How to buy machinery at dispersal sales

As the autumn machinery dispersal sales get under way, Daniel Jobe from auctioneers Brown & Co highlights 10 pointers for potential buyers to bear in mind

In the past, many auctions were held because of retirement and where no younger family members were interested in taking over the farm. Now, however, the catalyst for a sale is just as likely to be a change in business direction – such as a joint-venture agreement leading to an excess of machinery – or simply a shift in farming practices.

Auctions generally take place in spring or autumn and draw in potential buyers from far and wide. Lots coming under the hammer can include anything from modern, high-spec combines to vintage tractors.

Auctions can be an excellent way of sourcing equipment as long as buyers are willing to take the time, be disciplined and, ultimately, accept an element of risk.

  • Be clear at the outset about what you want. Are you looking for a machine from a specific manufacturer, or must it be a specific width, for example? Do you want something nearly new, or will something a little older suffice?
  • Find the right sale. Events are usually advertised in the farming press and often detail the major items. To see if it is worth viewing, take a look at the sale catalogue – this is almost always found online on the auctioneer’s website or, if not, you can request a printed copy by post.
  • Having identified your dream bit of kit, the next step is to go along on the viewing day and have a closer look. Has the machine been well maintained? Have the grease nipples been used? Has it been recently repainted to hide a problem? If you are buying a high-value piece of machinery, such as a combine or tractor, it may be worth employing an experienced agricultural engineer to give it a once-over and see what repairs, if any, would be necessary.
  • The golden rule of any auction is to decide what it is worth and what you are willing to pay for it. It is important not to get carried away in the heat of the moment at the auction sale.
  • What is the machine worth? Only you can decide that, but you should bear in mind factors that may impact on value. Can you take advantage by buying out of season? For example, a combine sold in June is likely to sell better than one in October.
  • The auctioneer’s terms of business and condition of sale must be displayed at the auction and will be found in the sale catalogue. Read these in full to ensure you know what costs are involved and the conditions under which you are buying.
  • On sale day, most auctioneers require you to register with them before you can bid. This usually involves giving the auctioneer some personal details in exchange for a buyer’s number, which enables you to bid.
  • Auctioneers tend to walk around the sale field standing next to, or even on, each lot as they auction it. As they near the item you are interested in, make sure you are in sight of them. Bids often come thick and fast. If you bid and the auctioneer appears to take no notice at first, don’t worry. He is likely to be dealing with two other bidders and will come to you when one of them drops out.
  • If all goes well, and your bid is the strongest at the fall of the hammer, you will have purchased your lot. Be aware that, at the fall of the hammer, the lot will become your responsibility and should be treated as such.
  • After the sale, you pay for your items at the auctioneer’s pay office. In most cases, you will not be able to remove the items until you have paid in full. There will usually be a timescale in which lots have to be removed from the sale field – this will be detailed in the auctioneer’s conditions of sale. You should also ensure you have insurance against theft or any third-party liabilities from which you may be at risk.

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