How do auction charges work?

Before bidding at auction you should understand how auction fees - often called auction commission or auction charges - are applied.

Checking condition of items at auction

When bidding make sure you know what the auction charges will be.

The auctioneer is not the owner of the items it offers for sale, so how do they make any money?

The answer is that they charge fees - commission - to the seller and to the buyer.

All you as the buyer need to do is know what those auction fees are and then take those charges into account when you decide how much to bid.

The auction fees to buyers are typically added on to the hammer price.

The hammer price is the value of the highest bid on an item in an auction. When there are no more bids, the auctioneer’s hammer (or gavel, as it is known) comes down and the final bid becomes the hammer price.

Here are the main auction charges that will be added to the hammer price.

Buyer’s Premium

This auction commission is added on to the final hammer price, as a percentage of it. Each auction house sets its own buyer’s premium so do check their terms and conditions to see how much the charge will be.

For example, if there is a 20% buyer’s premium then on a hammer price of £100 a further £20+VAT will be added (20% of £100).


This is usually charged only on the buyer's premium rather than the whole hammer price. Check how the auctioneer is applying VAT by looking in 'Important info' section on

VAT is payable on the hammer price only if goods are being sold on behalf of someone registered for VAT in their role as a vendor. 

Lots that came from outside the UK may also incur additional charges: look out for details in the auction house’s catalogue.

Online commission

Online commission – for lots sold online, charges 4.95% on the hammer price although this fee varies depending on the auction house and type of auction. VAT also applies to this charge.

All in one place

If that all appears a bit bewildering, don’t worry, it’s much simpler than it sounds. You can see the total auction charge on the lot description page. Add that percentage onto the hammer price and that’s what your item will cost you. Simple. 

Lot description page showing total auction fees

The lot description page shows you the total auction fees payable.

If you are the highest bidder on a lot at the end of the auction, the auction house's invoice to you will include all the fees.

You should find that even after those auction charges are added on you’ll still be acquiring a great item at a price lower than in a high street store.

Are there any other charges?

Occasionally, there are additional auction fees relating to specific lots in a sale. The lot description and the auction house’s catalogue will display these.

The other main charge to know about is packing and delivery. You can avoid this charge if you pick up your item in person. Alternatively, for a small fee, some auction houses will pack and send it to you, or you can arrange for a courier company to pick it up and bring it to you – the auction house will usually recommend a few firms that pick up from their premises.

Auction houses will make it clear how soon after a sale a lot must be collected and what the storage fees might be for any delay in collection.

If you wish to pick up your purchases some time after the sale, you will need to agree this with the auction house and you may pay a storage fee for doing so. You may also want to consider taking out insurance for the item while it is in storage.

Get bidding!

Now you know that the total amount you pay for an item at auction is the hammer price plus the fees and you know where to find out what those fees will be, you can bid with confidence and get those unique items at a great price.

Good luck!

Send feedback on this article