FAQ For The First-Time Bidders


Just thinking about bidding on a car at an online car auction might seem daunting, but it is surprisingly simple. No matter if it’s an insurance auto auction like those held by SCA Auctions, or any other insurance auto auctions across the United States, bidding and winning auction cars can be a lot of fun.

What are the different auto auctions?

Today, you do not even have to leave your home to buy a car at an auction. Many of the auctions are now online and sell at various times during the week, and they often run several lanes of cars. Online auctions let you pick and choose when you want to shop for a car, and they offer pages and pages of vehicles that are coming up for sale.

There are two different types of auto auctions:

  • Public – Open to the public
  • Dealer-only – You must have a dealer license to bid on cars

Public auctions give people a chance to make car bids on surplus cars from government agencies, buy seized property from municipalities, and some offer salvage vehicles for sale from banks and insurance companies. It is possible to get cheap cars through some of these auctions.

A dealer-only auction is for car dealers looking to replenish or sell their overstock inventory. Because dealers want to make money on the cars they sell at auction and on their lots, they wish to keep the prices they buy and sell for from the public. If you are going to buy cars to fix up and sell, you will need a dealer license, which would allow you to bid on these cars.

Are there different types of titles?

You may be wondering about the types of vehicles that show up at an auto auction. Since auction cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, RVs, campers, and more may be in great shape or they may be wrecked, here are some of the title descriptions to help you find the right vehicle.

Titles document the life of the vehicle, as well as its owners.

  • Clean – A vehicle that has never sustained extensive damage will have a clean title. There may have been an accident in its past — it’s good to get a car history to be sure — but it has never been so damaged it could not be fixed.
  • Salvage – A vehicle that has been damaged past the point of its monetary worth will have a salvage title. You cannot drive this on the road until you bring it up to the legal standards of your state. Once you have repaired it to your state’s standards and it is inspected, you can get a rebuilt title.
  • Rebuilt – A vehicle that has been damaged so badly that it had a salvage title can be rebuilt to safe driving condition. A rebuilt vehicle can be registered once it meets your state’s standards.
  • Non-Repairable – A vehicle that cannot be repaired or salvaged is considered a junk car that is only good for parts.

How do I bid?

Bidding is where the fun is. When you sign up for an account with an online auto auction, you may have to choose between a basic account and an account with a monthly fee. If you only want to buy one car, then a basic account should be enough for you to bid. You will need to put a deposit down and give them your driver’s license to set up an account.

Pre-bid – Free accounts may limit your bidding to pre-bidding only. This means you find the car you want to bid on and put in the maximum amount of money you want to spend, and the system will auto-bid for you until your maximum is reached or the auction is over. You will pay the winning bid, a transaction fee, doc fees, and sales tax based on your location, as well as any transportation fees you might incur.

Live bid – If your account allows you to live bid, you find the auction you are interested in and hit the bid button once it starts. Make sure that you have a budget in mind, so you do not overpay in the excitement of bidding. You may want to use the auto-bid feature to stay within budget.

How can I see the cars before I bid?

Online auto auctions have a list of inventory that will be sold in upcoming auctions for you to look at in advance. You can set your search parameters to find cars by years, body styles, and even damage information. Online auto auctions let you see the vehicles from many angles, offer condition reports and in some cases, offer a way for you to order a car history report.

If you are ready to start bidding, here are some online auto auction sites to check out:

SCA Auctions

SCA Auctions is open to the public and no dealer license is needed to buy wholesale priced cars. They offer over 300,000 salvage cars for sale from more than 150 live internet auctions every week. They are 100% online, so you can shop from the comfort of your own home Monday through Friday. They give you instant dealer-level access to a range of vehicles from insurance auto auctions, bank auctions, government surplus auctions, and rental companies. You will find cars, trucks, industrial equipment, muscle cars, electric cars, and other salvage vehicles for sale.

Norwalk Auto Auction

Norwalk Auto Auction is located in Norwalk, CA, and offers fleet sales from companies like Budget Rental Cars, U-Haul, and more. They offer some weekend events for Toyota and Lexus, as well as auctions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are a dealer-only auction site.


Barrett-Jackson is a world leader in classic collector car auctions. For more than 50 years, they have been the place where some of the most exotic and valuable automobiles are bought and sold. It is not unusual to see a Bugatti or a 1932 Ford Roadster on the auction block. The auctions are broadcast on the FYI and History networks. This is a public auction.

Capital Auto Auction

Capital Auto Auction offers the public a way to buy and sell their cars online. You will find anything from motorcycles to boats to RVs for sale at any of the auctions. Auctions run every day at various times, so check their calendar for more information.

Other auto auctions include IAAI, Direct Auto, Mecum, and Manheim. If you are ready to buy your next car at an auto auction, there are many cars to choose from.


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