A lot of people think they can save money by buying a used vehicle at an auto auction. At first glance, it seems cheaper than buying from a used car dealership. However, it’s just not as simple as that. Buying from an auction comes with more risks than potential rewards. Before sinking all your savings into an auction car, know the used car auction risks so you can make an informed decision.

What To Know Before You Go: The Risks of Car Auctions

Buying a used vehicle at a car auction vs. a dealership is risky if you’re inexperienced or uncomfortable potentially losing money.


You’re responsible for researching the vehicle. It’s uncommon to receive a vehicle history unless the original owner provides one. This might not be an issue if you’re a skilled mechanic, but it’s problematic for a novice.

Being outbid

A smart auction-goer sets their limit and sticks with it. You might get overbid, but the point of the auction is to get a deal. If you go in with your heart set on cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway in your new-to-you vehicle and overbid, you could wind up taking home a lemon that won’t make it past the Palisades.

No warranty

Vehicles are sold “as is” with no expressed or implied warranties. Some auctions offer an extended warranty for purchase, but it’s not common. Once you’ve made the purchase, you’re responsible for any major problems the vehicle may have.

Can You Really Save Money at a Car Auction?

If you’re comfortable with the risk, buying a car at an auction can be beneficial. Public car auctions usually feature a wide selection of vehicles acquired from various sources, including estate sales and police-seized assets. In most cases, you can attend a preview up to five days in advance, which gives you an opportunity to look for physical damage, research the model and year, and check for the Blue Book value and manufacturer recalls.

That said, you’re still on the hook if anything goes wrong after you’ve completed the purchase. Without mechanical skills, you could wind up paying thousands for issues you didn’t see upon visual inspection. Auction car problems can cost between $4,000 and $10,000 for things like a new transmission, engine and cylinder issues, or a new hybrid battery. With all these risks, you may wonder, “Is a car auction worth it?”

Dealership Advantages: Less Risk, More Support

When you buy a certified pre-owned car from a reputable dealership like Hawthorne Auto, you get five-star service and peace of mind knowing your vehicle comes with a warranty and passed an inspection.


Our friendly and knowledgeable team at Hawthorne Auto in sunny Los Angeles is here to help. We’re proud of our customer service and have helped thousands of SoCal residents achieve their car ownership dreams — and it shows in our high customer ratings and reviews. 

Inspection and warranty

We perform a full inspection — including emissions tests — on all our vehicles before putting them on the lot. We’re so confident in our inspections that we provide a comprehensive warranty covering 100% of the cost if anything goes wrong with the following systems during the first 30 days or 1000 miles:

  • Braking system 
  • Catalytic converter and emission device
  • Electrical and computer components
  • Engine cooling system
  • Engine internally lubricated parts
  • Engine starter generator, alternator, and ignition system (not including battery)
  • Front and rear suspension systems
  • Seat belts and all inflatable restraint systems installed on vehicle as originally manufactured
  • Storing systems and all components
  • Transmission, transaxle front and rear wheel drive components

We also offer a six-month comprehensive warranty on select vehicles. Ask one of our dealers today.

Financing options

The helpful team at Hawthorne Auto can help you with financing options through our lending partners, even if you have bad credit or can’t afford a big down payment. Lenders set the down payment based on the terms of the loan and the value of the car — usually around 10% to 20% of the total value. In some cases, you can trade in your old vehicle and use the value against your down payment, or use a combination of cash and trade. 

What if you don’t have the cash today or a car worth trading? We help buyers on a case-by-case basis to take up to five months to build their down payment. All you need to do is:

  • Pay for the taxes upfront
  • Provide proof of income
  • Provide proof of residence
  • Have your driver’s license or ID card

Whether you’re on a fixed income, have a history of bankruptcy or repossession, or are a first-time buyer, we are here to help. 

Finding the Right Used Car Without the Auction Stress

Buying a used car shouldn’t be stressful. Hawthorne Auto works hard to get you into the car of your dreams. Check out our current used car listings online. Don’t see what you’re looking for? No problem — we take the hassle out of the hunt. We find used cars and follow pricing trends to ensure we get the car you want at the right price for you.

Don’t wait for the auction to improve its inventory. Get your dream car today with Hawthorne Auto in Los Angeles, CA.

Ready for a Better Used Car Buying Experience?

Buying from a used car dealership vs. a car auction ensures you get the car you want at a fair price with a guarantee in case anything goes wrong. If you’re ready to start your journey for a new-to-you car, contact us today. We offer trusted service, a wide selection of cars, and competitive financing options, so you can head on your way today.