Which auctions can I bid at?
The two major car auction groups, BCA and Manheim, no longer allow members of the public to register and buy cars. A spokesperson for BCA says its decision to exclude the public has its roots in Covid and the changes the pandemic prompted, not least the company's temporary suspension of physical auctions. If you're a motor trader, you're still welcome at BCA and Manheim auctions, although BCA's auctions are exclusively online.
Meanwhile, although the majors may have closed their doors to the public, the country's largest independent motor auction group, Wilsons Auctions – which, in August 2021, acquired long-established West Oxfordshire Motor Auctions – does allow the public, as well as motor traders, to bid online and, depending on the location, in person at a physical sale. It has a number of sites around the country. Visit its website to find your nearest centre or bid online.
There are other independent auction companies across the country that also welcome members of the public, including Cannock Motor Auctions, which holds only physical sales, generally of older used cars, and Anglia Car Auctions, which runs physical and online general car sales and online-only classic car sales.
How should I prepare?
Whether you're a trader or member of the public, if you're intending to buy at a physical auction rather than online, and it's your first time, before you even think of bidding, visit a sale purely as a spectator. Auctions are marketplaces for seasoned experts so learn the process and familiarise yourself with the hustle and bustle of the auction hall.
This way, when you are ready to buy, you won't be overwhelmed by the experience. If buying online, the dangers of bidding recklessly are even higher since you need only press a computer key and the car is yours. For this reason, follow a few sales to get a feel for the pace and for prices.