How Anyone Can Bid at Copart Auctions

By Tom Suddard
Sep 5, 2019 | Copart, Paid Article | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Paid Article Presented by Copart


A while ago, we came across a hidden gem called Copart—a company where thousands of cars, trucks, SUVs and more are sold at vehicle auctions. Essentially, you purchase a car online and can then have it shipped straight to your door through a shipping service that is offered on their website—all for potentially thousands less than you’d normally pay at a dealership or other online car retailers. The cars they offer vary in condition from “you’re buying this car just for the parts” to “this is actually drivable,” which is why you can visit the physical locations and check out the inventory in person.

Copart is a Dallas-based company that operates more than 200 locations across 11 countries, and currently has over 170,000 vehicles listed for sale online. They specialize in cars with clean and salvage titles and carry a lot of insurance cars, (cars that have been sent there by insurance companies possibly following an accident) in addition to cars from banks, rental or fleet companies. Each year, they sell millions of cars, making them one of the largest auction companies in the world. Most of those sales are to professionals, but many auctions are also open to the general public. Copart actively encourages everyday people to be a part of their auctions, especially when they put a special one-of-a-kind vehicle up for auction. (We’ve even written about this process before—check out “Ran When Wrecked” to learn more.) They even make it easy for their consumers to do their homework and learn how to buy with instructional videos.

There’s one individual who probably knows more about buying cars from Copart than the typical person, and that’s Randy Shear. The YouTuber started his career as an Uber driver, but now runs the channel Auto Auction Rebuilds full time. With more than 172,000 subscribers, he’s constantly making videos about his finds, fixes and flips from Copart auctions. We gave Randy a call to find out more about buying a car from Copart.

Randy’s story started in his dad’s garage: “I helped my dad rebuild the family Chrysler’s carburetor when I was about 13 years old, and ever since then I’ve been hooked on cars. As an adult I stumbled onto a few other Copart videos on YouTube, and that got me really interested in buying salvage cars at auction. I started making videos and gaining followers, and the next thing I know, here I am!”

Because Randy has so much experience bidding on cars from Copart, we asked him a common-asked question: could nondealers participate in Copart auctions? “Absolutely,” Randy said. In fact, Randy himself doesn’t have a dealer’s license and buys all sorts of cars. He did mention that it completely depends on the state and the auction though, and every car could be different. Copart solves this problem quite simply—they photograph every single car for sale online and list the requirements to buy it on their website (they have one of the best websites we’ve ever seen). Some sales are only open to a select few, but most are either open to everybody, or open to dealers and buyers with brokers. A broker can represent an everyday person in a sale that requires a dealer’s license, and Copart’s website even recommends third-party agents to you if you’re looking at a car that requires one. “No matter what,” Randy said, “the website makes it super clear what you’re looking at.”

The Copart website also allows you to bid on and purchase any car entirely online and Copart even connects you with shipping companies to get the car delivered. Randy’s old-fashioned, though and prefers to see things in person: “Every single Monday, I go to my local Copart yard with a list of cars from the website that I want to check out,” he said. “I always look at cars in real life before buying.” Copart is very generous about allowing bidders to inspect cars, and anyone with a bidder number (registering to bid is fast and free) can walk right up to cars, go inside them, start them up, move them forward and backward, etc. Driving around is off limits, but it’s pretty easy to get a feel for a car’s condition after inspecting it in person. There are a lot of vehicles to inspect; Randy says his local Copart yard sells 600 to 700 cars per week (some Copart locations sell thousands per week), and it’s one of the smaller yards in the Copart network.

What sort of cars does Randy look for? He really loves showing cheaper cars, as he says: “Cars that the average joe could find and make into a good daily driver for themselves.” In his quest for more and more YouTube content, he purchases about 40 cars from Copart per year, and is bidding every single week. “I try to set a number in my head that I won’t bid above for each car,” Randy said. “Though I must admit that I’m guilty of exceeding that at times!” A few of his recent scores include a 1993 Chevrolet Caprice that ran and drove perfectly (he paid $375), and a nonrunning 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer that he picked up for $325. The fix? “It was just a loose battery terminal,” Randy said while laughing.

Do they always have damage? “I’ve purchased a few that didn’t need anything,” Randy says, “but most of the cars do need something, be it deferred maintenance, a new transmission or more. I fix everything myself and prefer cars with mechanical issues to cars that have been wrecked (there are plenty of both listed on Copart).” Even after paying applicable fees, Copart is one of the cheapest places to buy a car.

What about the title issues? There’s no magic workaround, Randy says. “Yes, most of the cars listed on Copart have salvage titles. However, I’m really lucky in my state. Getting a rebuilt title is no harder than getting a normal title. This is another area where it depends on where you live, but most states have roughly the same process: Buy the car with a salvage title, fix it and then get it inspected for a rebuilt title. We’ve gone through the process ourselves in Florida and it wasn’t too difficult. One thing many people don’t realize is that an inspector will rarely care about cosmetics, meaning a car that was totaled because of a few dents, dings and scratches will often pass its inspection without any repairs being completed.

So, what did we learn? We learned that Copart is a juggernaut of a discount car sales operation, and anybody can take advantage of it–not just those with dealer licenses. They make it quick and easy to buy your next project, so what are you waiting for? Click here to browse Copart’s inventory, and check out Auto Auction Rebuilds on YouTube.

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alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/5/19 9:47 a.m.

So I just spent a few min looking at their stock, and found some really temping challenge cars.  An X1/9, a couple of Alfa Spiders, and even a NB Miata that is here in Michigan.

Kind of surprising what kind of cars are there.  

For the sake of my sanity, I'm not going to watch those auctions, but this seems to be a great source of Challenge fodder.

kman91 New Reader
9/5/19 11:17 a.m.

I bought a Harvey flood car from Copart last January, and it was an experience.  First, you have to pay their very high fees.  I paid $600 for my $3000 car!  That was with ~$200 of delivery fees though IIRC. 

Then they (or maybe the seller) marked the flood line (line where the water had come up to) completely incorrectly.  It was marked about 1' up the side of the vehicle, but when I got the car it was easy to see the water had gone almost over the dash.  These are the kinds of things that make me question places.

In the end it was still worth it, but beware.  It was a lot more work than I had planned.

bklecka New Reader
9/5/19 12:24 p.m.

In Florida I have to purchase vehicles from Georgia because without a dealers license I cannot purchase in Florida. The fee schedule is listed on the website and it is steep, especially if you are on schedule D the private citizen without a dealers license. I bought a $400 car and had to pay $182.50 in dealer fees and about $70 dollar loading fee. They do not let you into the yard to load the vehicle. The vehicle comes out on long forks on a front end loader. It took four hours to have my car loaded. Overall I am happy with most of my Copart purchases but be prepared to pay almost a 50% premium over the winning bid for fees and don’t plan on being in and out when you try to load up your trailer. 

Sk1dmark GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/5/19 12:37 p.m.

In reply to bklecka :

Is than an SVT Focus? Just a random musing, not trying to thread jack

slowbird Reader
9/5/19 1:05 p.m.

It's like anything else, there's pros and cons and the fact is, it's one more place to look for that specific rare unicorn vehicle you're looking for. Like a crappy Ford Probe GT. laugh

bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/5/19 1:33 p.m.

Is there a place to look at finished auction results? I am looking for a car for my nephew who just got his learner's permit and being colorado, there are a ton of hail cars out there that just got enough damage on all of the panels to total it but the title is clean. Over a thousand listed currently. 


I wanted to look to see if it was worth taking the time to head out to an auction one day. 

stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/5/19 2:50 p.m.
bmw88rider said:

Is there a place to look at finished auction results? I am looking for a car for my nephew who just got his learner's permit and being colorado, there are a ton of hail cars out there that just got enough damage on all of the panels to total it but the title is clean. Over a thousand listed currently. 


I wanted to look to see if it was worth taking the time to head out to an auction one day. 

The final prices are not posted. You can get an idea what cars are going for by watching the live auctions in your area for the car you are interested in. Not the easiest way to get the info, but acceptable if you are actively searching.

Nofive_0 New Reader
9/5/19 3:36 p.m.

You can use a website such as to view the finished prices of cars on Copart and IAAI. 

Just like everything sometimes its worth it, sometimes not. There is certainly a sweet spot all things considered. Like when I got a 2007 BMW 3 series wagon for $1100 after fees, or when I needed a cheap truck and picked up a 2000 Ranger that needed basically a bumper and a headlight for about $900. However I wouldn't want to fight the vultures for a 3-5 year old Honda/Toyota/Hyundai sedan. Too many people, too little discount for the joe schmo without a dealer's license and frame machine. 

In NC it's easy to register Salvage vehicles, and you don't need a delaer's license to bid on copart stuff here. So keep that in mind. YMMV


maj75 HalfDork
9/5/19 8:00 p.m.

If you were selling 40 cars a year in Florida, you would need a dealer license to be “legal.”  The dealer license is more than a piece of paper, it requires you to have an acceptable business location which come with a slew of requirements.

noddaz GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/5/19 8:02 p.m.

Argghhh!!!   I see nothing!!!   (look how cheap that Audi TT is...)   STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT!!!


*whew*, I am back now...

bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/5/19 8:34 p.m.

Thanks guys. There is a location near my house and 2 more just up the road. Plenty of mid to late 2000 cars which make perfect sense for a new driver. If it's already a little dented, then something a new driver does will not be anything major. 

Go_Gators GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/6/19 1:13 p.m.

i used copart for acquisition of the LS1-KART's carcass, they were great!  i think, of the whole process, the surprise to me was the challenge of getting insurance on a rebuilt title vehicle (nevermind the kart factor).  Essentially, none of the 'big' companies even offer coverage. i ended up using a company called mercury, who i had previously never heard of. 

jungle New Reader
9/9/19 4:57 p.m.

Not a fan of their fees.....I got two cars from there, and they ended up being just "ok deals"....

12/23/19 10:33 a.m.

We've been buying inventory thru Copart for about 3 years. Lots of great deals until last year. As their stock price rose, so did the reserves. I probably buy a quarter of the cars I used to. This year we're seeing more vehicles sold w/parts only bill of sale which have no value to us as we're not in the salvage business.  I've been stuck with 2 so far, 10K to 20K vehicles with $500 dents in them that to me are now worthless.  I would guess the insurers are trying to create a recycled parts inventory they can keep track of since the use of aftermarket parts got them in trouble.  Need parts, total a car... .  Forbes considers Copart, IAA, and Manheim the worlds 3 largest used vehicle retailers.  Maybe after they put all the used car dealers out of business, our legislators will do away with their regulatory exemptions.  Over the years I've found that most of the best auto auctions eventually evolve into big used car lots with a disclaimer (we're an auction).  Years ago there was a dealer in Phoenix that would drive you out to the car on a golf cart, let you check out the vehicle, then hold a "auction" on the spot to sell you the car. Copart's not there yet, but the reserve on Golf Carts is rising...

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/23/19 12:24 p.m.

I have seen MANY videos of people that purchase a car with the water line at the sill and then it was really over the dash (photos of the car in the water proving the water line is wrong) 

I think Copart should stop putting the water line on cars (or take the line that is on the car form the insurance carrier off) and make people look at them in person or pay to have a independent rep look at them. 

The water line thing has been giving them a bad rep for a while now.

AAZCD HalfDork
12/23/19 11:49 p.m.

I've bought about 20 cars from Copart; some flipped, some parted and scrapped, and some kept. I do it for recreation and not with a goal of making money. None have been terrible deals and some I have done very well with. I have bought from IAA too, but found that for me, Copart had a lot more cars that I was interested in that were available to 'public buyers'.

Here's my perspective: As a business, Copart's main customer is the insurance industry. Their product is a large field of buyers. They don't own the cars that are auctioned, they are the conduit. Marketing and making it easier to be a buyer gets better prices for their customers (sellers) which in turn gets them a larger volume of sales. The high buyer fees of Copart and IAA can be annoying to a public buyer, but I have heard several business buyers also complain that having too many public buyers jacks up the prices. Businesses hold an advantage, but public buyers can still get the cars they want directly from Copart rather than a dealer or junkyard.

For my buys, I know what my fees are and keep it in mind up front when I bid. I have also found that service varies a lot between the different yards. The lot in Fayetteville Arkansas is nice to deal with, moves cars quickly, and doesn't do more damage to them in transit. The Tulsa lot has lost keys, taken weeks to get a title, and is slow to load. My Dallas experience has been much better than Houston. To keep my fees down, I have used my own shipping broker or a bid on U-Ship rather than the contract carrier through Copart. For payment I use a wire transfer or Cashier's check if paying in person.

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