“I wouldn’t buy a car at an auction. They’re all junk!”
Bad transmissions. Blown engines. Cars that smoke, drink and hang out with the bad boys thanks to all different types of leaks and spewage. This is the general stereotype that most uninformed consumers have of those cars at an auction.
Most folks look at auction cars as vehicles that are worth more dead than alive. Every malady and defect is assigned to these ‘red light’ vehicles that are sold as/is with no warranty.
But do you know what is the #1 issue of those auctioned off trade-ins here in the Atlanta area?
This is why I always look at the vehicle’s history. Every Carfax and Autocheck vehicle will list when a vehicle has gone through an emissions check.
The most common trade-in I see at the auctions will usually be driven anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 miles a year for the last several years. Then, I see a few “Failed Emission Inspection” blips, followed either by a recently passed emissions or a final failed emission.
The car will get very little driving after that. In a few months you will see a few hundred miles. Or if it is kept for a few years, you may see a few thousand.
These cars will wind up at the auctions where 99.9% of the vehicle will still be perfectly fine. Dealers who either operate outside of an emission county, or are out of state, will bid most of these vehicles up to levels that I simply can’t compete at for now. Throw in the fact that some of these guys are simply filling in orders for a larger auto finance company that is financed via Wall Street, and I have to be real shrewd with my bidding tactics in order to get any good deal these days.
Do you want this type of deal? Sorry. There are also a ton of unintended consequences from these emission issues.
Public auctions used to be prolific within the metro-Atlanta area, and throughout the country. All businesses want to sell where the general public is and a well run public auto auction is no different.
Except now they are all outside of emission counties due to the auctions getting fined for selling cars that didn’t pass emissions to the general public. Here in Georgia, a lot of folks believe that a ‘no current emissions’ announcement should be enough of a warning for the general public.
But a lot of prospective buyers wander off from lane to lane and, even when slowly spoken to, they don’t quite understand the ramifications of no emissions.
“Oh we should be able to take care of it. Just replace the catalytic converter.” They go cheap on the catalytic converter and don’t realize that there is a lot more to these emission issues than just replacing the one part. The $200 quick fix turns into a $1000+ estimate that offers no guarantee of success.
They get upset and try to return that car to the auction. Is it the auctions fault that these people bought a car with no emissions? With a stamp in big bold letters on the bill of sale that says “No emissions!”?
Yes. The law is the law, and that law of selling a non-emission vehicle is set and stone. So now those businesses focus exclusively on the dealer side of the business. The public is no longer invited.
Small potatoes you say? Well consider your own car for a second. It probably came from a manufacturer that tries to sell their green credentials to the public. Priuses. Volts. LEAFs. Diesels. Hybrids. That magical 40 mpg hump. All of it sounds wonderful to a public that genuinely wants the air clean and the land vibrant.
But 90+% of the vehicles these manufacturers sell usually don’t reach these summits of green efficiency. As for their emission systems, they are only required to last 8 years or 80,000 miles. After that it becomes a revenue opportunity for the manufacturer and the aftermarket.
In my experiences at the auctions, this translates into an entirely faked version of planned obsolescence. The uninformed public often thinks that if the expensive emission system is malfunctioning, God only knows how long the engine or transmission will last.
It gives me a market. It gives the public a perpetual need for auto loans. It gives the manufacturers more money and it gives the banks a fruitful source to finance a public that simply doesn’t know any better… and likely never will.
Not too long ago I bought three vehicles at a public auction that cost me all of $700 each. They were perfectly fine. Unpopular, with failed emissions, but fine. No cosmetic issues. A 1998 Suzuki Esteem wagon with only 105k. A 1992 Toyota Tercel with 180k, and a 1990 Mercury Topaz with only 79k.
How much money would have been saved by John Q Public if they could have kept those rides? I am willing to bet that these emissions issues easily add over a half million units to the new car market. I could be wrong. But whenever I inspect a car with a check engine light and see a long list of emission related codes, I feel like the public is being suckered into a Ponzi scheme of substantial magnitude.