How to Buy a Car at South African Online Auctions

How to Buy a Car at South African Online Auctions

In South Africa, owning a car is still only a dream for many citizens. Financing a vehicle can be costly, and only some have the disposable income to afford one.

However, online auctions are gaining traction as an economical way to purchase a vehicle, as deals can come in with a reserve price as low as 78% below the estimated market price. The low prices make owning your dream car a viable possibility – if you take advantage of them correctly.

If this interests you, or you’re looking to get into the world of live auction bidding, keep reading as we explain how to buy a car through an auction.

Buying Cars Through Online Auctions

Getting into the bidding game can be daunting if you are unsure about the whole process. You want to come in ahead of the other prospective buyers to make the winning bid, and to do that; you need to know how to bid at an auction.

Find Your Vehicle

Most people already know the type of car they want to own. Some will want a family car to transport many children; others might want a sporty model that suits their child-free lifestyle. Whatever your requirements are, it’s good to know the vehicle you want before you select an auction to attend.

Find a list of local auctions in your area and scout their pages for your desired vehicle. Once you’ve found it, note the auction’s date, time, and location.

Some auction houses have viewing days held a few days before the live auction. Try taking advantage of these to view what’s being sold at auction.

Terms and Conditions

We strongly encourage you to read the term and conditions under which the sale will be conducted so there are no surprises and you can feel confident placing the highest bid. You will find the T&Cs at the auction house and online on the auction website.

Attend a Live Auction

While the auction process is relatively straightforward, attending a few auctions can be to your benefit to familiarise yourself with the process. In addition, the more comfortable you are at the auction, the more focus you can dedicate to competitive bidding.

Tips for Live Auctions

A few tips can take you a long way. Here are some of our suggestions to get you started.

  • Observe the auction process
  • Find out how to register
  • Find out the deposit fee
  • Find out how to bid (including minimum bid price and reserve price)
  • Be sure when to bid and, importantly, when to stop
  • Familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions, and the requirements of the auction process

Now that you’re more comfortable in an auction setting let’s move on to the auction itself.

At the Auction

It might be exciting to anticipate outbidding potential buyers. However, should your high bid be the winning one, it’s imperative to have secured the financing through pre-approval or the funds available to purchase or finance it yourself.

When you register at the auction, you might be asked to pay a deposit to ensure you’re serious about bidding.

Not being able to pay for the goods or services you’ve bid on can result in a lost deposit which, depending on the auction house, can cost you around R5,000 to R6,000.

After the Auction

The aftermath of the auction will depend on how you end. For example, If you made a successful bid but didn’t have the funds to follow through, you would lose your deposit. If you don’t end up purchasing a car or property at an auction, your deposit gets returned in full. If you buy a vehicle, your deposit gets taken off the selling price.

Finance of Goods or Services

Typically, finance and insurance staff are available onsite at an auction, or you can apply for financing online. To make for a smooth process, ensure you have all the correct required documents ahead of time, like a copy of your ID, etc.


Budgeting for a new car is a step that you should never skip. Your budget should make provisions for the following:

  • the retail price
  • the documentation fee
  • VAT
  • Dekra fee
  • buyer’s commission

Conveniently there are budget calculators online, such as ours available here. You will also have to factor in vehicle insurance, which will be required for the entire term of the loan.

Auction Fees

Each auction house will have its applicable fees. We at MFC Auction House require the following fees (subject to change):

  • Registration Deposit: R5,000
  • Buyers Commission: 5% Excl. Vat
  • Documentation Fee: R2,250 Excl. Vat
  • Dekra Fee: R521.74 Excl. Vat

So if we’re looking at an example cost, your budget amount will look like the following:

  • Bid price at fall of hammer: R100,000
  • Buyers Commission at 5%: R5,000
  • Documentation fee: R2,250
  • Dekra fee: R521.74

Total Excluding VAT: R107,771.74. Adding 15% VAT (R16,165.76) brings your final total to R123,937.50 to buy at auction.

Once your highest price is the winning bid, assuming everything we’ve just discussed is in order, it’s time to sign contracts to complete the transaction.

Important Things to Remember

Let’s recap a few essential points when getting into online or vehicle auctions.

  • At all auctions, the sale is concluded at the fall of the hammer
  • By law, all vehicles purchased have to be registered in the buyer’s name within 21 (twenty-one) days of purchase
  • After the auction, you must obtain roadworthy clearance for the vehicle at an approved test station to register the car in your name
  • You have to register as a buyer to purchase a vehicle at an auction which forms part of the terms and conditions of the various auction houses
  • All auction facilities require a registration deposit
  • If you are unsure whether you should bid on a vehicle, always err on the side of caution by not taking part in the bid for the vehicle
  • Familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions and the requirements of the auction process

With that in mind, it can be rather thrilling to get into competitive bidding, whether in Absolute Auctions or even a Dutch Auction. There is always a chance of getting an absolute steal.

Bid on Your Dream Car Today

If you find the right auction, purchasing your dream car can be quite a rewarding experience, so knowing how to play the game at online auctions can only help your chances of success.

Make sure you have done your homework, organizing funding and insurance, and you could drive away in an excellent car for a bargain price.

If you’re interested in a live auction, look at our list of upcoming auctions at MFC Auction House.

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