Top Tips for Success When Selling at Auction

As we all know, auto auctions have become an extremely popular method of selling collector and specialty cars in the current marketplace. With their unmatched excitement, celebrity appeal, unique cars on offer and record breaking results, their popularity has broken into the mainstream public’s eye. Though auctions may seem like the new hot trend in collector automobiles, the truth is that hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of the most in demand metal trade hands at auctions every year, and they have thus become the preferred standard of buying and selling for savvy enthusiasts.

With this said, it’s important to note that buying and selling at premium collector automobile auctions is unquestionably a skill and perfecting your approach can mean a difference of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars. Here is a quick list of what to know going into to an auction situation as a seller, that will dramatically increase your chances of achieving your goals:



Get in Early

The reality is, that the more people that know about your car, the larger the pool of interest surrounding your automobile becomes. As I’ve stated time and time again, in articles and interviews on the subject, auction houses spend millions of dollars on marketing annually and as such not only possess a huge reach, but additionally know how to reach buyers across an enormous spectrum of locations and subsections of the market. Astute consignors take advantage of these early marketing opportunities and use them to their advantage by making sure they never wait until the last minute to offer their vehicles.




The Pre-Auction Presentation

Nothing assists you selling your car more than information. Especially in a more conservative, buyer focused marketplace. A thorough, detailed and correct pre-auction presentation containing a well put together, accurate description and high-quality images allow you to highlight what is important and special about your particular collector automobile and to get that information in front the most discerning, best equipped buyers. Often times auction clients have a very specific list of criteria and if we don’t have the opportunity to present that information to them, in a manner that immediately helps them begin to take mental ownership of a particular offering, they become less enticed and thus become less likely to make a top dollar purchasing decision.




Prepare for Auction and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Something to consider: Collector Car Auction Representatives do collector car auctions for a living. Although this may sound like a painfully obvious statement, this means that in the auction arena, they are the most experienced and knowledgeable collector car experts anywhere. Unfortunately, that’s taken advantage of by sellers to a shockingly infrequent degree. Auction Reps live and breathe the marketplace day in and day out, and thus, know the market better than anybody. They also know the correct processes and procedures that lead to top dollar results on the block. One of the smartest things you can do as an auction seller is to use the resources available to get your car into the best possible position to return the most profit possible prior to the event. Should you replace your door panels, source correct tires, or change your seat belts prior to the sale? Of course, every car is different, but these are questions that auction company reps address every day and they can accurately assist you in answering. Opening a dialogue with staff experts helps insure all the boxes are checked and your car is prepared to achieve maximum success. Opening a line of dialogue with the auction house offering your car, prior to the sale is simply one of the most beneficial things you can engage in when offering a car at auction.



Don’t Offer Personal Information Onsite

This is probably the single most overlooked liability that auction sellers open themselves up to once they arrive on site. Nothing puts a seller at auction in a weaker position than giving a potential buyer an opportunity to contact them after the sale. Think about it, if I’m a potential buyer and I know how to reach you directly, I’m certainly not going to be bidding on the car when it crosses the block. In fact, I’m going to be rooting for the car not to sell, so I can reach out and low ball you as you are packing up to go home. At this point as a buyer, not only am I out on the block, but I’m also not bidding up anybody else in the room, reducing the degree of competition surrounding your offering and hurting the overall result DRASTICALLY. This especially holds true at smaller regionally focused or local sales where everybody tends to know everybody. If I know for a fact that the beautiful, red ’57 Corvette sitting in the display lot belongs to Bob up the street, am I going to waste even a second entertaining a bid? Absolutely not! I’m going to keep my mouth shut, hope for a no sale and then go knock on his door and ask for the “buddy deal” as soon as I see it back in his garage. Point is, don’t set yourself up to fail before your car even crosses the block. Don’t offer personal contact information in or around your offering.


Be “On the Money”

The truth is, the best place you can begin your pricing at auction is at a real, correct, market sensitive number. Consignors that go in looking for a home run, swinging for the fences type of result often times miss the real buyers, preventing them from getting in and getting excited on the block. Once a buyer becomes genuinely invested during that short period of time a vehicle is offered, then they become primed to spend the big bucks and world record results become achievable. That’s the difference between an auction setting and selling the car in your driveway. Urgency is the reason that collector automobile auctions seemingly always bring the big bucks. Auctions put buyers together, face to face in an abbreviated situation and they have to decide who wants it more. If buyers determine that the price a car really becomes for sale at is unachievable, the opportunity for increased competition decreases. If buyers can’t legitimately get in, then you lose the opportunity to engage the emotions and egos of those in the room and the result ultimately suffers.



Come Ready to Sell and Understand the Reserve

Unless someone is critically bored, attention starved or a little loopy, they don’t generally bring a car to auction with the anticipation of turning around and taking it back home with them. The entire point of coming to an auction is to sell your vehicle. This means show up prepared, with a clean, properly running offering and be ready to get the buyers invested from preview day until the car hits the block. Know your bottom number and understand when to pull the reserve. Unfortunately, people assume based on the production directives demonstrated on the TV auctions and the “creatively edited” subsequent follow up shows, that when the reserve is pulled that means the sale is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. The auction hasn’t even started until the auctioneer informs the crowd that the reserve is off and the sale has become real. As a seller, the biggest strategic angle you possess is managing your reserve. This means, understand a real-world value of your car, what you are willing to accept, BE PRESENT ON THE BLOCK and scan the room and gauge the correct moment to let it go. It’s not uncommon to see new bidders enter the fray once the reserve comes off, so pulling it to the right time can produce a drastic change in the achieved result of the sale.






Darin Roberge is President and CEO of Motorwerks Marketing and is a Marketing and Media Consultant in the Specialty Automotive and Live Events industries. Darin has been named a Business Trendsetter by Arizona Foothills Magazine, is a two-time nominee to Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list and is one of Sports Car Market Magazine’s 40 Under 40 for 2017. Learn more about Darin at www.DarinRoberge.com