Due to the fact that all the automotive auctions held here in the U.S. are selling significantly more numbers of Corvettes each year, this auction issue will now become an annual issue. We will be covering some familiar ground from last year in this article as we discuss how to prepare or buy a Corvette at auction.
Whether you are considering taking your Corvette to an auction or considering buying your next car there, it can be an overwhelming experience, especially if it's your first event. Just so we are all on the same page, an automotive auction company is simply an auction house that provides services for automotive buyers and sellers to come together in one place. Unfortunately, if you're new to automotive auctions, there's a lot to learn, and, while there, your senses may have a hard time comprehending everything going on around you. With more and more auctions becoming more of a lifestyle event, this only adds to the three-ring-circus atmosphere. If possible, try to attend a few auctions prior to selling a car so you can get know the "ropes" prior to making any commitments that involves your hard-earned cash. Since many Corvette owners have never sold a Corvette at an auction, we again offer a few basic tips that can help turn a Corvette auction into an enjoyable experience for buyers and sellers alike.
How to Be Thoroughly PreparedIf you are considering selling your car at an auction, the first thing you should do is to properly prepare the car. Make sure your Corvette is in excellent condition from top to bottom. If your car isn't driven regularly, make sure to drive it prior to the auction to minimize the chance of a failure at the event. Check the car over as if you were going to drive it after a long winter storage or if you were buying the car (again) yourself. While anything can happen (and sometimes does), the chance that it will happen at the auction is greatly reduced if you prepare for the event properly.
Your Corvette should be thoroughly washed, waxed, and detailed inside and out prior to the event. Leave no stone unturned in this process. The engine compartment should be detailed, and the interior must be spotless. Spend the extra time to detail the car yourself or pay a professional detailer that is familiar with classic cars to do it for you. This is one of the best investments you can make if you want to have a successful sale. Make sure to detail the undercarriage as well, as most prospective buyers will crawl all over the car looking for paint defects, suspension problems, leaks, or hidden problems prior to the auction. People will generally buy a clean Corvette more readily than one that hasn't been properly detailed. The windows and tires should be immaculate and make sure the car has plenty of gas. If you are a buyer and not a seller, just use the information given here to make sure you don't miss anything prior to buying a car.
If possible, take the car to the auction in an enclosed trailer. Enclosed transportation should be arranged (with a friend or transport company) weeks or months in advance. Many transportation companies become totally booked around big auction events, so plan far ahead to avoid any delivery problems. Some cars are driven or taken to auctions on open trailers, which will guarantee the vehicle will be dirty and have to be recleaned and/or redetailed onsite. This situation should be avoided at all costs. Many auction sites don't have the facilities to properly clean and prepare a car, so you could be in big trouble if the car is not ready when you arrive at the event. If you can't arrange for the car to be delivered in an enclosed trailer, reconsider the whole auction process. Missing an auction is better than selling your car for a less-than price.
How to Properly Market Your CorvettePreregister your car as soon as possible. If you procrastinate in this simple process, the time you need to prepare your car prior to the event will begin to evaporate, and you won't achieve a successful sale. Send the requested sales information on your car to the auction company as early as possible. In most cases, the auction company will begin to publicize your car, and many times photos of your Corvette will be posted on their web site, where thousands of interested buyers will be able to see your car on the internet, hopefully, weeks or months in advance. This is low-cost advertising, and it should not be forfeited due to poor planning on your part.
Most automotive auctions are conducted over a weekend, usually Friday through Sunday. You should plan to arrive at the event at least 24 to 48 hours prior to when your Corvette will be auctioned. When you arrive, go immediately to the auction check-in office and check your car in. Once you're checked in at the auction site, you'll be assigned a parking space where your car will be staged prior to the sale. An early check-in usually equates to the best parking spot, usually closer to the traffic patterns at the event. Most serious buyers will not buy a car if they haven't inspected the vehicle prior to the auction. If you want the premium price your car will bring at auction, your chances are greatly increased if lots of people have immediate access to inspect it. An early check-in also allows time to repair the car if something goes wrong at the auction. Anything is possible, so plan for the worse and hope for the best.
Factory Documentation Could be a "Must"Make sure you do the proper research on your Corvette and take every piece of original documentation to the auction with you. While you may have bought a car with little or no documentation, most auction buyers won't pay top dollar for any Corvette without a lot of corresponding factory documentation. Make sure you do not leave the documentation to your car in a place (as in a locked vehicle) where the documentation can be stolen. You may consider keeping this information on your person while at the event. Years of research and much of the worth of your Corvette could be gone forever if it is stolen. This unfortunate scenario has happened to several high-dollar cars in the last year or two, so be very careful where you leave your documents to the car.
Most successful auction sellers will dedicate a lot of time to acquiring their cars' documentation. If the car has a famous race history or was owned by a celebrity, it's essential these facts be confirmed to get the highest price. Bring any and all original brochures that go with the car. This can create an aura of nostalgia when a potential buyer sees you have the original documentation that proves how many cars were built like yours, including how rare the options are. Rarity is a much-coveted commodity in the Corvette hobby, and big money is paid each year for the rarest Corvettes.
You should also write a short letter that describes your experience with the car. Every potential car buyer loves a good car story, and many buy the car of their dreams because of its history. Under no circumstances should you lie or make up details that can't be validated. Once someone catches you lying, their trust is broken, and that person will eventually share that experience with other friends. Your reputation could be trashed for decades. The point of all this preparation is to make any potential buyer comfortable enough with the car to bid aggressively when it goes across the auction block.
Buyer BreakdownThere are basically two types of buyers at automotive auctions today: the resell specialist and the end consumer. The resell specialist is in the business of buying cars with the intent of reselling them. This person may own a retail car lot or may buy just a few cars a year. In some cases, a resell specialist may also buy cars from a wish list from a large collector that would include a dollar range for a specific type of Corvette. If your car fits within his wish list, he may buy it. A resell specialist is a professional who will inspect your Corvette as if he himself were buying it because every time he buys a car for a client, his reputation is on the line. His expertise and reputation mean everything to him and without either one, he's out of business. Many resell specialists specialize in only one make or model since that's where their expertise lies, which has been built over many years of buying and selling those same cars.
In addition, the end consumer is also present at most auctions. Most big mistakes made at auctions are made by end consumers, usually because of a lack of information, experience, or both. Many Corvette collectors buy and sell their own cars without outside help from a resell specialist, usually because they love the hunt and procurement of their next car. Some end consumers don't trust anyone else to help them buy a car they are interested in. But most just love cars and, if they want another one, they may sell their current Corvette to make their new acquisition.
One of the most interesting aspects of auctions today is that buyers are buying cars they want to drive. Very few auction cars are sitting covered up in a climate-controlled garage nowadays. The majority of the vehicles purchased at many top auctions are being bought to be driven to a variety of venues including cruises, road rallies, and historic races. This is a major shift in the auction marketplace, as people now want to enjoy their collector cars to the fullest.
Be Careful with Your MoneyAutomotive auctions can be an exciting and rewarding place in which the seller of a great Corvette meets a new and excited buyer, and, hopefully, both leave the transaction content with their decision. Many times, this isn't the case. Some sellers leave upset because their car didn't sell at a high enough price or didn't sell at all. Some buyers will leave the experience unhappy when they were outbid on a car they thought they couldn't live without. Many new owners go home happy, only to find out later the car was misrepresented in some way. Sometimes, lawyers get involved, and then everyone loses. The only way you can hope to avoid a negative situation is to do your homework, never misrepresent a car, and treat everyone as you would want to be treated.
Good luck with your next Corvette purchase or sale at the auction of your choice.