The Best Online Car Auctions for 2022

Online car auctions offer the fun and excitement of a traditional auction house from the comfort of your home. No matter what you’re in the market for, you have the greatest chance of finding it in the massive inventories from the best online car auction sites. While there are some drawbacks, online car auctions tend to deliver satisfying auction house experiences.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Jun 22, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Online car auctions widen your market from a local auction to the entire country or world
  • There are several types of online car auctions besides general sales, including police, salvage, and classic cars
  • Online auctions give you the chance to research a vehicle before you buy and provide you with access to more cars

Most everyone has heard of the online auction site eBay. You can bid on all sorts of goods there, from nostalgic childhood toys to useful household products and just about everything in between. However, many people don’t realize that you can bid on cars in online auctions. In fact, eBay is one of the most trusted online car auctions for public use on the web.

While in-person car auctions are still fun, more people rely on online listings than ever before, thanks to COVID-19. With the unsurpassed selection and chance to find rare cars, it’s no wonder why online free online car auction sites have become the most popular way to bid on vehicles.

While you’re buying a vehicle from online car auctions, you can also find the perfect car insurance to make sure it’s covered from day one. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool if you want to see what quotes might look like for your new car.

What are online car auctions?

If you’ve been wondering, “Where are online car auctions near me?” the exciting news is that you can access thousands of cars without leaving your couch. Online car auctions have been around for decades, but their popularity has spiked in the last few years. Analysts aren’t sure why – some guess that people trust online purchases more – but there’s no doubt that online auctions are here to stay.

As far as the actual sales process of a car auction, online and in-person auctions work pretty much the same. The biggest differences are that, online, there’s no auctioneer, hundreds of auctions go on simultaneously, and you don’t have to stay put until the auction is over to make sure you won.

When you want to buy a car online, you bid the same way you would in person. You’ll need to increase the current bid by at least the minimum amount. As long as you’re the top bid when the sales time runs out, you win a new car.

Benefits of Online Car Auctions

While you can’t replace the feeling of physically being at an auction, online bidding comes with a lot of benefits. For starters, in-person auctions generally happen over a few minutes. Sometimes, cars are revealed right before they go on the block. Even when you have a chance to look at them, you usually don’t have the chance to gather information about it.

Online auctions typically have longer sales periods to give as many people as possible a chance to see it. While it might drive up the bids, it also gives you the opportunity to research the car and make sure you actually want it. You also have access to way more cars than you would in person.

When someone wants to sell a car, the traditional method means they have to bring their vehicle to the auction. That limits them to a small radius around their hometown unless they’re willing to drive hundreds of miles for an auction. That’s no longer the case with online bidding. A car owner in Georgia could sell to a buyer in Australia without leaving their couch. This convenience means you can browse thousands more cars than you would if you only went to in-person auctions.

Finally, you’ll notice that the fees for buying online are much smaller. Auction houses charge fees to buyers and sellers to help offset the cost of hosting a huge, multi-day event. Online auctions still have fees, but they are much smaller.

Disadvantages to Online Car Auctions

As with all things, online car auctions have their problems. The most obvious one relates to the car itself. It’s incredible that you can buy a car from anyone in the world, but how are you going to get that vehicle into your driveway? It can cost a lot to ship a car, sometimes as much as the vehicle itself if you got a good deal on it. Additionally, just because you have more time to research the car doesn’t mean you get any insights into the actual vehicle. Pictures can hide a lot of damage, and there’s no way of knowing how the car runs.

There’s not much to be done about these problems with online auctions, but most people agree that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. It’s up to you to decide if online auctions will work for you.

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The Best Online Car Auctions

There are many types of car auctions you can find online. Some specialize in classic cars while others host salvage cars for sale. You can find specialized auctions further down, but general car auctions are an excellent place to start.

You can find dozens of auctions sites online, but not every site is high-quality. Here are some of the best, most reliable sites to bid on cars:

  • eBay Motors. eBay has been around for a long time and has a reputation for trustworthiness. It’s also the most famous online auction site, and its selection doesn’t disappoint.
  • Auto Auction Mall. Auto Auction gives you access to dealer prices, meaning you could save thousands of dollars. However, you have to pay a fee of $299 to use the site.
  • Purple Wave. Free-to-use access and a small 10% sales fee make this a user-friendly site, especially if you’re looking for tractors or commercial vehicles.
  • Cranky Ape. Although this site isn’t as well known as others, it’s still a good place to shop. With low fees and low starting bids, Cranky Ape is worth a visit.

Of course, these are just a few of the best auction sites out there. With so many options, however, you can find the car of your dreams online, even if it’s not on these sites.

Online Police Car Auctions

Police seize thousands of cars every year for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, cars are impounded after a driver has committed a serious traffic offense. The driver has to pick their car up and pay a fee to get it back. If they never show up, the car eventually becomes the property of the state. Unclaimed impounded cars are eventually sent to the auction block.

While it’s bad news for someone who lost their vehicle, it can be good news for you. You don’t have to go to a physical auction to browse police inventory, either – there are plenty of online options. You can contact your local police department and ask them when their next online auction is, or, you can try the following third-party police car auction sites:

  • GovDeals
  • HiBid
  • PropertyRoom
  • PublicSurplus

Although these are privately run auctions, they help police departments all over the country get rid of inventory that would otherwise pile up in impound lots. Whether you buy the car online or in person, the former owner has no claim on it – they can’t come looking for it.

Salvage Car Auctions

Not everyone that goes to an auction is looking for a car to drive. Both in-person and online auctions are great for mechanics and hobbyists to get their hands on valuable repair parts. Salvage cars have been declared totaled by an insurance company and can’t be driven without being repaired. Insurance companies sell salvage cars for cheap to recoup some of their losses.

If you want a salvage car (or you just want to look), start with these sites:

  • A Better Bid
  • Salvage Bid
  • IAA

Whether you want to rebuild them or gut them for parts, it’s easy to find cheap salvage cars online.

Get the Best Insurance for Your New Car

Online car auctions offer the same thrill of winning a car as in-person versions, and you can participate from the comfort of your home. While there are some drawbacks, the overall convenience of online auctions ensures a good buying experience.

If you win a car in an online auction, you can save time by having an insurance provider in mind. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool to see what quotes might look like for you.

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