How to buy at auction

Buying at auction is fun and can save you money compared with buying at stores on the high street. It is also good for the environment as most items are second-hand rather than new.

An auction at Fellows in Birmingham

Auctions are great for finding the items you love...and fun to participate in (image courtesy of Fellows).

It can seem a bit daunting but just like anything else you are trying for the first time it’s best to just have a go and you’ll find that you soon get used to it.

Here is our quick and easy guide to bidding and buying online at auctions on

1. Browse

Find the object you want to buy by searching for it, browsing by category or by browsing auctioneers’ online catalogues.

You can contact the auction house to ask questions about the item you are interested in, or if you live nearby you can go along to a viewing at their premises and see the item for yourself. A key thing to remember is that at an auction it is up to you as the bidder to satisfy yourself about the condition of an item before you bid. Read the lot description, check the photos and if you need more information the auction house will be happy to help you.

2. Register

Once you have found the item you want to bid on, register with the auction house that it is selling it. Simply click the 'Get approved to bid' button and fill in a few details about yourself and register your credit card.

If you haven’t already created an account on you’ll need to do that first, it only takes a moment.

3. Bid

Bidding online with is easy.

A convenient option is to place a maximum bid before the auction starts. This is the highest amount you are willing to pay for a lot. Then sit back and relax.

Once the auction starts, will place your bids for you, only ever bidding just enough to do keep you in the lead and it will never go beyond your limit. If nobody else bids more than your maximum bid then you will win the lot.

Alternatively, you can bid live during the auction. You can do this on your PC, tablet or mobile phone. You’ll be joining the thrill of the event and competing against other buyers in real time. You will be able to see and hear the auction as it progresses and place your bids as the items you want to buy come up.

You place your bid by clicking the ‘Bid Live Now’ button.

Wait for the amount you want to bid to appear on the screen and click the blue bid button. If you are the highest bidder, the button will turn green. If you are outbid, the blue button will reappear and you can have another go.

4. Pay and take it away or get it delivered

If you are the successful bidder, then the item is yours, congratulations! The auction house will usually contact you to arrange payment once the auction has ended or you can contact them. Some will provide a way to pay online, others will take payment by card or bank transfer.

Then you either go to the auction house and pick up your item or you can get it delivered to you.

Some auction houses will offer a packing and delivery service, others will not. Most auction houses will recommend local or national courier companies that will pack, pick up and deliver your item to you. There will be a charge for any packing and delivery service that you use. Read our guide to auction delivery to learn more.

Top tips

Remember that at auction it is up to you, the bidder, to satisfy yourself about the condition of an item. Ask the auction house for additional photos and a condition report if you need them.

Before bidding, read the auction house’s terms and conditions.

Make sure you know what buyer’s premium the auction house charges. This is a percentage added to the hammer price. For example, if there is a 20% buyer’s premium then on a hammer price of £100 a further £20 will be added (20% of £100), meaning the total cost will be £120.

You'll also have to pay VAT on the premium. In the example given, this would increase the total amount payable to £124 (assuming VAT at 20%). 

When you place a winning bid on, there's also an online commission added onto the hammer price, typically 4.95% + VAT although this fee varies depending on auction house and type of auction.

To see what these charges will be before you bid on all you need to do is check the 'additional fees apply' section on the lot description page. You’ll instantly see these charges all added together into one percentage.

Lot description page showing total auction fees

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

For more information, you can also read our guide to how auction charges work.

Not sure how much to bid? Use our Price Guide which will show you how much items have sold for at previous auctions.

Have a go

Buying at auction is fun way to acquire unique items. Now it’s your turn to join thousands of others who bid and buy every day.

Happy bidding!

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