Used-car dealerships are for suckers. If you want a bargain ride (15 to 20% cheaper on average), raise your paddle at a nearby auction house.

RUN RECON
Look for a reputable auction company, one that’s been in business for at least 10 years and has positive buyer reviews. Once you’ve found the right auction house, visit your bank manager. You’ll need car financing organised before you think about bidding on that dream car.

SCAN THE ONLINE LOT
Auctions can have thousands of cars, and going in unprepared could overwhelm you. Browse the auction’s website beforehand. Once you’ve found your target vehicle, research it’s market price over the last several weeks on the web and in the newspaper. Do some homework on what similar vehicles sell for.

MAKE USE OF THE VIEWING DAYS
The auction will arm you with inspection reports, but you’ll want to run other tests yourself. Feel the paint for ripples or bubbling. Go for a test drive to listen for rumbling coming from anywhere other than under the bonnet. Take your mechanic with you and factor any needed repair costs into your negotiations. Remember: there are no returns.

DRIVE AWAY HAPPY
Decide on the maximum price you’ll pay before the auction starts – and then stick to it. Remember to factor in hidden costs into your max: most auction houses levy a 5% buyers commission and the bidding price normally excludes VAT.

Source: Francois Retief, Director of Auto World Auctions, autoworldsa.co.za.