Okay, I'm thinking about buying a car from a public auto auction. My question is: Do all the cars have problems that I need to fix?

Other answer:

Most likely yes- the problem with those auction cars is they have either been repossessed or traded in at a dealership. If repossessed most likely they have been abused- I mean , if they aren't paying their car note, they are not doing maintenance on it. If traded in at a dealership- the car is probably old, high mileage or needs major repairs. The primo trade in are usually sold to a Mom & Pop car lot. The rest go to auction to be sold as is to the highest bidder- usually the Good Ole boy car lots that will shine them up and sell them for a profit to unsuspecting buyers with bad credit so they can charge a higher rate to finance a car with major problems. Your best bet is to buy a vehicle from an individual that has 1 owner , low mileage and is well maintained -make sure it is not a dealer that buys and re sells out of their home. And get a Car-Fax on it. I have been in auto financing over 30 years- so I know of these problems. Sometimes you can get a good deal- but most often not.
Generally speaking…yes. Public auto auctions generally have lower quality vehicles than dealer auto auctions and the requirements for announcements and arbitration rights for buyers are different as well. I buy cars for a living at dealer auto auctions and there are plenty of cars with issues sold daily…public auto auctions are even worse. The GSA sales aren't bad…they are generally held at a dealer auction but the public is allowed to buy from them. Government owned vehicles so not a lot of variety, but the maintenance was done. Whatever auction you attend make sure they are members of the National Auto Auction Association and know your arbitration rights and required announcements BEFORE you buy. NAAA auctions will at least provide you with some level of protection if you buy a vehicle with hidden damage or known but unannounced major conditions.
Good luck…it's tough out there
Many, or Most have problems. Your job is to find out those problems in advance. You can often drive them if you get there ahead of time. And if you cant, and they are sold "as is" as many are, there is a reason for it.

Better cars can typically bring more at dealer only auctions.

And some lower end dealers take decent cars there in search of retail buyers. You can get a fair deal on some cars but you wont typically pay wholesale unless its a problem car. And the dealers searching for retail buyers don't usually get any actual bids when it goes thru the lane. The auctioneers are searching for bidders but there often are none.

I never worked the public auto auctions but some dealers do. But they aren't going to sell their good cars for nothing because they know they are good. And when you compare the prices to the question marks, you wont see the "steal" that you might otherwise see.

Any used vehicle can have problems you may need to fix. Cars bought at auction are a crap shoot, since you can't test drive them. Don't go to an auction if you can't determine a bad car from a good one by looking at it.
Jay P:
Most likely yes.

If you are going to go that route, anticipate needing to spend some money on the car and build that maintenance cost into the ceiling of your bid.

Who knows…you could luck out and get a car that actually doesn't need any major work and come out ahead but that is far better than spending all of your money on the car and then realize afterwards that you overspent on the car after factoring in the reconditioning/maintenance costs.

Stupid Flanders:
Most of them do or they wouldn't be at a public auto auction. If you are going there knowing nothing about mechanics of vehicles without a mechanic, you are just asking for problems.
YES, auction cars always have mechanical issues. If they were decent cars they would be at a dealership sitting on the lot.

Dealers send the worst cars to the auction, they keep the good ones.

Dealers buy a lot of cars from auctions because dealers have access to a full auto shop to fix any problems at cost price. They can aslo pass cars with problems onto mug customers.
If you buy one car and one car only it will lile y have a problem.
all cars at auction will need some kind of attention. that's why they end up there. also all cars sold are "as is" so any problems its all on you to repair those problems. bring along someone who knows about cars to point out any potential problems. because once you make a bid and buy it its your problem
You can get some pretty good cars from an auction. View the car first, and make sure what an equivalent model is worth, before you bid on it

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