In the Sunshine State, if you want to buy a car for the lowest price possible, you should attend a wholesale car auction. On the flip side, if you’re hoping to create a lucrative car selling business based on ongoing relationships with other dealers, you should look into hosting wholesale car auctions.
Whichever role appeals to you, there’s one thing you need to do first: get your dealer license with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). You can’t sell cars at a wholesale auction without a license. And, perhaps more surprisingly, you can’t buy at these auctions without a dealer license, either.
So, how do you get the license you need to attend Florida wholesale car auctions as a buyer or a seller? Let’s find out.
To host a car auction in Florida, you’ll need a motor vehicle wholesale (VW) license. With this license, you can sell vehicles at wholesale to other licensed motor vehicle dealers. You can also auction those vehicles, selling them to the highest bidder — assuming that bidder has a motor vehicle dealer license with the FLHSMV.
Keep in mind that the VW license only allows you to sell at a wholesale price. If you want to sell or auction vehicles at retail, you’ll need a vehicle independent (VI) dealer license.
Getting either your VW and VI licenses is a multi-step process. You can see from the official application that you’ll need to show a lot of information to the FLHSMV, from proof of your dealership location to your business registration details. You also need to complete some pre-license education hours, but you can knock those out online. And you’ll need to pay the $300 license fee.
Ultimately, getting licensed to host wholesale car auctions in Florida requires a bit of legwork, but it can pay off — literally. Car auctions offer you an opportunity to make a large sum of money in one day.
Additionally, as you auction cars, you can build relationships with local dealers. As they need specific vehicles, you can work to locate them, making the sale to that dealer while helping them best serve their clients.
To do this type of work, though, you first need to get properly licensed. To understand all of the FLHSMV’s requirements for VW and VI licensees, check out this checklist from them. For a quick step-by-step guide to the process, check out the numbered list on the “Florida Auto Dealer Requirements” section of our Florida dealership training page (scroll past the courses to find it).
To buy cars at an auction in Florida, you don’t need a specific license type, but you do need to be a licensed motor vehicle dealer. Basically, you can choose from any of the available license types to qualify for car auction attendance.
No matter which license type you choose, you’ll be subject to some pre-license requirements. You’ll need pre-license dealer education, bonding and insurance, an approved business location, and a completed application. You’ll also need to pay the FLHSMV’s license fee, which is $300.
If you have your dealer license and hire employees to work at your dealership, your employees can represent you at a wholesale auction. They need to be authorized by you to bid on behalf of the dealership. With your approval, they can attend auctions for you and, that way, you don’t have to personally show up at any auctions that interest you.
Just getting your license to sell cars at auctions or to bid at those auctions isn’t enough. You also need to take steps on a regular basis to maintain your license with the FLHSMV.
Renewing your license is fairly straightforward, provided you keep all your insurance and bonding in place. If you don’t make any changes, all you need to do is complete eight hours of continuing education and fill out the renewal application. Send it in along with your $75 renewal fee by April 30 each year.
Technically, no. But if you’re looking to score the low prices you’ll find at a wholesale car auction without going through the process to get licensed, you can explore hiring a proxy bidder. Basically, this is a person with a dealer license who acts on your behalf, bidding on the car you want at the auction.
Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need to pay your proxy bidder for their services. Make sure you have a clear understanding of that cost. Then, crunch the numbers. You might not save very much money when all is said and done, and finding a proxy bidder and working with them in real-time during the auction can be challenging.
If you’re a dealer with a good understanding of your local car market, absolutely. You’ll want some mechanical knowledge, too, so you can appraise the cars you’re thinking about buying for resale. You don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of issues to correct before you can sell the car.
Ultimately, a wholesale car auction is probably your best bet at buying cars at the cheapest prices possible. But it does come with some risk. Be sure you’re ready to check the cars out before you bid on them to protect yourself.
Think through demand in your local market, too. If you live in a snowy climate, for example, your buyers probably aren’t clamoring for a 2WD sedan.
Assuming you come home with quality, in-demand cars you snagged at a low price, you should be able to mark them up enough to pocket a sizeable amount of money.
Wholesale car auctions can give both parties — the buyer and the seller — good opportunities to make money. But you’ll need licensure from the FLHSMV to host an auction or attend one. Make sure you have your paperwork in order first.