4 ways to get the best deals out of an auction

Auctions can be tough places to navigate for a beginner, but with some helpful tips, you'll be able to find out where to go for auctions and how to put your best bid forward.

4 ways to get the best deals out of an auction

Being an effective bidder at an auction sometimes starts even before the auction. Read on for tips to get the most out of your time before and after the last call.

Check out storage-unit auctions

Check your newspaper classifieds for storage facility auctions, and visit your local storage companies to ask if they have any upcoming auctions scheduled.

  • People keep all sorts of valuable items in storage facilities: seasonal sporting equipment, collectible comic books, China dishes and other cool stuff.
  • However, they don't always pay their monthly fees! When this happens, managers regularly sell off the contents of abandoned storage units to the highest bidder — which could allow you to bring home great bargains.

Know your auctioneer

At an auction, the auctioneer's obligation is to make money for the people selling the merchandise, says Gary Peterson, president of the Auctioneers Association of Canada and the auctioneer with Hudson Auctions in Hudson, Quebec.

  • However, the auctioneer wants you to leave satisfied with your purchases too. Strike up a conversation with the auctioneer before the sale begins.
  • Mention the items you're interested in buying and ask the auctioneer if he knows any helpful information about the items, such as their age, condition and value.
  • Once you get to know an auctioneer — particularly if you're a regular at auctions in your area — he can help you out in a number of ways, Peterson says.
  • An auctioneer may choose to "ignore" your bid if he thinks you're trying to pay too much for the item.
  • Or if he notices that you're not paying attention to an item that you'd probably be interested in, he may mention during his high-speed patter that you should consider bidding.
  • By having a good rapport with the auctioneer, you'll notice these helpful little signals.

Bid reasonably

If you're going to toss out the first bid at an auction, start with a low price, but not a price that would be a "steal" for the item, says auctioneer Peterson.

  • For example, if you think the item is worth $1,000, don't start your bidding at $5. Offer $100 or $200 instead.
  • The auctioneer needs to make money for the seller hosting the auction, and if certain items aren't going to fetch a reasonable price, the auctioneer can halt the bidding.
  • If few people were going to bid against you anyway, your excessive bargaining just lost you the prize!

Seek out auctioned furniture deals

When home interiors retailers receive a truckload of products, if one box inside the truck is damaged or open, they will typically refuse the entire truckload, not just the one box.

  • Instead of having the shipping company return all the products, the manufacturer of the products often sells the truckload of refused goods to the shipping company. The shipping company then auctions it off for pennies on the dollar.
  • Most of the material is perfectly fine, and the auctions are open to the public. Contact the major shipping company in your area and ask about these auctions. You can save a lot of money.
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