Auction Etiquette 101 for Exotic & Vintage Car Buyers

auction etiquette rule car auctions

How do you behave at an auction? As with most of the situations in life, also auctions have their own etiquette rules that one should follow. Not only for the well-being of other participants, but also for yourself in making it a successful experience. Here are some auction etiquette for those planning to attend a vintage car auction.

Serious car enthusiasts wait all year for Monterey, a week-long marathon of car exhibitions, competitions, social events, forums, races and auctions that’s become a tradition at and around Pebble Beach, California since 1950. The 2018 schedule of events, which begins on August 21st, will feature many of the world’s finest and most expensive exotic and vintage cars, as well as rare motorcycles and muscle cars.

This year’s Monterey Week calendar includes 6 major auctions, where many of the cars up for bid are expected to sell for millions of dollars. Most auction participants at Pebble Beachare sophisticated buyers and sellers. But there’s always a crop of auction newcomers, and many who are reluctant to participate, lacking a clear understanding of the protocol and unwritten etiquette involved in serious car auctions.

According to Mitch Katz, who has attended Monterey auctions for more than 20 years, “There are only a few auction-related ‘do’s and don’ts’ that people need to know. Notably, you don’t have to be a millionaire to bid on a car. Although Pebble Beach attracts a well-heeled crowd, there are cars on the block in all price ranges, and there are some great potential bargains, if you have a deep understanding of the car you’re bidding on.” Katz is founder and CEO of Premier Financial Services, the nation’s leading provider of lease financing for exotic, vintage and luxury cars.

A group of the world’s most experienced car auction participants – including Wayne Carini, the host of the Chasing Classic Cars show on the Velocity Channel – were asked to provide insider tips for people looking to avoid making rookie mistakes at a car auction. The guidance they provided included:

  • Don’t Jump in the Pool Right Away – Attend one or two auctions strictly as an observer, to gain a first-hand understanding of how they work. Pay attention to how serious buyers conduct themselves and the bidding tactics they use.
  • Get Pre-approval Before You Show Up – At many auctions, you’ll need to apply for credentials to participate in bidding. The auction company will likely review your financial situation. If you plan to finance or lease the car you purchase, you should obtain pre-approval from a firm that specializes in exotic and vintage cars.
  • Don’t Follow the Herd – Bid on a car that you really want to own and drive, not just because there’s a lot of buzz or interest in a particular car.
  • Do Your Homework, and Ask for Help – You should know as much as possible about any car you plan to bid on, well before you arrive at the auction. Attend the preview sessions in advance of the bidding, and if you’re not an expert in evaluating the operating condition of a car, then hire someone who can help you.
  • Set a Maximum Bid Price, and Stick to It – Wayne Carini sometimes writes his maximum price on his hand as a reminder not to exceed it. Keep in mind that there will be additional fees beyond the price you bid, including the auction house commission, taxes, title, insurance and transportation.
  • Talk to the Auction Staff – The staffers who help manage the auction process from the floor (not the person with the gavel) can be very helpful, and might provide insights on specific cars and auction dynamics. Let them know if you plan to bid on a car, so they can direct the auctioneer’s attention to you.
  • Avoid the Bidding Drama – It’s easier to stick to your bidding strategy if you don’t get caught up in the competition for a car. Some seasoned bidders will leave the auction floor, and submit their bids from another location, by phone or online, so that they can remain objective and disciplined.
  • Be Seated and Be Quiet – If you’re not bidding on a car, it’s important that you’re not a distraction for the auctioneer and those who are bidding. You should expect the same courtesy.
  • Celebrate After the Auction Ends – The classic faux pas, which occurs at nearly every auction, involves a bidder who’s consumed too many adult beverages. Although car auctions can be fun, they are events where serious transactions take place. Auctions demand full control of your faculties, to avoid financial loss as well as personal embarrassment.

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