Buying a Car at the Auction

The best (easiest) place to buy a wreaked car or a salvage car is at the Insurance Auto Auction ( They do not require you to have a dealer's license to buy cars. You can be any Joe off the street with some $$$ and get a pretty good deal on a wreak (or a driver).

They have two sections there, a drive through and non drivers. Usually they have 10%-20% of the cars listed that are in the drive through section.

If you are a newbee to this industry I would suggest to buy drivers. Those cars usualy have cosmetic damage but the engine runs and drives.

Getting a Buyer Number

To get started buying cars from Insurance Auto Auctions you will need to locate an office close to you. You can do that by going to their website at They will give you an application to fill out. The buyer license cast is $200 for a year's membership. Once you fill out the application and pay the membership fee they will issue you a Buyer number and an ID card. Now you can buy all you want.

They have a bid online option too but I don't ever use it because chanses are the live auction bidders will outbid you. If you're looking for a great deal you can probably bid online with a cheap price and maybe, just maybe you'll win. Otherwise you can bid online if you really want a car. Then you bid a high price (or top dollar you're willing to pay for it), then also you might win. I personally preffer the live auction, it is more fun and you can actually inspect the car before buying it.


When you find a car you want and inspect it, listen to what people around it are talking about, assume everybody knows more about the car then you because maybe they do.

When the bidding starts wait until the price settles down. The auctioneer may start the bidding at $5000 and see if he gets any bites and then will go lower until someone will bid. I usually wait until the bidding is almost over, when you feel that it's almost sold then if the price is still in your range you bid. Don't wait too long because you may miss an opportunity. Once he sais Sold, you're done.

Make sure you DO NOT scratch your head while the bidding is going on, because you may bid on a car without knowing about it and then you can't refuse to buy. If you refuse they will apply a penalty of about $250 or something and they only let you back out once if you do it again the will cancel your membership for a year.


When you "win" a car you will need to display your Bidder Number to the auctioneer. Then you're done.

You'll need to get a total from the cashier in the office and then go and get a money order or a cashier's check for that ammount.

They will charge you a Yard fee and Gate fee and other fees. Plan to add on about 10% to the bid price for fees plus tax.

Getting it Home or to the Shop

After the auction is over they will start bringing the cars out. You'll need either a car dolly to pull the car or you can hire a tow truck to tow it for you. Or you can drive it home.

I usually drive them home if they are drivers. If you decide to drive you will need to plan up front. You'll need a 3 day trip permit (or whatever is available) for each state you plan to drive through. Then just drive. If you get pulled over show the reciept and the trip permit. If an officer is having a bad day they may give you a ticket for no insurance but I never got one so your choice on that.

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Updated February 26, 2004