The internet has changed the lives of most working people beyond recognition in the past 20 years – and it has certainly altered the way used vans are sold.
Eager buyers standing in the auction halls munching on bacon rolls and sipping hot tea are now facing worldwide competition as they bid for vehicles – and it’s a situation that is paying dividends for sellers as more people are being attracted to buy used LCVs via this route.
Just how important internet bidding is at auction was highlighted after the Japanese tsunami in March 2011.
Used vehicles are worth very little in Japan so, traditionally, cars and vans have been shipped off to Australia and New Zealand at two or three years old to be sold on for better money.
When the tsunami struck, this source dried up suddenly and Australasian buyers hit the internet and began bidding in the UK, much to the surprise and consternation of the auction hall buyers who now faced added and unwanted competition, but to the delight of UK sellers and auction houses.
Half of vans attract online bids
James Davies, director of commercial vehicles at Manheim Auctions, says: “We have buyers from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Africa signed up to our Simulcast online bidding system.
“It is so successful that now half of the vans sold have had an online bid submitted for them and 20% are sold like this.
"It’s strange to think that someone who puts his hand up to bid at Colchester may have a bid made against him from the other side of the world.
"It has surprised us, but we are happy to take this business and are even helping get the vehicles shipped abroad afterwards.”
He adds: “We believe our Van Check system, where we guarantee the quality of vehicles, has given traders the confidence to buy without seeing the vehicles. However, we do have problems.
“We occasionally get traders phoning up to say things like ‘whoops, the cat just walked across my keyboard and accidentally bid for a van’, but I’m afraid that as with any auction, when the hammer falls, a legally-binding sale has been made.”
One of the reasons for the rise in internet bidding is the continuing shortage of good used stock. As used vans in good condition continue to be a scarcity, buyers are being forced to look further afield – and they don’t want to traverse the length and breadth of the country in person.