How to buy a used car at an auction?

Car dealer auctions play a pivotal role in the automotive industry, offering a dynamic marketplace where dealers can buy and sell vehicles to meet the demands of their customers.

If you want to buy from dealer auctions you must take the dealer license class.

Get your license to buy cars at auction

These auctions are regulated by state laws, and California, as one of the largest automotive markets in the United States, has specific requirements and regulations governing dealer-only auctions.

Red Speedometer for fast car

Taking a class to get certified is the 1st step towards buying cars at auction and is required by the California DMV.

Take the Class

Learn from an Industry Professional

Learn firsthand from Garrett Eddings who has been in the car industry for 20+ Years. In those 20 years, Garrett has taught dealers professionally for 10 years and has helped thousands of dealerships just like yours navigate through getting a dealer’s license in California.

Auction Experience:

Garrett was one of the first employees for ACV Auctions on the west coast where he helped establish the foundation for west coast operations and hyper focusing on the California market. Learn firsthand from Garrett as he takes you through:

  • How to register for auction and what some of the common mistakes are that happen to first time dealers.
  • How to navigate through condition reports and ensure that you’re not missing elements that could cost you thousands in reconditioning costs.
  • How to do price comparison in the retail and wholesale market in order to maximize your potential return on investment when it comes to sourcing inventory for your dealership.
  • How to navigate through arbitration and how to keep your recondition costs down.

And so much more!

Garrett Eddings California Dealer Academy

How to buy a used car at an auction?

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the essentials of dealer-only auctions in California, including the advantages and disadvantages of participating in these auctions, as well as the requirements for obtaining a dealer license in the state.

Part 1: Understanding Dealer-Only Auctions in California

What is a Dealer-Only Auction?

A dealer-only auction is a specialized marketplace were licensed automobile dealers trade vehicles. In California, such auctions are exclusively accessible to licensed dealers, and they are strictly regulated by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Dealer-only auctions differ from public auctions in that only authorized dealers can participate, creating a more controlled environment for buying and selling vehicles.

The Role of Dealer-Only Auctions

Dealer-only auctions serve several vital roles in the automotive industry, such as:

  1. Inventory Management: Dealers can acquire new inventory or sell excess vehicles, helping them maintain a balanced inventory of vehicles.
  2. Pricing and Valuation: These auctions help dealers assess the current market value of vehicles and establish pricing strategies for their retail lots.
  3. Profit Generation: Dealers can find vehicles at competitive prices, allowing them to make a profit when selling these vehicles to the public.
  4. Vehicle Sourcing: Dealers can access a wide range of vehicles, including used, new, and specialty cars, enabling them to meet customer demands effectively.
  5. Regulatory Compliance: Dealer-only auctions help ensure compliance with state and federal laws, such as regulations related to title transfers and vehicle histories.

Part 2: Advantages of Dealer-Only Auctions

Participating in dealer-only auctions in California offers numerous advantages for licensed dealers, including:

  1. Exclusive Access to Inventory
    Authorized dealers gain access to a wide selection of vehicles that are not available to the general public. This exclusive access allows dealers to find unique or hard-to-find vehicles that can attract a specific customer base.
  2. Competitive Pricing
    Dealer-only auctions often feature vehicles at competitive prices, enabling dealers to acquire inventory at a lower cost. This cost advantage can lead to higher profit margins when these vehicles are sold on the retail lot.
  3. Efficient Inventory Management
    Dealers can use these auctions to efficiently manage their inventory. They can quickly sell or acquire vehicles to meet customer demands and maintain a well-balanced inventory.
  4. Networking Opportunities
    Dealer-only auctions provide a platform for dealers to network with others in the industry. These connections can lead to valuable business relationships, such as partnerships or opportunities to source specific vehicles.
  5. Assurance of Legitimate Transactions
    The regulatory oversight and stringent entry requirements in dealer-only auctions reduce the risk of fraudulent activities and ensure the legality of transactions.

Part 3: Disadvantages of Dealer-Only Auctions

While dealer-only auctions offer several advantages, they also come with certain disadvantages, including:

  1. Restricted Access
    As the name suggests, these auctions are exclusively for licensed dealers. This restriction can limit the participation of smaller dealers or individuals looking to enter the automotive business.
  2. Competitive Bidding
    Dealer-only auctions can be highly competitive, with experienced dealers bidding aggressively for desirable vehicles. This competition can lead to higher purchase prices.
  3. Entry Barriers
    Acquiring a dealer license and gaining access to these auctions requires meeting specific criteria, including financial stability and business location. This can be challenging for newcomers or those with limited resources.
  4. Limited Transparency
    Information about the vehicles, including their history and condition, can be limited to a dealer-only auction setting. Dealers may need to rely on their expertise and experience to make informed decisions.
  5. Regulatory Compliance
    Strict regulations govern dealer-only auctions to ensure the legality of transactions. Non-compliance can result in penalties or even license revocation.

Part 4: Requirements for Obtaining a Dealer License in California

To participate in dealer-only auctions in California, you must obtain a dealer license. The California DMV sets specific requirements and procedures for obtaining this license. Here are the key steps:

  1. Eligibility
    To be eligible for a dealer license in California, you must meet the following criteria:
    • Business Location: You must have a fixed, commercial location for your dealership. This location must meet specific zoning requirements.
    • Surety Bond: The state requires that you have either a 10k or 50k bond in order to become a dealership.
    • Business Entity: You can operate as a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC). Ensure that your business entity complies with state regulations.
    • Criminal Background Check: You and anyone associated with your dealership must pass a criminal background check.
  2. Pre-License Education
    Before applying for a dealer license, you must complete a pre-license education program approved by the California DMV. This program covers topics like vehicle code, dealership operations, and relevant regulations. This is where California Dealer Academy can help. Click here to register for a class and take your first step towards getting access to dealer auctions.
  3. Business Documents
    You will need to provide various business documents, including:
    • Proof of Business Location: A copy of the lease or rental agreement for your dealership location.
    • Fictitious Business Name: If you're using a business name different from your legal name, you'll need to register it with the county.
    • Sales Tax Permit: Obtain a seller's permit from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).
  4. Application Process
    Once you have met the eligibility criteria, completed pre-license education, and gathered the necessary documents, you can begin the application process. This typically involves submitting an application to the California DMV, paying the appropriate fees, and passing an inspection of your dealership location.
  5. License Renewal and Ongoing Compliance
    After obtaining your dealer license, you must adhere to ongoing compliance requirements, including renewing your license annually, maintaining insurance coverage, and ensuring your business remains in good standing with the DMV.
  6. Conclusion
    Dealer-only auctions in California are an integral part of the automotive industry, providing licensed dealers with unique opportunities to buy and sell vehicles. While these auctions offer numerous advantages, they also come with certain disadvantages and strict regulatory requirements.

    To thrive in the competitive world of dealer-only auctions, it's essential for dealers to understand the rules, maintain compliance with state regulations, and network with other professionals in the industry. By doing so, dealers can leverage the exclusive access to inventory and competitive pricing that dealer-only auctions offer to make a successful and profitable business in California's dynamic automotive market.