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Making the Most of Your Auction Experience

From live auctions to online bidding, the world of auctions can be a valuable asset to you and your business.


When one thinks of an auction, the classic events of yore often come to mind. You know, where the auctioneer spews prices at lightning speed and suddenly the product is “SOLD! The man in the white hat!”

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While live auctions are still in existence, it’s safe to say that the online world is taking the reins. Pete Trench, vice president of national accounts for Manheim Specialty Auctions, says that auctions are now selling more products than ever before, thanks to the Internet. “In the past, auction companies would hold a big sale once a week and that would be it,” he explained. “Now with the Internet, powersports are available every day of the week.”

Accompanying an increase in sales is an increase in demand for thorough inspections. “The inspection has transformed from a seller tool for pricing and reconditioning to a buyer tool for evaluating the asset,” said Trench. “When I first started at Manheim 13 years ago, the inspections were very basic.”


Manheim is the largest remarketer of vehicles in the U.S., offering 68 locations nationwide. Its website garners around one million unique visitors per month, and it sold nearly 16,000 powersports units last year alone.

Similarly, National Powersports Auctions caters exclusively to the powersports market with its pre-owned merchandise. Its inventory is derived from bank repossessions and dealer consignments. According to Jim Woodruff, chief operating officer, the company sells about 5,000 to 7,000 units per month — almost 70 percent of which is sold online.

But even as popular as the Internet is, some skepticism remains prevalent among dealers. Who can you trust on the web? The answer is a company that offers stellar condition reports.  

NPA offers smartphone streaming, so dealers can bid on the go. Conduct background checks
ADESA offers powersports units at eight locations across the U.S. as well as via online sales venues. Condition reports are a major factor in the previewing process for a buyer to view and obtain information on a unit. “Units are sold ‘as-is;’ however, we do our best to disclose any type of mechanical issue that a buyer needs to know so they can make a sound decision,” said Evan Davidson, national powersports operations manager. The company’s condition reports provide buyers with images of the unit, as well as a clear statement of each vehicle’s make, model and VIN plate, when available.

Manheim offers online bidders a plethora of detailed photos of each item, as well as a generous return policy. “If the item is not as disclosed, there are time parameters for the buyer to return [it],” said Trench. In certain cases, the company also offers post-sale and mechanical inspections to check for any other issues before the unit is shipped. “We try to make dealers as comfortable as possible with lots of information, pictures and good, transparent return policies,” said Trench.


Similarly, NPA thoroughly examines and details each vehicle and takes about 16 to 25 photos, highlighting any damages. The company also reports the title information of each vehicle. This information can be previewed online for all vehicles prior to sale.

Through the eSale platform, dealers can log on to NPA’s website at any time to bid on vehicles in an eBay-esque setting. “We upload new vehicles every day Monday through Friday at 6 a.m. PST, and all vehicles close at 2 p.m. PST Monday through Thursday,” said Woodruff.

With Manheim and NPA’s Simulcast options, dealers can participate in a live auction right from their stores. The companies have even integrated smartphone streaming, so dealers can bid on the go. “If you’re a Simulcast bidder, you can stay [at your store] and buy the inventory you need and use your time much more efficiently than either driving to a local auction or getting on a plane and flying,” said Trench.

ADESA Sarasota.Do your homework
Knowing exactly what you want out of an auction will save you a lot of time. If you plan on attending a live auction, scope out the inventory online first. “A lot of dealers will review inspections online prior to attending a live sale, which helps them narrow down their selection of bikes or powersports that they might bid on,”  said Trench.

Woodruff advises that dealers scrutinize a vehicle’s condition report and see it in person if there is any skepticism. With locations in San Diego, Dallas, Cincinnati and Atlanta, NPA aims to make their live auctions as accessible as possible across the country. “We know that many dealers want to sit on and start the bike, and they’ll come into our live auctions no matter what,” he said. “We also know that once they’re familiar with our process and have visited our facilities in person, they’re fully confident to buy online.”


ADESA’s Davidson echoes Woodruff’s advice. “For a first-time buyer, I would recommend attending one of our physical auction locations, even if it’s not a sale where you plan to purchase a vehicle. This will allow the buyer to become familiar with the auction process.”

Take advantage of your resources

NPA offers several online tools to help dealers make the most of the auction experience, such as a watch list. This tool allows dealers to build a custom list of what bikes or vehicles they’re interested in, making the shopping process more organized and efficient.


But the No. 1 tool that NPA encourages dealers to use is the Value Guide, which updates every time a vehicle is sold in real time. “That will show them what a true wholesale value a vehicle is worth, since it reports actual results from NPA’s facilities,” said Woodruff.

Dealers can even create a custom wish list of items that aren’t in stock. When the unit becomes available for purchase, they’ll receive an alert. NPA also offers wholesale financing for dealers that aren’t franchised and are seeking ways to finance their purchases.

NPA's full-time marketing staff is ready to help dealers sell their inventory. Sell used inventory
With a full-time marketing staff promoting the auctions on a regional basis, as well as an 11-person sales staff that ventures to dealerships across the country, the staff at NPA is ready and willing to help dealers sell their inventory. “Dealer consignment is a growing business,” said Woodruff. “Dealers are able to take in more and more trade-ins and just bring them to us if they’re not fit for their showroom floors, so it benefits them.”

Manheim also collects much of its inventory from dealer consignment. Trench says dealers can either bring a unit they’d like to sell to one of the company’s locations on sale day, or they can sell their inventory at, Manheim’s online vehicle exchange site. “They can keep the bike on their lot and, at the same time, have it available on OVE for other dealers to see,” said Trench. “If you have 30 to 40 different dealers looking at your bike and evaluating how much they’re willing to pay for it, that’s very transparent.” The company even offers reconditioning services to make sure each item looks its best.


Trench also suggests that dealers investigate the market online to have a decent expectation of sales prospects. “Try and offer [the item] in both retail and wholesale venues,” he said. “Definitely use the Internet as a seller to bring the market to your store and for searching for information.”

Davidson advises dealers to transport the inventory they’re selling to the auction site as early as possible. “That way, the auction can create a condition report, post that unit on and best market that unit. The later the unit arrives, the less time there is for the potential buyer to view it.”


The fast-paced, exciting world of auctions has come a long way since the past. Use the numerous tools available to you, and you could soon be walking away with some awesome additions to your store.

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