In today’s increasingly digital, connected world it’s only natural to find that there are ways of buying a car over the internet, without attending or even seeing the car at an auction. We wanted to know if there is still a place for the traditional physical auction for car sales.

There are two distinct groups of car buyers at the UK’s auctions emerging: those who attend the traditional, physical auction and those who prefer to participate online and purchase with a click.

Which group do you fall into?

According to used car data providers Glass’s Guide car traders typically fall into one of these two groups and the two camps have become much more apparent over the past 12-months.

Those who opt for online auctions are inevitably more comfortable with technology, using the internet to take advantage of a vast array of stock on portals.

By comparison, traders who prefer the cut and thrust of the physical auction want to view the cars available and are more likely to be older. They tend to consider themselves to be more informed and better able to make the best decisions by being on the ground.

Pro’s and cons

Glass’s identifies disadvantages with both approaches. Online buyers don’t see the vehicles beforehand and even the most knowledgeable, experienced and well informed can make mistakes. Traders who favour the auction are just not benefiting from a wide range of stock compared to those using the online auctions.

Interestingly, the Glass’s research found a lack of understanding of each method of buying stock by the other. Online traders do not see the point of traipsing from one auction house to another up and down the country and traditional auction-goers think their online counterparts are not close enough to the action to be able to grasp the nuances of the market.

A fusion of both worlds?

Glass’s say in reality most traders will use a mixture of both methods rather than adopting a never the twain shall meet attitude. However, it’s interesting to see that there is a very apparent bias towards one or the other.

As well as age and grasp of technology, the two types are also determined by the size of the operation with those from larger or multi-site companies more likely to opt for the online auction.

The online buyers tend to handle higher volumes of stock which makes the odd rogue stock easier to absorb.

The different ways of acquiring stock is arguably reflective of today’s consumers where some still want to touch and feel before making a purchase, whilst others will put up with the odd bad purchase preferring the convenience of buying online.

Physical auctions still very much in demand

It’s not a foregone conclusion that the physical auction will eventually be replaced by purely online methods of buying car stock, in the same way we’ve seen traditional industries like print publication, advertising transition to digital.

Demonstrating that there’s life in the physical auction yet, online re-marketing company G3 Remarketing opened a 4 acre physical auction hall and vehicle prep facility following a £500,000 investment in January.

Catering for the sale of 150-200 sensibly-priced (sub £5k) vehicles per week, and including a vehicle preparation facility, G3 say that the new site was opened in response to requests from traders who wanted to be able to view vehicles prior to purchase.


Interestingly, we think that there may be a swing towards the physical auction, and a possible merging of the physical and digital worlds.

As cloud-software providers we champion technology in the motor industry, particularly innovations that increase convenience, save time and are more accessible to everyone, so we are more naturally inclined to online auctions.

The spirit of modern software companies is very open, allowing services to talk to each other to save time on data inputting and duplication.

With online auctions, you could see in the future the ability to buy a car at an online auction and get it into your CarVue stock instantly without any need for data input. Similarly any cars you want to send to auction, you could do straight from CarVue’s sales stock module, sending off details and images from your online stockbook  to allow the sale of your car to be as painless and quick as possible; the advert being created at a click of your mouse, and the car for sale in moments.

At the same time, you can’t beat actually getting eyes on what you’re buying, particularly with an expensive piece of metal, so we can very clearly see both sides of the argument.

What about you?


As ever we’re interested in your experiences and views…do you source your vehicles from auctions and do you prefer the physical or online? Do you use both? Let me know by adding your comments below!