But the price doesn’t stop most people making the odd trip, primarily for convenience reasons.
However, shopping locally doesn’t always have to break the bank, especially in the fleet industry where more local groups are offering fleets an alternative to their current national or even international supplier.
This can be seen more than ever in the remarketing arena where smaller players are offering a range of services to compete with the bigger companies. Many use online services to reach a wider audience but the majority claim to offer a more personal service.
Roger Woodward, managing director at Cars Direct, said: ‘Our clients get me, the managing director, not an account manager which is more personalised. Account managers can come and go, as it is just a job to them but for us it is our life and it does show to clients.
‘Smaller players tend to go the extra mile and we can be flexible, it is our business to do so. We cannot guarantee to get more money than at a physical auction but companies would not use us if we were not performing.’
Bigger is not always better when it comes to providing a personal service, according to some. Jim Kerr, managing director at remarketing providers JTK Automotive, believes quality should come before quantity.
He said: ‘The big boys in the physical auction arena talk about national coverage, with the amount of sites being very important. I do not agree that this is a major issue and believe that service levels are the top priority for the majority of fleet operators, with many of the smaller companies being able to offer a more personal and flexible service in the marketplace.’
Following a visit to Cars Direct’s main centre in Corby, it is evident that staffing levels are nowhere near some of the larger auction houses. It is all about running a lean business.
Woodward has about 30 staff in total, including administrators, yard staff, drivers and managers.
He said: ‘We started in 1989 as an alternative to auctions but have now grown and have a much stronger position in the industry but everyone who works here is multi-talented.
‘Fleet managers and leasing companies are now more progressive. They cannot justify putting cars to just one auction centre and fleet managers have to try different ways to market.’
Cars Direct sells all its vehicles online and classes itself as an online real-time auction centre. The group will arrange delivery and collection of vehicles and once up for auction fleets can keep track of the bidding, with the screen adjusting each time an offer is made on a vehicle.
Fleet managers do not have to set a reserve and each bid is seen as provisional until Cars Direct confirms the deal.
Prices range from £1 to £100 for a full package, including collection of the vehicle and refurbishment.
It is these online services which the smaller auction centres are keying into to reach a wider audience. Most seem to offer some form of live internet bidding or fixed price sales.
JTK Automotive offers a package of services ranging from affinity sales programmes to inspect and collect services, all of which can be viewed by fleets online.
Kerr said: ‘With technological developments you do not even have to have a physical auction presence within the auction arena. Electronic auctions break down all geographic barriers and as a result can attract a far greater audience. The worldwide web has no limitations and you can also control your target audience.
‘Technology has an ever-increasing role to play and even the physical auction companies have recognised this fact and are having to react to tough new competition which is threatening their main core business.
‘Remarketing companies offering alternative sales channels to physical auction is where it is happening at present and growth in this arena will accelerate over the coming months.
‘More and more fleets are looking at the overall inventory management and disposal processes to ensure they reduce overall costs and disposal days in addition to maximising sales proceeds.’
Autorola Car auction, which recently launched in the UK and already has sites in Germany, Austria, Holland and Sweden, also enables buyers to source trade stock via the internet.
The group’s managing director, Michael Beck, believes the key to selling vehicles online is to have clear descriptions.
He said: ‘It is crucial for our buyers that cars are accurately described and we have really put in an effort to make sure that they always are. On top of that, it is possible for the buyers to view the area where the cars are located and therefore the cost of transportation can be calculated before bidding’.
Using online routes as a disposal method can simplify remarketing, according to some groups.
Ken Trinder, head of business development at epyx, the group behind 1link Disposal Network, believes online methods can reduce the workload and make remarketing more straightforward.
He said: ‘Large organisations disposing of vehicles, such as leasing companies can control all aspects of the disposal process online, ranging from the movement and preparation of the vehicle to the disposal route.
‘It allows fleets to take a much more strategic view of their disposals and will also allow car dealers to locate the exact stock they want more easily.’
As more of the smaller auction centres move their operations online it will mean a wider choice for fleet managers and more competition in the market.
Woodward added: ‘Before we went online there was criticism that there were not enough sites, but now online buyers are from all over the UK.
‘I cannot see why people are investing in acres of land when it can be done online.’