Getting ahead at auction

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Van fleet operators who take the time to visit LCV auction sites will quickly notice that while some vehicles trundle through the halls with hardly a bid – to be tried again next time – others create a buzz of excitement among buyers as they jostle to get in on the action.

There are several reasons why this happens. One is that the popular vehicles tend to come from well-known fleets which are renowned for looking after them properly. Another is that those vehicles have been chosen at buying time for their attractiveness on the secondhand market.
Getting the best from your used vehicles at selling time is an exacting science but it is worth putting some time and effort in to get it right, as the difference between a sought-after vehicle and a dud can be hundreds of pounds per unit.

One example of this is choosing the right added extras at buying time. BCA is increasingly finding that buyers now want air-con – and are prepared to pay extra for it. BCA estimates a typical four-year-old £3,000 van – such as a Vauxhall Combo or a Ford Transit Connect – will fetch £200 to £300 more if it’s got air-con.

Currently air-con on vans of that type and age is not common and that is generating the price premium. More and more buyers are looking for Bluetooth and sat-nav too, so vans with those features are also proving attractive to buyers.

Duncan Ward, general manager commercial vehicles at BCA, comments: “While air-con remains a scarce option it will continue to generate a price premium. As it becomes more commonplace, the price premium will disappear, but vans without it will be at a disadvantage. The same thing happened a decade ago with the wider introduction of power steering into the LCV sector.”

Guy Pearce, sales director at the Fleet Auction Group, recommends that all specialist fitments should be checked to ensure that they are operational in preparation for sale. Issues with basic items, such as non-functioning tail lifts, will potentially prevent a quick sale since the trade buyer will have an immediate repair delay before offering it for sale as a retail proposition.

Pearce also pointed out that the V5 registration document and MOT if applicable at the point of sale are prerequisites.

He says: “The service history is important – more so at a younger age of disposal. However, as the vehicle nears the end of its practical working life, service history is considered secondary to vehicle source. If a reputable former operator has used a van for a number of years and the condition is commensurate with the age and mileage but the service records are not available, the price is less affected.”

Valeting is also an important item to consider, according to experts at Manheim Remarketing.
James Davies, general manager, commercial vehicles at Manheim, says: “Auctions are your shop window where hundreds of buyers compete. When preparing vehicles for auction, look what other vendors do. The majority that go through the halls are cleaned to a high standard. If yours are not and they stand out for the wrong reasons, ask yourself which vehicles people will buy.”

Right and wrong way to remarket


  • Exteriors should be washed and interiors swept out as a minimum
  • A valet costs less than £25 and will be recouped several times over as the minimum increment at auction is £25.
  • Ask advice from experts at the auction house. They will give an honest opinion about whether it is worth spending money on vehicles before selling them


  • Never allow a van to enter the hall ‘in its work clothes’. This has a negative value impact.
  • Don’t leave rubbish in vehicles. Get the auction house to clean out any debris before sale

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