Buying auction cars in the US & shipping it to Nigeria - all the secrets unveiled!


Posted by: Okenwa Emeka

Share this post:

Latest news articles

Buying auction cars is now as easy as clicking the “buy now” button on a car auction website. Simple as it sound, the process might be stuck forever if not following the right steps. Read on to avoid any trouble when buying auction cars to Nigeria!

You've probably heard of how people buy cars online in the US, import them to Nigeria, sell or drive them by themselves and you've often wondered what it actually takes for one to import cars into the country. With the bottlenecks that usually characterise most systems in Nigeria, it can be disturbing just thinking about what the challenges can be to start the process of this magnitude. However, that's about to change with this article: you will know what the processes are if you are trying to get a car from the US, as Naijauto, demystifies the steps to buy online auction cars and how to get it shipped from US to Nigeria. So, let’s dive in!

1. What are auction cars?

Auction car is an option for buying cars in some foreign countries like the US or Japan and has become very popular with most car buyers in Nigeria especially car dealers. This is considered a reliable and faster way of buying a car from abroad, not to mention the ease of transaction, the variety of cars, and the competitive prices.

Auction cars are acquired through car auction - a process of bidding for a car online through an auction website and purchasing the car if winning the bid.

Used cars for sale in USA - the favourite type of auction cars of Nigerians

Used cars for sale in USA make a large proportion of Tokunbo cars in Nigeria. People that buy used cars in USA prefer them to their locally used counterparts because the supporting infrastructure in the US like the roads reduces the deterioration of these cars to the minimum. This is why the prices of used cars in USA can be higher than locally used items.


Find the latest and modern cars for auction at competitive prices!

2. Auction car prices in USA & all you should question

2.1. How much do auction cars sell for?

Auction cars are generally less expensive than ones from dealerships, considering that auction cars are available from a wide variety of car sales sources, with different reasons for selling. Unlike the dealership whose sole reason is to make the highest profit from the sales of its cars, auction cars can originate from insurance companies, ex-government cars, fleet car companies and individuals who are not selling primarily to make the highest profit from the sales of such cars.

You are, therefore, likely to get cars as low as $1000 (~N361,000) to around $40,000 (~N14.5 million) and even more, depending on how neatly used, car model or trim level etc. Of course these prices haven't included the shipping fee or clearing cost at Nigerian port.

2.2. How much cheaper are auction cars?

It might depend on the state of the vehicle and its proximity to the port of export. That is why you should get an understanding of geographical distances within the US and a fair idea of the additional cost of transportation to the port for exportation which can be a significant cost if the distance is more. A very resourceful site to help with this is which shows you seaports (in orange) and container terminals (in blue) for all cities in the US on a geographical map. You can also use google maps for accurate distances between the auction yard and seaports, alongside this website.

In addition, it is common sense that dealerships make money on each car they sell. You might want to read a true story of how a 275$ (N48,000) salvaged Toyota Corolla became neat and sold for N2.2m in Nigeria. Of course, they have to fund for the fix-ups and all the related fees to get it to Nigeria, but on average, dealerships might earn from ₦200,000 to ₦700,000 from the sale of a tokunbo car of a common model.


An auction warehouse with a variety of car options and mouthwatering offers

2.3. Factors that affect car prices in USA

Ordinarily, getting a car from the US (no matter auction cars or cars from dealerships) might be quite expensive as standard auto models here can be considered luxury options in Nigeria. Other factors like the year of manufacture and the particular brand can also contribute to the high prices of cars in the US. The foregoing is especially true for car brands having different specifications for the American market - called American specs, and other specifications for the rest of the world.

3. How to buy auction cars from USA – the steps you’ve always wondered about!

To purchase auction cars that fit the budget and specifications that you have, a number of steps should be noted. We will illustrate the steps on how to buy auction cars from the US below!

Step #1: Registration with car auction sites

The hunt for auction cars from the US starts with registering with US car auction websites. When you don't have a trusted hand that can help you search around car dealerships in the US, a car auction website will do just fine and can even be better as you won’t be having high blood pressure over an amount of money you've sent to an individual, for which you're not sure the person will deliver what you want.

Some of these car auction sites that are common with Nigerians include Auction export, Copart, and Iaai, with the registration fee ranging from absolutely free to about $200 (~N72,000).

Required documentation often includes a form of identification – national ID, driver's license or international passport, and proof of address and business license if you're registering as a company.

Step #2 Get to understand important terminations used in car auction sites

Before you dive in, make sure you know the meaning of terms used for car auctions in the USA.

For cars in the US to be export worthy and get through the US ports onward to Nigerian ports, they must hold any one of salvage title, clean title or certificate of title, so you must make sure that the car you want to bid has these titles ab initio. Titles like parts only certificate or bill of sale do not make a car eligible for export as a whole, it can only guarantee the export if disassembled into parts.

Also, you'd better avoid 5 kinds of cars that are hard to import to Nigeria from USA so you're not gonna lose your hard-earned money.


A sample of certificate of tittle


A sample of salvage title

  • What is a salvage car auction?

If you majorly specialise in car repairs and refurbishing of salvage cars for sale in USA, salvage car auction is the perfect option. Cars in this category have been involved in an accident, usually having one or more forms of repairs. However, carrying out due diligence to know the extent of damage and the cost of repairs is key when buying accident cars for sale in USA. Although there is always a report stating the extent of damage on the auction website, you might also need to engage an auto investigator for a fee of about $90 to give a comprehensive report. You might even be able to get the parts needed for the repairs in the US and then shipped with the car down to Nigeria.

Step #3: Searching for the car you want

Now get to the most exciting part - the real deal! If in "past real world" this is the Cotonou car market where you'll have to walk through all the displayed cars to no avail of getting your choice, now you are in your pyjamas having a cup of tea while you browse through over thousands of different cars with the click of a button, in real time. Life is just beautiful with this kind of option.

Copart Live Online Auction Bidding – Bidding on a parts car for $300!

However, a keen inspection is needed at this point. Don't just only look at how clean the car is in the picture, but also take your time to read the car description. Except you prefer the cheap partially damaged cars for the sole purpose of repairing it in Nigeria and selling at high margins, you can seek the help of an independent inspector at the cost of $90 (~N33,000), to conduct a vehicle inspection and VIN check for you before purchasing.

>>> Other options of buying good used cars include:

Step #4: Purchase your vehicle – yes it is real!

At this point, your Internet strength has a lot to do with your success as you'll be bidding real time and any loss of network reception can cost you that car you've been hoping to get. This applies only to those cars listed for purchase at a predetermined date where you wait for that date to join in the bid. For all others that have a buy now listing, you can pay immediately and get the car rather than wait to bid for it.

Step #5: The payment process

Only two forms of payment are usually accepted to make payments for the purchased car, it's either a debit card which has certain limits depending on the account and the bank or bank wire transfer is another option to make payments. The two options have their advantages, though you'll be restricted to a limit with the card, it is still faster and incurs minimal charges. Whereas there is no limit with a wire transfer, it is slower and a more expensive way of transferring money. There is a window period of a maximum of 3 working days to make the transfer, after which you'll be charged between $50 and $100 per daily till you transfer the funds. The funds are credited into your online auction account from which the process is completed. You can now move on to the next process which is importation to Nigeria.

Step #6: Shipping a car from the US

Bringing your lovely car home to Nigeria can be inexpensive, or it could cost you a fortune. This is where having some understanding of the geographical space of the US come in handy before even bidding for that car.

Transporting your car to the nearest seaport from the point of purchase can range from $200 (~N72,500) to $1,500 (~N545,000) or more, depending on the distance between the two places. Your nominated shipping agent can arrange a low-bed truck to move out your car from the premises of the auction company. This must be done within 7 days after successful bidding or you'll incur an extra charge of $20 (~N7,300) per day after the elapse of these 7 days.

Your shipping agent carries out the remaining process which includes US customs clearing and making sure it's loaded on a suitable carrier inbound to Nigeria. It should be noted that Roll-on-Roll-off (RORO) method of shipping is by far more advantageous as it is cheaper and does not involve the delays caused as a result of sharing containers with other individuals.

>>> Note this: 5 steps to take before shipping a car to Nigeria


Roll-on-Roll-off (RORO) shipping is better than containerised shipping - no delays!

Step #7: Clearing cars in Nigeria

When it finally reaches a Nigerian port, you can clear it yourself with this step-by-step guide for clearing vehicles at Nigerian ports or employ the services of a credible clearing agent - and the emphasis is on "credible," to help you clear the vehicle. It must also be noted that due to government policy to discourage importation of cars, the base customs duty has been increased to 35% for motor vehicles with dates of manufacture earlier than 2016. For 2016 vehicles and above with mileage not up to 5,000km, the duty is 70%.

>>> Be ware of the clearing cost for some common vehicles:

4. Wrapping up!

Now that you know how to purchase auction cars from US hassle-free, as brought to you by Naijauto, it’s time to venture out without actually going all the way across the Atlantic and within 6 weeks you should already be riding your car.

>>> Check out Car buying & selling tips for more practical buying advice!

Okenwa Emeka

Okenwa Emeka


Okenwa Emeka is a prolific writer who combines his content creation skills with a strong passion for automobiles to make engaging articles for Naija car lovers. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing CAM with a diploma in digital marketing. 

Related Articles

See more
Covid 19
Covid 19