Vehicle auction buyers relying on condition reports for online sales

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While buyers feel vehicles are sometimes misrepresented, some dealers who purchased via digital auctions well before COVID-19 became part of the American vernacular say they are comfortable with the process.

Tasca Automotive Group has been buying vehicles online for several years, said David Tasca, the Rhode Island dealership group’s general manager. The key to remote wholesale buying, he said, is being able to effectively arbitrate a disputed purchase, if needed, and generally to not overthink the process.

Condition reports make remote buying easier, Tasca said, as they often list factors that buyers may not be able to discover if they hadn’t inspected the vehicle beforehand — such as a vehicle’s interior odor.

“You can’t tell me if you were standing in the lane that you opened the door in every car and smelled it as it was driving through the lane,” Tasca said, adding, “The condition report tells you in two seconds.”

John Brasher, executive director of the ServNet group of independent auctions, said its auctions have focused on training inspectors to be consistent while also improving photography. Some ServNet auctions have begun using the companies SpinCar and Black Widow for 360-degree vehicle imagery, while others are upgrading the quality of their vehicle photos, Brasher said.

“A good-quality photograph in some cases is probably more valuable than a condition report,” he said.

ServNet auctions have not seen a rise in arbitration claims as digital transactions have grown, Brasher said.

ACV and Manheim reported the same. But that could be in part because of a used-vehicle market that has been red hot, with demand for inventory driving wholesale prices to record levels.

“Whenever the market’s really hot and cars are tough to come by, arbitrations drop down to almost nothing,” he said. As to whether lower arbitration rates will last well into the increasingly digital future, he said, “The jury’s still out.”

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Saurabh Shukla

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