Do’s and don’ts for attending your first collector car auction

RM Sotheby's Paris 2016

If you’ve never been to a collector car auction, you really should fix that. It can be thrilling, genuinely fun, and there’s endless opportunity to connect with thousands of interesting and like-minded people who also love cars. Imagine a car show with the added twist that everything is for sale, and a lot of sales have something for every taste and budget. Whether you’re a serious potential buyer or just looking to spend a day around cool cars and other car people, here are some tips for your first time watching the auction block.

Do

  • Bring cash - From parking to food, you’ll likely need to pay for a lot of things the old-fashioned way.
  • Show up early - You’ll get the best parking spot, plus it’s the best time to take photos.
  • Be mindful of where you sit - Seats closest to the auction block are reserved for bidders. Another reason to arrive early if you aren’t bidding and want a good seat.
  • Download the Hagerty Insider App - Not sure if a car sold? No problem! Follow along in real time with sale prices as well as high bids for no-sale cars.
  • Buy the best car you can afford - Be willing to spend a little extra for a quality example, because a scruffy auction car will almost always need more work than you think.
  • Pre-register to bid – Spend more time enjoying yourself out with the cars and less time in line dealing with paperwork.
  • Stay until the end – Sometimes the best deals happen at the end, after the headline cars have all crossed the block and the crowd thins out.
Shelby 427 Cobra crossing the block
Matt Lewis
Shelby 427 Cobra crossing the block

Don’t

  • Wave at anyone - Waving looks like bidding in the eyes of an auctioneer, so try to keep your hands down unless you’re ready to spend some money.
  • Touch the cars - Unless you’re serious about buying something, it’s best to treat an auction just like a car show, and that means look but don’t touch.
  • Fall in love on the internet - The auction company’s photos and descriptions are designed to seduce you and make you really want the car, so do your own research and look the car over with your own eyes. If you’re serious about bidding, it’s worth poring over the auction catalog in advance, registering to bid early, and taking a close look during the auction preview, well before the bids start.
  • Forget the fees - Whatever your high bid is, add the 10 percent that goes to the auction company, the transport cost home if you live far away from the sale, and any other registration, taxes and insurance costs that apply.
  • Give up on your dream car - Not meeting reserve doesn’t mean it’s over. You want to buy the car, the seller wants to sell the car, and the auction company wants to see the car off to a new home, so a deal can often be reached behind the scenes.
  • Try to impress - There’s a lot of money in the room at any collector car auction, so overpaying for something isn’t going to impress anyone.
  • Bid blindly - Equipment, condition and provenance make all the difference in the world to a car’s value, so having at least some knowledge about all three is a must before you start bidding.
RM Monaco sale
RM Sotheby's
RM Sotheby's Monaco 2018