11,285 miles. Or maybe not?
This 12 year old minivan graced a fairly large audience of dealers that were long dog tired of all the minivans that were passing through. There were green ones that were as unloved as they were large. Purple ones that dated back all the way back to the Y2K era and the peak of minivan mania. A red one that came in an unsellable three door version.
Then there was this one.
The auctioneer peered, gazed and squinted at the run sticker on the windshield.
“11,5 miles? That can’t be right?”
After a brief debate with the lane rep, they decided to run it as having 111,000 miles instead. The asking price quickly went down from $4000 to $2500, and within about ten seconds, this white minivan of eternal suburban blandness went for the fair price of $2600 plus a $135 auction fee.
The buyer fumbled around his pockets to show his bidder number. One pocket. Two pockets. Four pockets. Then folks began to notice the usual things of a public buyer that was truly out of his element. He began to ask questions to the auctioneer about the vehicle while the bid caller was trying to sell about sixty more cars in the next half hour.
After the third question, the auctioneer had it with the constant blathering about.
“No sale that last vehicle! No sale!!! Now leave me the hell alone!!!”
The buyer slinked back to his netherworld of Hamlet impersonations while the lot manager walkie-talkied their employees to bring the vehicle back through the sale.
Ten minutes later, as sure as Dolly Parton will sing “Here You Come Again!“, at one of her star studded concerts, the minivan went back in the barn.
As the vehicle went back on the auction block, the ringman peered in to see whether the miles were indeed 11,285 miles.
“I think this thing has a five digit odometer?”
I shook my head vigorously at that thought. As someone who used to liquidate about 10,000 vehicles a year for an auto finance company, my one personal tender spot has always been lane announcements that were inaccurate. If there was an announcement on my list that I didn’t believe was right at my sale, I wouldn’t sell the vehicle. Pure and simple.
“Nope, these things are six digits. So what’s the announcement?”
At this point the auctioneer offered me an ear to ear grin that would be pure nostalgia for the both of us. We had been ringmen at the same auctions way back in the day. Both young. Both well educated. Both guys whose only purpose at the auctions was to help the auctioneer create the urgency to buy by pointing our hands towards bidders and yell, “Yep!”
A dealer would wink and sure enough, one of us would yell “Yep!”
Another would tap his elbow. Another “Yep!”
If the bidding went down to a ridiculously low level, like seven grand on a ten grand car, all of a sudden a whole lot of dealers would bid at the same time.
Our job, at a hundred bucks an hour, was to profess the following.
“Yep! Yep! Yep! Yeaahhhppp!!!”
At that moment, the auctioneer gave me his trademark smile and informed me of the following.
“Let’s go back to those old classical days of long ago and sell it as ‘Miles Exempt’. How does that sound?”
Miles exempt is auctioneer shorthand for, “We don’t know if it has 11k, 111k, 211k, or 311k. But since the State of Georgia doesn’t require mileage verifications on vehicles that are ten years or older, we’re selling it the way it is and we really don’t give a flip about the miles. Bid accordingly!”
After another fifteen seconds of “Yep! Yep! Yeahhhppp!”, the minivan sold for $2300 plus the same fee as before. The brief saga that was would be a very distant memory with over a hundred vehicles going through the block in an hour.
But you dear readers get to take part in the aftermath.
Today’s question is this. Study the pictures that I have given you and see if you can SWAG the following for me.
“Does this minivan have 11,285 original miles?”
Statistical wild axe guessing is a bigger part of this car buying business than you may imagine. So consider this an early education. Point at the blemishes or the beauty. Make your opinion known. Then let out your own personal “Yep!” in the comments section below. Oh… guess the engine as well and for extra credit, see if you can identify the two things that were added to this Mommyvan after it left the factory.