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Private buyers are a boon

The trade should view the increase in the number of private buyers appearing at auction marts as an opportunity rather than a threat argues Glass's Older Car Guide editor John Glynn.

Anyone who visits vehicle auctions on a regular basis will have noticed the increasing numbers of private buyers that are attending. Two key factors are contributing to this trend. First, the media continues to actively promote auctions as a means of buying cars cheaply.

Second, the dwindling number of smaller dealerships is pushing private individuals towards auction sales as a means of acquiring older, lower-priced vehicles.

A significant number of dealers in the UK still believe that the presence of consumers at open auction sales is undesirable, and certainly not something to be encouraged. Their concerns are understandable – private buyers keen to secure what they see as a bargain can often push bids up beyond what a dealer would deem acceptable for a 'trade' purchase.

However, more dealers are now coming to terms with the growing presence of private buyers at auction sales and are beginning to make the most of this new dimension to the modern automotive supply chain.

It goes without saying that the flipside of higher auction prices is that dealers can secure a better return for part exchanges and unwanted stock.

Recognising the potential benefits, the leading auctions have been taking a host of simple steps to facilitate the purchasing process for consumers. For example, plenty of parking and clear signage is being used to help to direct both vehicles and pedestrians more efficiently.

Once inside, simple interactive displays linked to the auction centre's website highlight available stock in advance of the sale, helping to create a “buying mood” for the private buyer attendees.

To further encourage the potential used car buyer, leaflets and pages on the website explain how the auction process works.

Taking this one step further, auctions could easily begin to provide brightly coloured cardboard bidding paddles to help private buyers bid with greater confidence. For added reassurance that a prospective purchase is in good working order, AA or RAC technicians could be made available for on-the-spot vehicle inspections. None of this is difficult to achieve, nor need it be prohibitively expensive.

Whether we like it or not, private buyers are growing in number at most UK auctions. Undoubtedly the best argument for making the most of their presence is the example being set by the more progressive centres where processes and facilities have already been adapted.

The impressive attendances, conversion rates and high sale prices at these auctions speak for themselves.

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