Monday, May 28, 2012

Auction Day: Are U-Surious?


If there ever was a day to wave the white flag, it was today…

A 1999 Lincoln Continental in gold with 75,000 miles went for the jaw dropping price of $4900 after the auction fee.

A 1998 Olds Intrigue in the tannest shade of brown, 135k, cloth seats… $3350.

A 2002 Ford Crown Vic with plenty of chipped paint and 173k, $4000 even.

That was just a couple of samples of irrational exuberance on the domestic front… and keep in mind these were pre-recon prices. Trade-in vehicles without a spiff, a repair or a shine.

These were only the tip of the rough iceberg. The imports which are usually in far higher demand were far, far worse.


On the European front there was a 1999 Saab 9-5 SE with completely faded paint on the roof and enough lights on the dash to enjoy an early Christmas in late May. $3350 for that one.

If you wanted a higher end BMW 6-Series from the good old days of 2008, there was one with only 58,000 miles. Prior fleet. Customized interior. $21,500. That one may have been the deal of the day if it weren't for all the interior scratches and the wore out seats.

Finally there was what I call Toyonda-mania. A financially crippling disease that re-emerges during tax season when every open minded consumer with a tax refund is willing to consider any vehicle in the market. As long as it's a Toyota or a Honda.

Forget antibiotics. I needed a breathalyzer by the time today was done.

1999 Toyota Camry: Low end LE model, wheel covers, 175k $4550

2006 Scion Xb: Base, automatic, accident history, frame damage, 63k: $7800

1995 Honda Civic DX: Pink, 219k, frame damage, as wore out as an old mop… but an automatic!!! : $2450

I managed to get a grand total of 1 vehicle today. Surprisingly enough, it was a pretty good deal.

The pre-auction conversation went like this:

Dealer Rep: Hey Steve. We're getting ready to move this vehicle. It's going to be an inop.

Me: What's wrong with it?

DR: I don't know. It was able to start when we brought it in.

The vehicle in question was a 2002 Chrysler Town  &  Country. Nothing special. Tape player. Rear Air. Dents, dings, and miles unknown since the dash wouldn't light up. The steering column had been taken apart and the sole key for it apparently wouldn't turn. So they got tired of playing with it and had it pushed to the side of the sale.

The regular auctioneer was out and today the folks who hosted the sale decided to arrange for a buffet table full of fried decaying animal carcassses and coffee. I guess I'm the only dealer who didn't eat the 550 degree cancer bombs because when the relief auctioneer lowered the bid all the way to $500… I was the only one who offered a fist on my side which meant 'Hold me!' in implicit auction speak.

11 seconds later the vehicle was all mine for $500 plus a $60 auction fee. I played around with the ignition lock cylinder. Got it to start, and even had one of the auction's employees drive it out of the gate before the sale ended. This thing may be an electric nightmare in waiting since the instrument cluster won't even work at this point. But we'll see.

It beats paying retail, which seems to be the only price you can pay for a car these days.

from The Truth About Cars

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