For more than 5 years, Auto Auction Mall has helped thousands of people buy their dream cars from dealer only or private auctions in the US for a fraction of the retail cost. Please read below the detailed review of one of our satisfied customers in Nigeria.
Buying used cars on its own can be a problem sometimes due to the lack of guarantees of the condition of the car you want to purchase. Regardless, Nigerians (myself included) have had to settle for used cars because of the high cost of new cars. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Nigerian problem, it happens pretty much everywhere across the world including the US.
So I wanted to buy my first car, complete novice, I had heard of online car auctions and also stories of people being duped of $4000 and more. The agents would just vanish into thin air, simply because you’re in here Nigeria trying to buy a car that you can’t see in a place you’ve never been. This is problem #1!
Of course, some friends advised me to just visit a local dealer here and buy. But when I read about things like odometer fraud, selling flooded or accidented cars, I decided to take the risk. Plus, I was budget conscious and, to be honest, looking for a bargain.
Understanding Auto Auctions
At the time, it seemed like complex stuff to me, with all the terminologies. With just a few hours with Google, I got to know that used cars from the US are your best bet if you are looking to buy foreign used cars. And with a little more research, found out that Copart, IAAI, Manheim and Adesa were the top 4 used car auctions in the US.
There is also a used car market in Nigeria called “Nigerian used” but you’ll agree that, if you have options and the funds, you’re better off with “Tokunbo cars”.
The only thing I didn’t like about online auction system was the condition of buying “as is, where is”. This literally means that when you buy a car from online auctions (bidding or buy now offers) you agree to buy the car and whatever defects or faults it comes with. Fine, they let you inspect the car if you’re over there or have someone to do to it, but that wasn’t the case for me.
Also as a Nigerian, the thought of paying fully for a car you hadn’t seen or tested was a little upsetting, but I let the online reviews I read reassure me.
Choosing the Right Auction Platform
I signed up to Copart and IAAI because they seemed more popular, straightforward and had great reviews. These are the usual free accounts, however, I found out that the cars I had access to with a free account were limited, aka “public auctions”.
I think I read online somewhere that the remnants of dealers, exporters, dismantlers and other higher accounts were the vehicles that made up these public auctions. To gain access to these top level auctions I needed to make deposits of up to $1000, pay annual subscriptions of about $200 and also have a dealer’s license. Leaving the license aside, and knowing I was trying to save, where was I going to get over 400k that I was not using just for deposit? This was problem #2.
So I went back on Google I started discovering online auction brokers like Auto Auction Mall and Auction Export. They both seemed legit and had done a lot of business in Nigeria. What they do is that for a fee (usually less than $300) they give you access to some of the higher level auctions so you can get good deals and good cars to buy. They help with the bidding and shipping if you want.
Initially, I thought of going with Auction Export but I decided to go with Auto Auction Mall because of a service called “Phone Support”. After calling them (spoke with a guy named Peter), they rerouted me to their representative here in Nigeria (Mr Femi). He was of immense help (probably spent like 5k airtime on me and my questions…lol).
Choosing Auto Auction Mall was a no-brainer because they literally provided someone to hold my hand and guide me through a process I literally knew nothing about. From the inquiries, to the purchases, to the shipping (big-ups!)… but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Selecting and Bidding For The Car
Signing up to Auto Auction Mall was easier. Even before signing up I could go through their huge online car inventory. To have what they call “Buying Power”, which is the ability to bid or purchase cars, I had to make a minimum refundable deposit of $400 or 10% of the value of the car I wanted to buy.
Although I was told the deposit was refundable if I didn’t get the car I wanted, at the time, my scam alarm bells were ringing and I gave up for about two weeks. But I did some digging and saw good and not so good reviews about them on third party sites. However, none of them said they took off with money.
Initially, I wanted to buy a 2006 BMW 750i, but thanks to the customs estimate that I was able to get from Femi (the Auto Auction Mall rep) I dumped it. He literally said “Customs are waiting for you oo”. So I eventually settled for the X5 and made my deposit with my GTB Mastercard (Debit) on their website. I was granted a “Buying Power” of $4000 after I sent a copy of my ID and account email, and we scheduled the auction.
The car had a “Buy Now” price of $2500. What this means is that the auctioneer was willing to sell the car for that amount without an auction. More like cash and carry. Let me mention here that apparently, all cars listed on Auto Auction Mall eventually end up in live auctions. Some auctioneers in some cases may sell if the set price is met even before the auction date for that car and some won’t fix a “Buy Now” price as a risk to try to see how much they can get on the car.
For the auction you can choose to be a part of it or not. I chose to experience it and was linked to the Auto Auction Mall head office in US. I had the free help of the Auto Auction Mall auction specialist, Peter, who called me via Skype a few days to prepare me for the auction.
Fast forward to auction day, I eventually won the auction for $1800. Lots of tension there too but I think I handled it well…lol.
Payment and Shipping
So Auto Auction Mall has some strict payment terms. Payment of the Buying Power deposit can only be done via card on their website. Payment for the car and their charges can only be made by bank (wire) transfer, and for this you will need a domiciliary account.
Within 24 hours of winning the auction, I got the invoice for the payment with bank instructions. The breakdown of the payment included the cost of the car and the auction charges. The $400 deposit I made earlier had been deducted from the total leaving me with the balance to pay. I had to pay immediately to meet up with the 2-3 business day payment deadline, so as not to incur in an extra $50 daily fine.
Before the bidding process, I had also discussed with their rep on shipping. I got to understand that Auto Auction Mall assists with shipping through their partners if a buyer opts for that. He also gave me the option of sorting out shipping myself and picking up the car at the lot. But then why go through the headache of separate arrangements right?
The shipping company they spoke with on my behalf was Prestige Shipping. After a few days I got confirmation of a booking number and the vessel, Grande Benin (Grimaldi Shipping lines) that the car was assigned to. I called Prestige directly a few times just to be sure this was legit and I wasn’t being scammed. Their confirmations put me at ease. The car was booked for Roll on-Roll off (RORO) shipping since it was a “run and drive” car. I also got to understand that RORO is cheaper and clears faster if you’re buying just one car.
There were some slight issues with the US customs due to paperwork that wasn’t properly signed, but this was resolved. Finally, after about 3 weeks, I got a confirmation after following up with Peter, that the car had been loaded.
The payment for shipping was made to the Shipping company’s bank account through bank/wire transfer. According to their Nigerian rep, Auto Auction Mall didn’t take any commissions off the shipping. The great thing is that receiving a shipping payment invoice also acts as a confirmation of sorts that your car is on the ship and on its way to you. After this was done, the wait started.
Before I forget, after the payment, original titles and documents including the bill of lading will be sent via DHL or FedEx for customs clearing. I got mine 4 days after payment.
Arrival and Clearing
After roughly 3 weeks, Grande Benin finally arrived to Lagos. Auto Auction Mall had connected me earlier with an agent who gave me a copy of the bill of laden to fast track clearance. After 4 to 5 days and N550,000 later, I picked up my 2005 BMW X5!
Things to Note:
– There were some additional charges like $25 for offshore transfer charges I had to pay when paying for both shipping and the car.
– Try to get your dollars on time from your Aboki to avoid fluctuations in forex.
– It is a lengthy process. Took about 8 weeks (due to customs delay), was told it’s usually about 6 weeks. So patience is key! On the good side, you’re getting an awesome deal.
Total package was N2.2m… cost of car here from dealers is N3.5 – 4m.
Breakdown is as follows:
Cost of car: $1800 (Won live bidding)
Auction Charges: $581
Auto Auction Mall Flat Fee: $299
Others (Documentation, Bank and Transfer fees): $179
Total: $2859 is N1, 029, 240 (@360/$1)
Shipping Costs Domestic: $405
Shipping Costs Ocean (ROR): $1245
Total: $1650 is N594,000 (@360/$1)
Tin Can Clearing: N550k
Dom Account Telex charges Payment for car – N16k
Dom Account Telex Charges Payment for Shipping – N16k
I definitely recommend Auto Auction Mall if you’re considering buying a US used car via auto auctions. Having a Nigerian rep to guide me through the process eased a lot of fears and worries and helped me understand the process.
I’m already saving to get my wife her own car too!
Also See: Buy and sell cars faster on Carmart NG