The volume at the last sale I went to yesterday was down be nearly a third. Apparently, the powers that be wanted to move some of their vehicles to another location and see whether that market would yield higher returns.
They could have saved themselves the tow fees and the hassle of it all. When I liquidated vehicles, it seemed like almost every major seller would try to do a ‘test’ of sorts. Chasing money. Chasing the wind, and chasing their own tail.
“Hey! Maybe an SUV with a leather interior would sell better in New Jersey than Charlotte?” The seller would be subjected to a few buyers who, at a unique moment in the prior sale, would create a pop in the prices. All it would genuinely take are two dealers who are short on inventory and long on cash reserves.
Enough coincidences of this unique sort, and the seller would think that this behavior represented a stronger market.
So off 20 or so of those vehicles would go. The auction would advertise a greater number of vehicles for that upcoming sale. A slightly larger audience would attend and….
It sometimes worked. At least for that sale. Then some other consignor would be highlighted in the next sale. Demand would normalize over the long run, and the tow fees would eat up the net proceeds.
This was more common back in the pre-Katrina days. Since late 2005 I haven’t seen that much of it. Transport costs have gone up and online bidding has served to improve the results for the unique and high demand vehicles.
I only bought one vehicle at yesterday’s sale. Nothing special. The 1999 Blazer pictured above with 150k miles and 4WD for $1915 (including the $115 fee).
There was a two year old base 2010 Scion xB with 28k, steel wheels and a stickshift, a repo in blue, that went for $10,000 even.
While a pretty looking 2005 Chrysler Crossfire, well kept, with about 80k miles went for $9500. Pretty usually beats out ugly, regardless of the brand. While a high traffic area like Atlanta values stickshifts about as much as Hollywood values a double chin.
There was also an amazing case of deja vu all over the again. Two 1993 Mercedes 600SL models went through two different sales from the same auction company. The first one was in red, with the removable hardtop, and had only 52k original miles. Gorgeous vehicle in exceptional condition. It went for about $8300 if you include the auction fee. The unloved sister, same car but with a typical retractable convertible top and 97k miles went for only $6100. Apparently someone had labeled the title ‘mileage exceeds mechanical limits’ way back around 1994 so maybe, perhaps, it had around twice the mileage of the scarlet red sister.
Finally, for the low mileage lovers, we had two of the most unloved cars of the prior decade sell for ‘all the money in the world’. The highly coveted 2005 Chevy Malibu Classic, with a scuff on the rear passenger door but only 38k miles went for $5200 (plus auction fee).
While a gold 2002 Mazda 626 with the 2.5 Liter V6 and 33k original miles went for $4800 (plus auction fee). As a tribute to the potential bang for the buck that the next buyer may will get if this Mazda gets driven until the wheels fall off, a 1997 Mazda 626 LX with nearly 297,000 miles and an automatic (probably the third or fourth one), went for all of $500.
That’s all for now. Oh, and if you are in the market for a car in the low to mid 2′s, the vehicles below were six of the first ten that got sold in the sale. Note that the prices don’t include the auction fee, transport, defects and recon costs.
2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, 191k, $2300 (worn IMA battery)
2000 Toyota Corolla CE, 156k, $2400 (front clip was replaced and a different shade of blue)
1999 Ford Explorer XLT, 152k, $2200 (paint fade and interior cosmetic issues)
2004 Chevy Impala, Base, 147k, Fleet Car, $2300 (scuffed, trashed and below average)
2002 PT Cruiser, 108k, branded title $2100 (just as bad as the Impala, but worse smell)
1998 Honda CR-V, 186k, frame damage $2300 (Christmas tree dash)
For all of you who want a cheap beater, I have three recommendations for you. Minivans, stickshifts and good friends. Find a deal that offers all three? Email me at steve . lang @ the truth about cars . com , all one word.