Car dealers describe the battle for used car stock as online auction prices continue to soar

Time 1 year ago

Used car prices are still well above official estimates and with physical auctions not expected to open any time soon some car dealers are reporting bidding against 500 others in online auctions. 

Car Dealer Forum users have said they have seen some ‘extraordinary’ sold prices in online auctions recently and report it’s a struggle to buy ‘anything sensibly’.

One user called Lakeside kicked off a discussion in the forum by commenting that they had seen a Suzuki Alto with a less than perfect past sell for more than double the Cap clean guide price before even taking into account the fees. 

Lakeside said: ‘On the register three times. Cat D once and Cat C twice, don’t think it had an MOT. 

‘Cap clean was £350, guessing that’s without taking write off into consideration? Sold for £775 plus fees.’

Another user, Justina3, added: ‘I can beat that. An Audi TT in Enfield this morning was Cap clean at £1,450 and retail £2,625. I had a customer for it and was going at £2,200.

‘Nope, I didn’t even get my hand up. Ended up selling for £4,700 plus fees.’

Although that was nearly double its retail price, it seems desperation to get hold of more premium models has pushed prices even higher. 

User XDR said: ‘Check mate! I’ve got one even better. 2013 BMW M5 that came through today with Alpine White/Red Leather, 50,000 miles, marginal. 

‘At Cap clean it was £15,700, the BCA sold price was £22,000 with fees yet to to be added!

‘That’s nearly £6,500 over book? Unless a celebrity or royalty had that car, it can’t justify that price!’

MarkTVS added: ‘Prices are definitely mental. With £8,600 for a silver TTS that is Cap clean at £6,925, where’s the wages in that?’

And forum user Nevillec added that it was just as difficult in the van market. 

They said: ‘It is the same with vans and we only sell vans. Even real junk Vauxhall Vivaros that I’d never touch with 160,000 miles are going for £1,000 over Cap clean.’

Autolink100 added: ‘I was watching the van sale online on Friday. The auctioneer let slip he had over 500 dealers logged on!

‘Everything made a fortune and most of it was without Assured reports. If you think buying cars without seeing in the flesh is difficult, have a go with vans!’

Car Dealer has been following the battle at auctions for stock and used car valuation experts we have spoken to have all confirmed what our forum users are seeing.

Philip Nothard of Cox Automotive, owner of auction house Manheim, told Car Dealer that dealers are paying thousands of pounds over estimates. 

In particular, he said this can be illustrated with the Range Rover Sport. 

He said: ‘It is seeing a significant price increase with many selling for £3-4k over bids taken pre lockdown and well over Cap clean.

‘A standout performance was seen in older part exchange vehicles with sensible miles and a lengthy MOT, making close to double the guide price in certain instances.’

At Manheim Auctions they are seeing huge volumes, he added: ‘Current demand is demonstrated by the volumes of buyers online, with many sales seeing more than 300 active buyers at any one time and the evening sales are seeing over 200 live bidders.’

Much like our forum users, Stephen Corwood of Motor Connect, recently told us in a Car Dealer Live interview that he wasn’t using the auctions anymore. 

He said: ‘We haven’t bought a car out of the auction since pre-lockdown. In fact, one of the large auction houses was onto me last week asking me why. It’s quite self-explanatory.’

However, some users reported they were able to get hold of stock but were bidding with the hope it would be as described. 

Padstar said they had managed to buy seven cars despite looking at hundreds. 

They said: ‘All seem pretty clean on photos and good MOT history, but It’s a minefield even when you’re there in person.

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‘We are really short of stock as we sold a bit pre lockdown and can’t sell fresh air. 

‘Either that or close up for another month or so until it settles down (if that will ever happen).’

Car Dealer will be closely following the auction situation and will this week report from an auction with a franchised dealer’s part exchange stock to see what is going on for ourselves.

Rebecca Chaplin's avatar

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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