When buying a used car in France, there are a number of options available. You could purchase through a dealer or find a private seller online or in the classifieds. One option you may not have thought of is to purchase a car at a French vehicle auction.
Buying a Car at a French Vehicle Auction
One way to make savings when buying a second-hand car in France is to buy at auction. Contrary to popular belief, foreclosures and bankruptcies are often not the main source of second-hand cars being sold at auction. The vehicles can come from leasing companies, credit and financing companies, car manufacturers and their distribution networks, large company car providers renewing their fleets and even the government EDF, La Poste, etc).
In the case of auctioneers such as Alcopa Auction, Five Auction and Encheres VO (in Bordeaux, Toulouse and Marseille) the cars are listed on a website with details of the car’s contrôle technique status and the vehicle’s specifications. Vehicles will have undergone vehicle safety checks (brakes, lights, shocks, damaged vehicles) at a Technical Inspection centre. You can also find a great value used French car at the state public finance auctions, the Ventes Domaniales.
You can attend the sale in person and no previous registration is required. Each physical sale is preceded by an exhibition where staff are on hand to answer questions and advise the potential buyer. You are usually able to sit in the car and turn the engine over, though a test drive is usually not possible.
In the interests of customer trust and transparency, reputable auction companies are at pains to ensure that the photos on their websites reflect the state of the vehicle, allowing the customer to make an accurate visual inspection. Pictures are taken from several angles to show the buyer every detail, be it a scratch, equipment or other specification. A notice displayed behind the windscreen is used to show the exact model, its mileage, options and/or equipment, as well as the car’s condition, the sales cost total and administrative charges. Some vehicles, especially ex-rental cars, come with a full maintenance history.
The Day of the Auction
In the sale room on auction day, the auctioneer directs the sale room and explains each vehicle’s technical and administrative specifications. The vehicles are paraded one after the other according to a predetermined order and time slot (keep an eye on the sale catalogue). When the vehicle has been pronounced ‘vendu’, the buyer will then present their ID and either pay in full (in cash only up to €1,000 max or provide a security deposit (cheque, bank deposit).
When it comes to the bidding, sit in the stands and bid using hand signals. Bidding begins at a reserve price and bids usually go up in €100 increments.
If you can not attend the sale, it’s possible for a mandate to be issued to the auction firm to purchase on your behalf. This ‘absentee bid’ is a written instruction from the buyer directing the auctioneer to bid on your behalf to a maximum amount specified for each vehicle. There are also online car auctions.
Auction houses offer varying warranties for purchased vehicles, but you can expect a three-month warranty when purchasing any used French vehicle less than five years old and with under 150,000 km on the clock.
Driving in France
Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.