How to successfully buy AV and Broadcast Equipment at Auction

Dan Main

Author: Dan Main

Published: 19 January 2021

How to successfully buy AV and Broadcast Equipment at Auction

How to successfully buy AV and Broadcast Equipment at Auction

Perhaps you wouldn't expect an auctioneer to tell you this - but yes, there are risks to buying equipment at auction; just probably not the risks that you think.

Some people may dismiss buying at auction out of hand based on experiences they or friends or colleagues have had. As auctioneers, we have heard comments such as:

"I don't buy at auction because you don't know what you're buying."
"I don't buy at auction because I once bought X at auction and it turned out to be Y."
"I wouldn't buy from this auctioneer again because they said this machine worked and when I collected it, it was faulty."

These comments may be legitimate and reflect their actual experience, but they are a relatively small proportion compared to the huge number of people who successfully buy at auction every day.

So what are the real risks to buying at auction, and how can they be managed?

Faulty & Misdescribed Equipment

It may surprise you, but I wouldn't consider faulty or misdescribed equipment to be a major risk for buying at auction.

Most AV and Broadcast equipment auctions are of equipment that was in active use until just prior to the auction. The reasons for the sale may include a company closure, equipment coming to the end of a finance agreement, or one of the many other reasons a company may no longer need a piece of equipment, like rental fleet disposals or older and obsolete items needing to be disposed of.

If you are purchasing older equipment, then it is possible it has not been used very recently, and yes, it is also possible it is faulty but in general it is not in the interests of an auctioneer to misrepresent an item that is for sale. In fact, it adds to their workload and damages the reputation of an auctioneer without adding significantly to their revenue if an item is faulty and it hadn't been documented in the description of the item as such.

An auctioneer would rather sell an item for £1,000 with the buyer fully aware of any issues, complete the sale quickly and earn their commission on the lower amount, than risk selling a faulty item for £5,000 that the buyer later complains about due to undocumented faults.

That's not to say that mistakes aren't made, but it is not a reason to dismiss buying at auction out of hand.

To reduce the risks, look for usage meter readings (e.g. camera operation hours), comments on condition and evidence in the photos that give you a good idea of how the item has been treated (though don't get bogged down in minor cosmetic issues). Look for things like flight cases that show an item has been transported carefully, photos that show a camera lens has no scratches, or that all the required accessories are included. If information is limited, don't be afraid to reach out to the auctioneer, and do check your auctioneer is a member of a reputable auctioneers association, this should also give you additional comfort that they are adhering to a code of practice.

The Real Risks - Do Your Research

Buying at auction is not the same as buying from a retailer. Issues most commonly arise when a first-time auction buyer is not aware of the nature of the auction process.

These are the three key aspects you should be aware of:

1 Charges

Buyer's Premium is the auctioneers fee which is added on to the 'hammer price' you pay for an item - so if the hammer falls at £1,000 and BP is 20%, the amount you will pay is £1,200 (in addition to sales taxes i.e. VAT or the local regional tax). Make sure you are aware of the BP (it should be obvious on the lot page) and ensure you only bid to your maximum amount having calculated what the total will be.

2 Transport

For most auctions you are responsible for delivery of the item you bought. Items may not be packaged for transport, so ensure you know whether they're in a flight case, a soft case or loose as they may require additional packaging. Read the terms of the auction carefully to see what the arrangements are for transport (including local COVID-19 restrictions), when the item needs to be removed from site and how it can be collected (e.g. can you collect it yourself?). Also consider where the item is located in the building - if you have bought a heavy item from a studio on the third floor of a building with no lift, you'll need to factor in the time and effort to move it!

3 Timing

While it is the case for some industries (e.g. construction), in the AV and Broadcast world you probably couldn't consider auctions as a method for procuring all of your equipment. Though companies close or dispose of their surplus all the time, there is no guarantee that the piece of equipment you are looking for will be available for when you need it. In addition, while quick payment should enable a rapid collection of your item, there are various reasons why there may be a delay to you getting hold of the item you have won. Having said that, it can be a good way to avoid long lead times on equipment with limited availability and get your hands on an item sooner than you otherwise would have done.

Pay Your Own Price

A great way of looking at an auction is that it gives you the opportunity to 'Pay Your Own Price' for an item. However, it is easy to get caught up in the process of winning an item on the day so make sure you set your price (allowing for any additional charges) and don't exceed it. My top insider tip here is to be aware that if there are multiples of the same item in a row the first lot will often sell for more than the rest, even if they are identical.


Auctions present a great and sometimes unique opportunity to buy professional standard equipment with a massive saving on the new price, and with the right approach they can be a safe and effectiveway of purchasing equipment. And although you won't often hear us auctioneers say it, people talk for years about that one time they got an absolute bargain at an auction!

Think of your auctioneer like the customer service rep in your local store. They want you to have a good experience with their business, and buy from them again, so they are there to help you to make sure that happens. Reach out and ask if you have questions or concerns, they’ll want to help you.

Key Points:

- Auctioneers are not generally in the business of selling faulty or misdescribed items, and millions of people successfully buy equipment at auction every day.
- Review all the information and photos available to get the best idea of condition.
- Read the auction terms to be fully aware of all charges and adapt your bid price to this.
- Set you price (allowing for charges) and don't exceed it - and be aware that the first lot in a group of identical items will often sell for more.
- Ensure that you are fully aware of the transport requirements and costs and you have transport in place (in principal at least) before you complete the purchase.
- If you are flexible in the piece of equipment you are looking for, and you do not have an urgent need for it, then you can make some incredible savings on the price of an item at auction.

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