time and trouble in the long run. While there are always diamonds in the dirt, there are also plenty of money shredders out there. Here’s a proper, no-nonsense guide on what to check when looking at a used car you are interested in buying.
Used Car Buying Tips
The exterior: some rust is okay but not everywhere and pay extra attention to rust underneath the car and on the chassis.
First thing you get to see when checking out a used car is the outside. Depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle, some wear and tear is expected, especially on the more exposed bodywork elements:
• Front and rear bumper
• Side skirts
These bodywork elements are most prone to be involved in minor accidents, like the driver being too optimistic when lateral parking or a late brake from another car at the stoplight. Check for any dents, bruises and chipped paint on the outside of the vehicle.
Superficial scratches will always buff out, but make sure there is no “orange peel” texture on the paint. This would show that either the bodywork element was repainted poorly or, even worse, they applied paint over rust spots. Those will inevitably find their way through the paint in the future.
Speaking of rust, make sure to check the underside of the car. Superficial rust is normal on components exposed directly to the road (arms, springs, exhaust), especially if the car has some miles on the odometer.
If you’re buying a used car in from one of the northern states, expect that salt spread on snowy days might have done a number on the car you’re interested in. The rule of thumb is, superficial rust is an ally in negotiating the price down. Rusted bits of metal falling off the car—look somewhere else for a ride. Don’t forget to check the trunk, especially at the suspension mounts and beneath the trunk floor cover.
Put yourself in front of the car, crouch down at fender level. Front there, look along the fender, doors and rear panels. Does it look wobbly instead of flowing and straight? Chances are, the car was T-boned and repaired, and you might want to ask the owner about that.
While you are in front of the car, turn on the headlights and see if they work properly. While halogen bulbs are rather cheap to fix, Xenon and LED headlights will cost a pretty penny to repair if not working properly.
Finally, the windows. Fine scratches on the windshield are normal with age. However, you must inspect any chips with the utmost attention. While small ones can be fixed at specialized shops, any windshield crack that spreads beyond the chip means a new windshield and an extra cost if you decide to buy the car.
On the inside—check those pedals and steering wheel!
Get inside the car and check the cosmetics and functionality. Here are the key elements to check on the inside of a use vehicle:
• Upholstery—no tears or heavily embedded stains
• Check all interior lighting
• Is the AC working?
• Is there a central display? Play some music, check if all speakers work
• Try adjusting the side mirrors
• Check seat adjustments, both for the driver and passenger side
• Is the AC working? What about heating?
While it’s illegal in many states, some owners may tamper with a car’s odometer to make it more appeasing and attempt to place a higher price sticker as a result. However, they are usually not going the extra mile to cover their mischief. Is the car you’re looking at surprisingly low mileage for its age? Usually, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
Still, have a quick look at the steering wheel upholstery and pedal covers. There is no way a 40k mile car will have worn pedals and shredded upholstery on the steering wheel.
Engine—Make sure you are getting a cold start—that’s the best way to diagnose various issues with, for example, oil consumption. Start the car and check the rearview for any blue cloud coming from the exhaust. That is a clear indication of oil being burnt by the engine and could indicate a head gasket failure.
Did the engine take more than one attempt to start? Did it sound like the starter could barely turn the engine to get it started? Both these signs could show either a faulty battery (cheaper to replace) or a faulty starter (more expensive to replace).
Let the car idle for a bit. If the RPM indicator still fluctuates at idle even after a few seconds of running, chances are something is up with either the idler motor (for old models) or one of the injectors.
Once the engine ran for a bit, pop the hood and check for the following:
• Oil leaks
• Coolant level
• Any specks of oil in the coolant
• Foam on the dipstick (indicates head gasket failure)
• Cracked coolant/AC hoses
• Sulphate deposits around battery poles
• Radiator/intercooler damage
Overall, a well-running engine shouldn’t throw out any other sounds apart from its natural rumble. When test driving the car, ensure it grows constantly through the revs and doesn’t jerk when releasing the throttle.
Drivetrain—Don’t hog the gears, sir
Gearboxes are generally expensive to repair, especially automatic ones. Make sure to test drive the car properly, allow it to go through all the gears. Listen for any suspicious bumps or metal rubbing when shifting gears or when starting from a standstill. Ensure the gear changes are smooth, both on the up shift and the downshift.
If there’s a paddle shifter, play with the gears for a bit, see how the car reacts. Generally, if no weird sounds or unexpected shifting happens, the gearbox should be ready to go.
Brakes—no rest for the calipers
Before we get into this, remember: brake pads and brake discs are supposed to wear off and thus will eventually need replacing. Worn pads and discs may help you haggle the price down, but do not necessarily mean trouble.
What you should really pay attention to are brake calipers. One of the following faults occurs in troublesome brake calipers:
• Fluid leak—usually around the brake inlet or gasket
• Stuck cylinder—fluid won’t get it to press against the pads or retract anymore
Have a look for any brake fluid leaks. If none are found, drive the car for a bit, and check the temperature of the rims on each wheel. If one of the rims is warmer than the others, chances are you are dealing with a stuck brake caliper.
A spongy brake pedal indicates brake fluid may contain water or other impurities and requires replacement.
Suspension—we don’t want squeaking
Finally, the suspension. The state of the shocks, springs and steering elements of a used car depends highly on the roads it was driven onto and the driving style of the owner. While stationary, try to wobble the rear and front ends of the car by pressing on it. It should normally bounce right back without any squeaking. Hearing any weird sounds? It may be time to inspect further.
When driving the vehicle, find an empty parking lot and do some 360-degree turns with the steering wheel completely locked on one side, then on the other. Any vibrations or bumps attempting to force the steering wheel back may indicate trouble with power steering. This could be as simple as refilling power steering fluid or could hide a hefty repair bill.
Try to do a bit of obstacle course driving, even with imaginary obstacles. Check if the car keeps itself on the road and doesn’t wobble excessively, especially for smaller vehicles. If any strange noises or cracks find their way into the cabin while maneuvering, it is time to inspect the suspension further: pay attention to any worn tie-rods, suspension arms, bushings, springs.
Buy a Used Car That Will Last
Checking up a used car for mechanical trouble can prove to be quite a bit of work and requires some time to finish up. However, though checking a used car before buying will not only allow you to negotiate the price down and get a better deal, but will also prevent you from buying a car with hidden defects that will cost dearly to fix.
Follow the above no-nonsense guide to improve your chances of buying a used car in great condition that will serve for miles to come.