Buying business equipment on a budget

How to buy low cost business equipment


Auction houses are fascinating places to visit. They often present opportunities to pick up some wonderful bargains, including business equipment and supplies, and unusual items that may be hard to come by anywhere else. The people who attend are generally a mixture of dealers, members of the public who are there to bid on particular items, and sometimes idle curiosity seekers looking to see what all the fuss is about. But amidst the excitement and occasional confusion, auction houses are usually well-organised and fun to attend.

If you have never been to an auction house before here is what you can expect…

Each item in the sale will have an assigned ‘Lot’ number which is called out by the auctioneer once the auction begins. The auctioneer will then describe the item being sold and ask the bidding to start at a price he may quote. If nobody bids he may drop the starting price until he gets a bid to get things moving, or a lower starting bid might be suggested by someone in the crowd.

Listen carefully to the auctioneer and get used to the way they describe the goods and call out the bids. Some auctioneers talk at a very fast pace. When the item you’re interested in comes up for sale be prepared to catch his eye by raising your hand. To stay in the bidding a nod of the head will tell the auctioneer that you wish to raise the bid. Try not to jump in straight away though. Wait to see how the bidding starts and join in after two or three bids if you feel the price is low enough. Whatever you do, set yourself a maximum price and don’t bid any more. If the bidding passes your limit a shake of the head will tell the auctioneer that you’re dropping out.

If yours is the winning bid you may be asked for your number and you will have to pay a deposit on the item won. How much you have to pay and what type of payment is acceptable will be stated in the auction guide or noticeboard. Cash is the usual preferred method of payment unless you have a pre-arrangement with the organisers.

If the items you have bought are heavy or difficult to move you can arrange to have them delivered by a removal company. Sometimes the auction house can deliver them for a fee. Take this into consideration before deciding how much you are willing to pay. Other costs you should also consider are the commission fees that the auction house charges (usually around 10%), plus vat, plus any charge made on the use of credit cards.

Having a good idea of how much you are saving, compared to what you might normally pay for new goods, will help prevent you fall into the trap of paying much more than the goods are actually worth. Some items will have a reserve price and if the bidding doesn’t reach the reserve then they won’t be sold. If this applies to the item you want then have a word with the pay desk, they might accept your payment if you’re willing to pay the reserve price.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss any items then make sure you get a catalogue when you arrive. The lots are normally sold in sequence and the catalogue will list the lot numbers and a brief description of the corresponding items. You may also need to obtain a bidding number which is used to identify you if you make the winning bid. The auction organisers may require you to register your details, i.e. name and address before providing you with a number. Some auction houses require a deposit so familiarise yourself with their rules before the auction begins.

It’s always advisable to visit the auction site before auction day to inspect the items on sale. Most have ‘viewing days’ which allow you to do this. On the day of the auction you may not get much time to look around.

Auctions can sometimes be cancelled for various reasons so it’s always a good idea to check if the sale is still on and verify the time and date of the sale before travelling any great distance.

You get more advice on buying at auctions in the UK from the Citizens Advice Bureau. There’s also a website where you can find information on various auctions throughout the UK. GAUK ( provides details of categorised auctions including auctions that sell bankruptcy and liquidation stock, computer equipment, office furniture, agricultural and industrial equipment, plant and machinery, commercial vehicles and more.