The Truth About Cars » Auction The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:49:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Auction New Or Used? : Try To Hit Em’ Where They Ain’t Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:24:37 +0000 keeler

Hi Steve,

I have been trying to find a Lexus GX470 for several months now. Either a 2012 or a 2013.

What I have found is that these vehicles simply don’t exist here in Tennessee.

I have gone through every Lexus dealer in the state, along with a few others that are out of state. I can’t find a GX anywhere.

So I thought that maybe I should try to look at a Toyota Sequoia, or maybe even a Toyota Tundra instead. I have found a few of these vehicles at the dealerships, but the prices are stupid high, and I just can’t justify paying what they want me to pay.

I am a cash customer, and I don’t think I’m too picky when it comes to cars. What I wanted to ask you is whether you can actually find a good deal on a late model GX at the auctions.

Steve Says:


As of today there isn’t a single 2012 or 2013 Lexus GX that is listed for sale at the dealer auctions, and there are several reasons for that.

First, no new car dealership is going to get rid of a popular car that they can sell for a very stiff price premium.

That Lexus GX470 that goes off-lease is going to be looked at online by every Lexus dealer in the region before it ever winds up at the auction. If that popular SUV is even in lousy shape, they will still buy it.

When it comes to the most popular vehicles, those new car dealerships are in the pole position to make a strong profit thanks to CPO programs, today’s lenient sub-prime financing policies, and the salient fact that nearly everyone looking for a late model Lexus will shop the dealer first.

And it gets even worse for the cash customer. Certain vehicles, such as that Lexus GX and the Toyota Land Cruiser, are extremely popular overseas. Even if that off-lease vehicle looks like it got into a fight, and lost, any new car franchisee who has decent relations with wholesalers will make arrangements to flip that vehicle in very short order and get it sold to an exporter.

So the question now becomes, “Are there other avenues to buy a popular late model vehicle at the auctions?”

The answer is, yes. There are three opportunities.

The first are repossessions. Toyota Motor Credit and other financial institutions that specialize in primarily serving one manufacturer tend to give new car dealers the priority. They will even have “closed auctions” where only new car dealers for that particular brand will be allowed to bid on those vehicles. However, large independent banks such as Citibank Financial and Capital One offer their repossessions to all dealers at the auctions, and this is also true for many smaller banks and finance companies as well.

Second are traded-in vehicles. You are not likely to find many late models traded-in these days. But sometimes you get lucky and either find that needle in the haystack. That needle you find though is usually not a popular one. You are far more likely to find a tough to sell vehicle in this situation, but there will be some breathing room over the wholesale versus the retail price.

Finally, you have wrecked vehicles. Virtually every vehicle that is totaled out and has some value to it will wind up at a salvage auction. Exporters tend to be a very strong presence at these sales because the cost for overseas labor is a very small fraction of what it is here in the United States. These vehicles will be purchased, put in containers with whatever parts are needed to semi-accurately repair these vehicles, and they will be sent abroad where less costly labor will help put the vehicle back together. The North American market has become a hotbed for this type of activity thanks to the high content (features and options) of vehicles available here versus those vehicles in developing markets.

The key to getting a good deal at the auctions is to, “Hit em’ where they ain’t”. A high end Lexus or Toyota SUV is not where you’ll find that opportunity. Unpopular vehicles though can often have a healthy 20% to 35 % discount from the retail environment, but that’s not taking into account transport, reconditioning costs, and the substantial overhead of actually operating a car dealership.

So you want a good cheap vehicle at an auction? Go for an unpopular and well-made one. Think less about a loaded Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey, and more about a Mazda 5 or Nissan Quest. The Mazda 3 is super-expensive. A Dodge Dart? Not so much. Hope this helps.

Steve Lang can always be contacted at

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A Look At A Japanese Auto Auction And What It Holds For The Future Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:17:53 +0000 TAAOnlineScreen

While we’re fortunate to be treated to a weekly look at American auto auctions courtesy of TTAC’s Steve Lang and his Hammer Time series, today we’re getting a glimpse of an auction on the other side of the world.

Prof. Mike Smitka of Washington & Lee University posted an entry at his own Autos & Economics blog, detailing his trip to an auction near Osaka, Japan. Smitka outlines the differences between American and Japanese auctions, and explains the economics behind Japan’s used car market.

With annual inspections occurring at the ten-year mark, there is usually a flood of 8-year old cars being scrapped or exported. Some years ago, the rather rigorous standards were relaxed, which in turn allowed owners to keep their cars for longer. Even still, there is less supply of older vehicles, and they are usually exported to Pakistan or Russia. Contrast that to America, where the average vehicle age is around 11 years old.

That of course, is bad news for new car sellers, who could typically rely on a steady stream of consumers replacing their cars every decade or so. But as Smitka shows in another post, that trend doesn’t look like it can continue. Between higher consumption taxes, shrinking demographics and a need to trim streamline the OEM retail channels, Japan’s new car market – and its auto industry overall – look to be facing some major changes in the near future.

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Hammer Time: Reversing the Clusterscrews Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:54:19 +0000 mustangsplus

I admit it. Every once in a while I buy a vehicle that simply doesn’t work out.

Everything checks out at the auction. But then, I get a birthday surprise.

It could be a transmission that randomly goes out of overdrive after about 20 or 30 miles. Or an engine that has far too many aged wires for me to easily track down a stubborn check engine light.

Sometimes I buy a 4000-pound ATM machine that only allows you to put money into it; a rolling lemon, par excellence. Then I have to figure out how to make it into lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon tart, and even repair fodder for the other rides on the road that are still lemon-free.

Lemons are never fun… but every once in a while fate has a wonderful way of smiling on a pitiful set of circumstances. 

Two months ago I bought three vehicles at a sale. One good. Two bad, in their own unique ways.

The good one was a ‘99 Toyota Camry Solara SE in red with leather, sunroof, V6, all the options and garage kept. I managed to steal it for $2400 plus a $200 auction fee. By the time I transported it, replaced tires and did some small recon work, I was still south of three grand on a unit that can be easily financed for around $7k.

It would take two years, and plenty of risk for me to realize the potential return (or loss). And when you finance a car to a stranger, there are always serious risks to consider.

Will that customer be honest? Will that car be cheap to keep? Or will I wind up with a ride that has been all ragged out three states away and worth more in parts than as a whole?

Even the grandest of Olds can wind up with a human hurricane of a customer. This glorified two-door Camry still looked promising enough to buy, though. A popular well-made car that attracts an older affluent demographic tends to work out risk wise, so long as you do your homework when it comes to your customer.

That Solara turned out to be the beauty that was bought between two horrific beasts.

I also bought an Explorer, right after the Solara, which seemed to possess the same qualities of good eye appeal and a responsible prior owner.

It had a rip-free leather interior which is unusual for a 16 year old SUV. The sunroof was fast and didn’t leak, excellent tires, and it had a lot of little things that all seemed to add up.

Over the years, I have found that an owner who spends good money on his rubber tends to be one who likely spent whatever was needed to keep the rest of the vehicle in good running order. This isn’t always true, but the tendency is there and those vehicles wind up on my list for further inspection at the auction.

A car with a service contract issued for it is a big plus. One that comes from a buy-here pay-here lot, especially one that is out of business, tends to be a no-no nadir. Michelin and Bridgestone are good, real good. Tiger Paw, generic Chinese knock-offs, and non-matching tires with unhealthy wear patterns are indicative of abuse and expensive suspension issues.

A lot of little things, dozens of them that become apparent once you inspect the vehicle, tend to add up to a complete overall picture of a car’s condition. With this Explorer, I particularly noticed the parts used under the hood such as several replacement parts from the dealership. The top of the line battery, and hoses and belts that were apparently replaced once those expensive parts needed attention.

I also looked at the personal items and repair histories that were stored in the glovebox. They all give you the little ingredients you need to figure out if the owner and the car were right for each other.

This Explorer had the right stuff: Thousands of dollars spent maintaining it at the dealership; common sense upgrades to the stock radio system; no paint fade after 16 years of Atlanta commuting; only 111k original miles. I bought it for $1650 – about a $300 to $400 premium over the usual wholesale price.

Then everything pretty much went all to hell. Not as bad as a Clinton Era Explorer mated to under-inflated Firestones,  but pretty damn close.

It wasn’t the Explorer’s fault. When I bought the vehicle, the lane clerk on the auction block apparently put it under the wrong buyer’s number. The auction was also short-staffed which meant that after a lengthy discussion with a new employee who didn’t know the auction business, and 20 minutes of loathsome waiting, I said to myself, “The hell with this!”, paid for the other two vehicles, and left.

A week later one of the office managers comes up to me and says, “Hey Steve! When are you going to pay for that Explorer?”

My response, “According to the lady that took care of my check-out, it wasn’t mine.”

With a mild smirk she said, “Let me guess. Late 40′s. Blonde hair. Nice smile. How about if we knock off the buy fee?”

The buy fee was about $200 on the Explorer. I figured that alone would be enough to take care of it all. Sure, why the hell not?

The only strange thing is… once I paid for the Explorer… I couldn’t find it… anywhere…

I looked at the sold lot, the lane where new car trades were lined up for that morning’s sale, and even the temporary junkyard where the true horror stories that don’t run wait to be bought by the local auto recyclers.

I checked every nook and cranny of an auction that I have known for 14 years as a member of the auctioneering staff, remarketing manager, and now, car dealer.

The Explorer was nowhere to be found. Well, I’ll just let the assistant manager know about it and have him/her get the lot manager to chase it down.  It’s got to be here somewhere.

The Explorer was gone. Like a well-oiled politician who has finally been given enough taxpayer largesse to retire in sunny Bermuda, all that was left behind of this SUV was old paperwork and the stale promise of finding my property someway, somehow.

And get this: that Explorer wasn’t the only vehicle that wound up missing.

A 1997 Honda CR-V was gone as well, and this one turned out to be a real stress case.

I had bought the vehicle a couple months back as ‘title attached’, which meant that I would have to wait for the auction to get the title. In the meantime, the auction would hold my check.

A seller has 30 days from the time of sale to submit a good title to the auction that is free of errors and issues. A ‘clean’ title.  During that time, the auction holds the buyer’s check and you, the buyer, pretty much have a car without having to pay for it until everything is right with that title.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that most dealers will wind up putting money into that vehicle in the form of repairs and detail work. Sometimes they will never get the title from the seller.

At such times you are left with only two options:

1) Apply for a bonded title. This cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. And good luck if there’s  a lienholder or two that haven’t been paid off on the vehicle’s balance.

2)  Eat the labor cost of each repair. Eat the transport cost of picking it up and dropping it off, and return the vehicle back to the auction.

I have learned through the hard knocks of this business that the second scenario is hellish. A few years ago I had bought a new catalytic converter for an Audi A4 and did about $500 worth of repair work to it.

This Honda started off harmlessly enough. I got the title from the auction within the required 30 day period… except the back of the title where the dealer writes out who buys the vehicle was completely wrong.

The seller never signed off on the title and the mileage disclosures went from 157,000 miles to 187,000 miles. Even though the CR-V had only about 160k.

I called the auction and was told that they wouldn’t deposit my check for the CR-V until the title got cleaned up.

I sent them back the title and two days later, a check for $2090 went through my bank account. Then I never heard back about the title. So I ended up returning the CR-V to the auction along with the Explorer and a couple of other ‘mistake’ cars I bought a couple months back.

I had gone out to where my vehicles were lined up for the auction. Two parking spaces were empty and those two were meant for the Explorer and the CR-V.

I jogged about a quarter mile to the office. It turned out that the CR-V was never checked into the auction according to their records. It never showed up.  Two phantom vehicles with nearly $4000 invested. Gone.

I went behind the counter with the office manager… looked at the paperwork for the CR-V… something looked fishy…

“Hey. It says here that the last entry to the CR-V was on November 13th. My hauler dropped it off on the 8th according to my records, and how could Cobb County Hyundai pick up this vehicle if it had never been checked into the sale?”

It turned out that the vehicle had the same old bar code on the window from two months back. When the car was brought back to the sale, the car was never given a new one. Hence, no record of check-in. Cobb County Hyundai had picked up the vehicle because it went over the 30 days needed to provide me a clean title.

That solved one mystery. But what about the other…that pesky Explorer?

I found that one behind the repair shop. I drove it back to my other vehicles, and realized that the odometer wasn’t ticking over. So I drove it around more, and more, and more, until I was sure that the car indeed had a broken odometer.

My saving grace at this point is that everyone I deal with at this specific sale is nice and experienced. I can’t tell you how valuable these two qualities are when constantly buying and selling automobiles. So we ended up undoing the Explorer deal and I agreed to put the vehicle under my own name when it went through the block so that it can sell for a decent price.

The Explorer sells. But with the new announcement “True Miles Unknown”, it sells for only $800. I go inside and get my old check for $1650 on the Explorer, and a new check for $2090 on the CR-V. I then thank the Lord for helping me stay solvent in a time of high weirdness, and spend the remainder of my day organizing the 53 other vehicles that are either a repair or a customer away from being sold.

A lot of you have experienced the same scary scenarios of losing everything when it comes to your cars.

Maybe your car could have been lost, stolen, driven through a flood caused by substandard sewer work, or even struck with the white lightning of catastrophe. Feel free to share your story. Since I am most thankfully finished with mine.

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Piston Slap: A High Mileage Tale to TL Wed, 11 Sep 2013 11:15:41 +0000 Capture

Dan writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I enjoy your columns and thought I would get your input regarding what I should do with my current vehicle, a 2002 Acura TL 3.2. I purchased the vehicle new almost 12 years ago. The Acura has about 200,000 miles on it and is still on its third-transmission. As we all know, the transmission used on this vehicle was problematic but seems to be running okay. The car is very clean inside.

I recently priced out a new headlamp ballast and was surprised at the expense. I probably also need a new temperature sensor for the cooling fan, which seems to run in temperate weather when it shouldn’t. Timing belt change coming up and probably the brakes will also need to be changed soon.

A used car dealer I know, who I thought could sell the car for me instead suggested that I could get $5,000 or $6,000 at auction. I was surprised that the car could get such a high dollar amount, but he insisted that a lot of foreigners attend the auction and purchase vehicles such as mine to be sent overseas. He speculates that the mileage gets rolled back when they arrive in their overseas destination.

Sounds like it’s time for a new car and there are a lot of interesting vehicles these days, but at the end of the day, Honda/Acura has treated me right over the years and I don’t dare rock the boat. Besides, I’m from the Columbus area so I’m doing my part to help the local economy.

Ideally, I would like to wait for the new Acura TLX to purchase as a replacement. According to a local Acura dealer, it should start coming out about March, 2014. Would you 1) keep the TL around until the new TLX comes out, knowing that there might be expensive repairs coming up; 2) dump it now and get an Accord (with leather) or a CRV; or 3) just keep it until it dies?

Sajeev answers:

I’m surprised to hear a price range that high at auction, no matter who rolls back the odometer! Me thinks $3500-4500 is the high side with a very clean leather interior and shiny paint. Just for giggles, I logged into Manheim Auctions (thanks Steven Lang!) and verified that I was–once again–correct about the market for 2002-2003 Acura TLs. Why do I even bother with modesty anymore? 

Oh right: the Best and Brightest…but I digress…

Your man on the used car scene knows the local market: who participates, what they like, what they’d pay, etc. And I bet you want a new Acura TL, no matter what.  How difficult is that?

If a new TL is too damn hideous (could be worse, it was somewhat de-fugly’d in 2012) for your tastes, limp yours along until the next version arrives. And why not? You stomached those transaxle swaps and still love Honda/Acuras, so you can handle anything.

Buy a new TL or wait for the next one.  Either way, you can’t lose. Off to you, Best and Brightest.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Thank You, Thank You Very Much Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:43:56 +0000 caddy, Picture courtesy Mecum.

There’s been all sorts of interesting stuff on the auction block lately, but surely the car above has the Seventies lovers in the audience all shook up.

General Motors never made a regular-production Cadillac station wagon, but when you’re the King you can get anything you want. The guys at Daily Turismo suggest that ASC built it using the roof and windows from a 1970 Buick Estate Wagon and their photographic evidence is convincing.

The daddy-Caddy has sold for $29K and $34K at its last two auctions. Given that a new build of a Seventies Cadillac wagon would cost close to that, it has to be considered a bargain. The Elvis connection is basically free. To find out how these cars drive, feel free — no, feel encouraged! — to read my review of a similar car. Thank you very much.

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Finally, A Chevrolet Dealership Has Cars That Someone Wants To Buy Tue, 25 Jun 2013 14:48:37 +0000

How’d you like to buy a new Chevrolet? A real Chevrolet. Not a Daewoo. Not a New GM assemblage of lowest-bidder Chinese electronics and focus-grouped inoffensiveness. A brand-new Chevrolet from the time when Chevrolet ruled the world with a cast-iron fist. A brand-new 1958 Chevrolet. With four miles on the odometer.

Ray and Mildred Lambrecht were the owners of Lambrecht Chevrolet, a dealership that closed decades ago. When they closed the dealership, they didn’t dispose of the inventory. They retained it. On September 28, in Pierce, Nebraska, it will go up for sale. OldCarsWeekly has more details and a complete story, but here are some of the untitled, like-new cars for sale:

1958 Cameo <10 miles

1964 Impala 4spd <10 miles

1978 Corvette Pace Car <5 miles

Vega station wagon 17 miles

1964 Corvair van 14 miles

1960 Corvair sedan 4 miles

1966 Chevelle sedan 4 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 3 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 8 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 5 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 4 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 5 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 6 miles

1965 Chevrolet truck 5 miles

1963 Chevrolet truck 16 miles

1965 Bel Air wagon 5 miles

1972 Chevrolet truck 3 miles

1980 Monza 9 miles

1976 Cheyenne 4×4 4 miles

1977 Chevrolet truck 5 miles

1984 Cavalier sedan 23 miles

1978 Malibu 11 miles

1975 Caprice 7 miles

Chevette Scooter 817 miles

1964 Chevrolet truck 5 miles

1979 Caprice sedan 5 miles

1978 Impala 5 miles

I know, right? A NEARLY NEW CHEVETTE SCOOTER. There are also plenty of ’57 Chevys and the like that were traded in fifty years ago and will also be for sale.

It should be noted that, although you’re taking delivery of a new car from dealer stock, you won’t be able to just gas up your ’64 Chevy, or even your ’84 Cavalier, and go. These cars are chock full of perishable seals and rubber items and there’s a solid chance that they’ve all perished. Still, as a restoration project, this is much easier than taking a 100,000-mile six-trey Chevy that’s been liberally salted and crashed.

We’ll keep you posted on the auction results as they occur.

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The Last Soldier Prepares To Cross The Block Wed, 19 Jun 2013 12:30:26 +0000 Picture courtesy GM

The bare and plain fact that TTAC was, to some degree, built on the GM Death Watch series often causes our readers to think that we, as a group of writers, hate GM. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your humble author grew up thinking the “Mark Of Excellence” was a mandatory part of every seatbelt buckle and that the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency was the most awesome sedan money could buy. If we’re angry at GM, it’s in large part because the people who ran the company destroyed an incomparable, irreplaceable legacy through their complacency, incompetence, and short-term thinking. The men who ran the company into the ground managed to snatch an improbable defeat from the jaws of victory. There is no hell hot enough for the architects of General Motors’ fall from grace. They destroyed a big part of the United States and there was no, repeat, no reason for it to happen.

And now the emblem of their seemingly deliberate failure is coming up for sale.

Nine years ago, the final Oldsmobiles rolled off the assembly line. Although the brand had been somewhat revitalized by a thoroughly unified-looking lineup that imitated the look of the peerless first-generation Aurora, GM had starved the brand of a proper followup to that car and had relentlessly cut money out of the interiors and engines while bullying as many dealers as possible into voluntary closure. The inexplicable popularity of Buick in China meant that when it was time to compress that particular area of the Sloan Plan from two nameplates to one, it was the Rocket brand that took the bullet.

As if to emphasize the fact that Oldsmobile’s death was a matter of heartless planning rather than some sort of emergency situation, the company built a “Final 500″ of all five major vehicle lines. The Intrigue that is coming up for sale next month is supposedly the last Oldsmobile ever built, featuring over 1,000 signatures from plant workers. It’s worth noting that multiple sources claim an Alero was actually the last one built.

The Intrigue is expected to fetch about forty thousand dollars; less than what you’d pay for a modern puffer-barge like the BMW 528i. Will it ever be worth more than that? I doubt it. America may be a shadow of the country it was when the open road resonated to the sound of a million Dynamic 88s, but one thing remains consistent: we don’t value the losers.

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Tales From The Cooler: Instant Karma Depreciation Tue, 28 May 2013 16:02:05 +0000 Fisker Karma Courtesy

During all the turmoil facing hybrid automaker Fisker Automotive recently, from closing its doors to a possible resuscitation led by Bob Lutz, one thing has remained constant: the rapidly collapsing values of the Fisker Karma cars themselves.

It appears that Fisker dealers are starting to dump their new $102,000-plus MSRP Karmas through the auction network. According to auction giant Manheim, 23 Karmas were peddled on their blocks during the week ending May 22. The 15 that were brand new on MSOs sold for an average of $61,200 while 8 extremely low mileage pre-owned examples commanded an average of $57,600. Prior to Fisker’s announced closure, used Karmas were bringing an average of $79,000.

The independent dealers and wholesalers who purchased the vehicles thinking that a 40% discount off MSRP means they can turn them for a profit better hurry: Manheim projects Fisker wholesale values will drop to $28,400 by next May.

I have never considered buying a Karma but at that price, and if I have confidence in whatever dealer body or service arrangements are available next year, I might think about it. How about you?

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Piston Slap: To Rent, To Own Wed, 20 Mar 2013 11:00:14 +0000 Brad writes:

Hi Sajeev -

I’m a longtime reader of the blog, and also have been car less for the past 17 years. I live in a major Pacific Northwest city and haven’t needed a car. But I’m getting older, I’m partnered up and need to visit in-laws out in the boonies, and I just find myself wanting a car. I don’t want an older car. The two cars I did own back in my teens and early 20s were a 1980s Buick Skylark and a 1988 Dodge Omni. I think dealing with the repairs on those two beaters put a bad taste in my mouth for very old cars. So I’m looking at new or slightly used.

I’ve noticed that various rental car companies sell off their car with 30-40k miles on them for a decent price. What is your opinion on buying a rental car? On one hand, I think that people abuse a rental car, but then again, a rental car also might be well maintained by the company. Thoughts on buying a rental car?

Sajeev answers:

Normal rental cars (not Vettes, etc) aren’t more or less of a crap shoot than other used cars.  My only advice is to avoid cars that wound up in press fleets, or those used in driving schools. If a car is sold by a manufacturer at an auction…

Most rental cars aren’t abused as badly as you might think, thanks to today’s performance inhibitors built into the system.  Neutral dropping the transmission at red line?  Not possible, as the factory tune often has a 3000rpm governor in park or neutral.  Air-fuel ratios always(?) err on the safe/rich side, as you approach red line.  Traction control systems take the fun out of serious hooning too. Aside from excess brake wear from the active handling nannies (addressed by fleet mechanics) and the chance of transmission problems in the WAY distant future, I don’t believe that buying a former rental is a bad idea.

I’m more horrified at the prospect of buying a clean one-owner car with zero service history and a teenager in the house that’s beat the living shit out of it when they had the opportunity. That’s real fear: you can’t trust that smiling family! Rental cars have good upkeep, and the factory “tunes” them for safety and longevity.  The odds are good that you’ll get a decent machine.

So go ahead and get whatever vanilla rental machine suits your, um, fancy.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Auction Day: Seconds! Mon, 11 Mar 2013 19:36:42 +0000

There comes a time when the prices for used cars at the auto auctions go the way of an exuberant bubble.

A small army of consumers get their tax refunds. The car lots wake up from their winter slumber, and values for vehicles go the netheregions of the human imagination.

I sell cars during this time, not buy them. In the last three months of every year I will usually buy a lot to avoid the tax time market prices. Sometimes as many as 12 vehicles in a day. But when tax season comes, I buy a chosen few and sell them by the dozen.

Then, after the buying frenzy begins to ever slowly ebb, there will be a welcome break in those hedonistic valuations. Where instead of winding up $1000 to $1500 behind the selling price, I wind up second to another bidder. Almost always to a guy who has been buying cars for a long time. Today was that day.

My first second was this 1991 Acura Integra. Now a lot of you folks will quickly realize that this vehicle is old enough to buy itself a drink, and you would be right. But age in a rust free climate that offers smooth roads is not that big of a deal.

The exterior? $260 paint job. The interior was presentable. A/C was fine. However the clutch was not shifting right, the big fartcan back muffler was a bit of a negative ding, and the hatch area had barely no semblance of the ultra-thin Acura fabric. The odometer showed 164k miles… which was probably inaccurate. I only bid up to $700 and watched a wholesaler outbid me at $750.

These sell quite well once they’re cleaned up. But I’m sure this one would have needed to be shucked to a paint shop, a mechanic shop, and an upholstery shop between the auction and the retail lot. Such time issues have a big hidden cost in our business and if you find another nasty surprise in that process, you can wind up ‘polishing a turd’. So this one simply went down the pipe.

Then we have the most heavily depreciate midsized car of the modern day. A Mitsubishi Galant. This 2009 model had 123,791 miles, and although the trunklid mentioned an ES trim level, apparently an ES in the rental happy Galant world only means alloy wheels as an option.

These lower trim vehicles usually sit at my lot for a bit. Cloth interiors. More than 120k… but an 09 model. I stopped bidding at $4900 for the sole reason that I usually can’t get the same margins with a higher cost vehicle with lower feature content. The final bid was $5000, and given that I already have several Tauruses and 3.5 Liter Intrepids that fit this bill at a far lower acquisiton cost, I can’t say I regret this decision.

Now this one was a gritting of the teeth moment. A 2007 GMC Canyon Work Truck with 111k and nothing too special about it. Except for the automatic. Late model, compact, automatic pickups are insanely easy to finance and this one had the added benefit of some paint transfer on the fenders that a less experienced buyer would falsely see as a permanent issue.

I bid up to $4500, and a friend of mine who buys up trucks was standing near me and bid $4600. I had to invoke King’s Rule and give him the favor of bowing out. In exchange for him looking out for me during the next go around. Hopefully that happens and I don’t wind up in a dogfight.

Finally we had the transportation equivalent of dog food go through the block. A 1999 Saturn SL. Based out. 5-speed. Perfect 35+ highway miles per gallon transportation for those folks who subscribe to the common practices of penny pinching and personal parsimony. I always have several of these on the road. Although the 5-speed is often a more challenging sale here in the Atlanta ex-urbs.

I showed a fist and held the bid at $1000. Waited for a few seconds. Then. Damn! Someone jumped in and I bid it up two more times before letting it go to some other nearby shadow for $1500. Typically I try to keep my costs under $2000 for a stickshift equipped basic vehicle, and this one would have likely cut it close once you added the buyers fee and the need for new rubber all the way around.

There was a ton of other stuff today. Fewer buyers came to the sale. But those who did show up bid all the money in the world. So if you’re in the market for a 1999 Lexus LS400 in clean condition and only 117k miles, you are looking at nearly $8000. Wholesale. If that sounds insane to you, just think about the financing terms that will be applied towards that vehicle. I’m seeing $1500 down. $80 a week for at least 36 months. Maybe even 48 months.


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Looking For an Engine Donor For Your ’53 Ford? Police Impound Auction! Thu, 31 Jan 2013 14:00:47 +0000 Rich, the mastermind behind the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV, just got hired to install a daily-driver-suitable modern drivetrain in a ’53 Ford coupe. The owner wanted to keep it all Ford, EFI makes for much better real-world drivability, and so a late 1980s or newer Ford 5.0 or 5.8 (aka 302 or 351W) V8 engine looked to be the best choice. Running donor cars and trucks that fit those requirements tend to go for four figures, so it was time to hit a Denver-area police-impound auction. Here’s what happened yesterday.
I used to buy cheap Civics, Sentras, and Tercels at the San Francisco towed-car auction, and the setup here is similar: the cars are lined up in a lot, none of them can be started, and most don’t have keys. You get an hour or so to inspect them (i.e., try to guess which ones are runners and which aren’t by sniffing engine oil, studying the paperwork inside to see if they were towed off after a DUI bust, warrant-check, or some other situation that indicated a functioning vehicle when it fell into John Law’s hands). The star of this auction was a 1968 Chevelle 2-door hardtop. Lots of Bondo, trashed interior, generic-looking small-block engine, but not much rust. It went for $1,800.
I was tempted to take a shot at this ’07 BMW 335i, because its 302-horse twin-turbo six and manual transmission would have been a fun swap for my 1941 Plymouth project. However, the bidding got way into the thousands in a hurry on this car and I wandered off to go look at potential Ford Windsor donors for Rich.
This ’83 Signature Series Mark VI Continental had a 302, but it was equipped with terrible throttle-body Late Malaise Era fuel injection, so no dice. Meanwhile, some vehicles were selling for surprisingly good money, e.g., a ’97 Volkswagen GTI with an obvious history of hoonage went for $1,900. A manual-trans-equipped Nissan Altima sold for $3,900.
This Honky Chateau Econoline camper had some flavor of Windsor— probably a 302— but it was carbureted, plus the scrapper typically knocks off 1,000 pounds of value from an RV due to all the wood and other non-valuable materials within.
Another friend was considering this Dodge RV, though he felt a little nervous about the prospect of driving it home with this sprayed across the back.
So, the best potential ’53 Ford engine donor of the bunch ended up being this 1991 Ford F-150.
It was some sort of custom conversion, complete with door badges, done by the apparently-now-defunct Centurion Vehicles in White Pigeon, Michigan.
“Sedona” badging, custom paint and stripes, not in great shape but pretty solid.
The 5.8 liter V8 has the tall truck EFI setup, but the ’53 Ford has plenty of engine-bay altitude. The oil looked good, and the truck was a confiscation victim, meaning the owner who was arrested with it would be prohibited from buying it back (and that it was probably running when it got towed off by the lawmen).
There was no arrest paperwork in the truck, but I was able to find evidence of some interesting stories in other auction vehicles. Say, this impressive septuafecta bust.
This truck came with a few full bottles of Negra Modelo (frozen, thanks to the 18-degree temperatures in Denver yesterday morning) and a fairly worn-out interior. No potential bidders seemed to be paying much attention to it, since the truck shoppers were mostly looking for ready-to-roll work trucks younger than 22 years of age.
A $750 bid took it away. That would have been a lot for something like this, five years ago, but these days it’s not a bad deal. The ignition key was on the seat, but the battery was dead. A quick jump-start and it fired up and drove home under its own power. Good engine, good transmission.
Rich will yank the engine and transmission, keep the tires, and scrap the rest at $240/ton.

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Seven The Hard Way: Possibly The Coolest Auction Of The Year Wed, 23 Jan 2013 17:51:31 +0000

H.J Mulliners gave this model design the name “Flying Spur” which is well documented as the heraldic symbol of the Johnstone Clan in Scotland. The “Flying Spur” was awarded to the Johnstone clan for their help in allowing Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape on horseback.

That’s authentic British heritage, no Bentley-by-Breitling-by-Bentley-by-Brietling-by-Volkswagen needed. You’re looking at one of seven Flying Spurs for sale, from the collection of a Hungarian who escaped that Communist state to become an engineer, succeed beyond his wildest imagination, and acquire top-shelf examples of the Flying Spur wherever they could be found. That’s even cooler than the cars themselves, right?

The Boros Collection is now up for sale at Coys UK. I encourage you to read about the cars and the man who owned them. Now, let’s play a little game of “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other”

This is one of Mr. Boros’ other Spurs:

It’s possible to quibble a little bit… perhaps you like the single-headlight Clouds better, perhaps you just don’t like big luxury cars. Still… look at it and imagine caning it down the B-road to your country estate, or pulling up to Stoke Park in it. Now, let’s examine the 1994-vintage Rolls-Royce Flying Spur, which was a turbocharged variant of the Silver Spur:

You can argue that this shape didn’t wear as well, but it’s still well-proportioned, clean, and elegant. Now, take a deep breath and continue:

Oh, look. It’s the Bentley Flying Spur. Right next to the S-Class so you can see the car with which Bentley intended to compete. A four-door Continental, which is to say a four-door version of a two-door version of a Volkswagen Phaeton. Looks like a Kia Amanti without the sense of dignity. Or maybe a Toyota Celica from the bug-eye era. It’s kind of sad, really. Bentley throws some lovely press trips, but this car is an embarrassment to the name and has been for several years now.

The seven original Flying Spurs are now old enough that it would be possible to bring one to the United States. We’d love for a TTAC reader to do just that, but more than that, we’d like someone to buy all seven and keep Mr. Boros’ dream going.

(NB: Although we would love to profit from an auction about which we are writing, TTAC has no affiliation with Coys or Mr. Boros.)

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Doug DeMuro’s Barrett-Jackson Roundup Tue, 22 Jan 2013 14:54:59 +0000

Tune in, drop out

With Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale over, aging hairy-chested executives are now returning to McMansions all across America, short seven figures but up one or two muscle cars.  Yes, there were some big sales this year, like the Batmobile that went for $4.6 million even though it’s based on a Lincoln and doesn’t have any rocket launchers.  But this Barrett-Jackson summary is for all the car geeks out there, highlighting a few less publicized sales that still managed to raise my eyebrows as I sat on my couch watching the results and eating donuts.


While Barrett-Jackson coverage picks up over the weekend, the auction actually starts on Tuesday with a wild assortment of cars that appear to have been found on Los Angeles Craigslist.  For example, Lot 1 was a repainted fourth-gen Camaro Z28 with a salvage title and Mustang wheels.  The buyer must’ve desperately wanted the bizarre notoriety of taking home the very first car sold, since it went for $6,325, or about retail money for a clean one.  There’s a lesson here: Mustang wheels bring the cash.

Two tractors were also sold on Tuesday: a 1948 Ford (Lot 8) and a quarter-scale John Deere replica (Lot 2).  The replica brought $7,150, or about twice the selling price of the actual, life-sized Ford.  I think it may have to do with the description, which noted that ownership of the replica “brings lifetime invitation to tractor pulls.”  For only seven grand?!

A Guards Red 1980 Porsche 928 (Lot 40) once owned by Arie Luyendyk was one of two cars sold Tuesday from the Indy 500 winner’s collection.  Interior photos showed six keys, which would alone account for the $16,500 hammer price if it had been a Panamera.

Other Tuesday highlights included a highly customized 1990 Chevrolet S-10 with chrome rims (Lot 12) that somehow pulled $7,150 and a 1957 BMW Isetta painted to look like a taxi (Lot 94) – a knee-slapping bit of irony that earned the seller $40,700.  The day closed with a highly-modified ’68 Cutlass followed by a 2000 Mercedes ML430 (Lot 179), no doubt owned by a Barrett-Jackson staffer tired of getting e-mails from Nigerian scammers on Phoenix Craigslist.



It’s hard to even explain the best vehicles sold on Wednesday, but I’ll give it a shot.  One was a helicopter, the other a submarine.  But neither was actually a helicopter or a submarine.  Instead, they were motorized, wheeled conversions of those coin-operated children’s riding toys you see outside the supermarket.  I swear this is true.  The helicopter (Lot 313) brought $4,950, while the Beatles-themed “Yellow Submarine” (Lot 314) only took in $2,200.  They were sold on bill of sale only, though I’d love to see a DMV employee try to work out how to title them.

Aside from a coachbuilt, toothpaste-green 1959 Fiat microcar (Lot 450) that netted $44,000 and a 1968 Unimog advertised as original (Lot 412) that went for $26,400, Wednesday included only one other thought-provoking vehicle: a 2011 Toyota Tundra.

But this wasn’t just any 2011 Toyota Tundra.  Unfortunately.  It was instead a customized short-bed model designed around a rat rod theme by NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer (Lot 459).  To give it the “rat rod” look, Toyota sent a brand-new 2011 Tundra to a paint shop, which poured on the Sherwin-Williams and attacked the truck with a sander.  The result is real faded paint, a fake faded grille, and 20-inch “Smoothies” at each corner – all designed to pay tribute to the late 1940s.  Just ignore the aluminum, dual overhead cam engine under the hood.  This truck relieved a buyer of $38,500, setting a robust value point for rat rods with power windows.



You knew Thursday would be crazy when lot 630 rolled across the block.  A 2008 Vespa scooter underneath, it had been rebodied to look like riders were actually sitting on an Airstream trailer.  I wish I could say I made this up, but unfortunately my brain could not conceive of this vehicle, which has precisely one-quarter inch of ground clearance.  When all was said and done, it sold for more than $25,000 – or nearly twice the hammer price of a two-owner ’65 Mustang that crossed the block just minutes later.

From there, unusual turned into downright bizarre.  Lot 643 was a Willys D3 Gala Surrey jeep finished in bright pink with a bright pink interior and a bright pink cloth top with frayed edges.  None of this would’ve been so bad if the thing hadn’t brought more than $25,000.



Lot 659 was a 1919 REO Speedwagon whose model name was aptly listed as “House Car.”  I say this is apt because it looked like a typical antique car in front, while the rear looked like the kind of small wooden house common the rural South.  Truly.  It even had fixed windows, complete with curtains.  Stunningly, there wasn’t much action on this car, and the high bidder paid just $12,100.



The most interesting Thursday sales came near the middle of the day.  Possibly the best was a 1962 Lincoln Continental that had been rebodied by someone who must’ve had a very small garage (Lot 713).  Imagine, if you will, a 1962 Continental.  Are you thinking of John Kennedy?  OK, now lose the two rear doors and cut two feet out of the middle of the car.  The result is shorter than a ’62 Corvette, with overhangs as long as the wheelbase.  You’re not the only one who thinks it sounds weird: the buyer paid just $23,400, or around half of what a traditional ’65 Continental pulled just minutes later.



The 1980s reared their ugliest head in the form of lot 722, a bright yellow 1990 Yugo Cabrio.  But this particular example distinguished itself from all the other Yugoslavian cars at Barrett-Jackson with showroom-fresh condition and an odometer that read just 351 original miles.  I can only imagine the original owner storing it in a climate-controlled garage, sparingly showing it to friends while proudly declaring that “it’ll be worth something someday.”  Which, of course, wasn’t true: the nicest Yugo in the world only brought $11,000.



High-dollar items started showing up by Friday, with only two oddball sales really standing out from the usual crop of ’69 Camaros and SEMA cars from 2009.


The first was a 2002 Aston-Martin DB7 Vantage Volante (Lot 931), which boasted a special kind of provenance: Jennifer Lopez gave it to Ben Affleck as a present during their relationship.  Buyers didn’t seem enamored with the star-studded past, and it relieved the buyer of just over $57,000 – market value considering a low 9,100-mile odometer reading.  With my pick of cars, as I’m sure Jennifer had, I’m not sure I would’ve wanted 1990s Ford switchgear.  But at least it wasn’t a Fiat.



The most unusual item sold Friday was lot 963, a 21-window “custom” 1967 Volkswagen Microbus.  It turned out that “custom” didn’t mean lowered suspension or a modified engine, but rather a frame-up restoration concluding with a full transformation into the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine.  This includes a bright green and blue interior and 20-inch wheels with Scooby-Doo characters painted in the center caps.  I imagine the buyer might feel some regret upon arriving home with the realization that he paid $110,000 for it.  Ruh-roe, Raggy.



The weekend saw more big-ticket items, but that didn’t mean the weird had to stop.  Nothing proved that more than lot 1212, a 2003 Nissan 350Z that sold for $26,400 – more than twice its clean retail value.  The premium came because in addition to having just 114 miles on the odometer, it was the first 350Z, bearing serial number 000001.  I have no idea what one does with the first 350Z, though it’s amusing to imagine the auction as a bidding war between the guy who owns the first 370Z and the guy who owns the first 350Z convertible.


My favorite listing of Saturday was lot 1292, which was described in the auction guide as “Year: 1969, Make: Chevrolet, Model: Engine.”  Sure enough, this was a 1969 Camaro ZL-1 V8, just without the accompanying 1969 Camaro ZL-1.  The lack of a vehicle didn’t deter bidders, who drove the sale price up to $88,000.



Saturday’s strangest sale was lot 1308, a 2000 Kenworth semi truck pulling a 45-foot Featherlite trailer.  The entire ensemble was called the “Dragon Master” due to an enormous painting airbrushed onto the trailer that depicted Vikings on horses fighting a huge blue dragon.  The auction guide made it well known that the truck was featured on “The Travel Channel,” purveyor of popular programs about ghosts and sandwiches.  Such provenance was apparently important to the buyer, who paid $148,500 to relieve the crowd from having to look at the truck.


 Among Sunday’s sales, which included big-money stuff like a ’68 Mustang GT500KR (Lot 7007) and an early 2013 Camaro ZL1 Convertible (Lot 3018), two cheaper vehicles brought oohs and aahs from, well, me.  Not lot 1510, a daily driver 1997 Chevy pickup that sold for $7,150.  Not even lot 1509, a 1986 Chevy pickup with 98,000 miles that earned $13,200.  But a pickup was one of the objects of my Sunday affection.


That pickup was lot 1573, a 1974 GMC one-ton tow truck fresh from its display at – I swear this is true – the International Towing and Recovery Museum, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Although I’ve never been to the ITRAM, as I’ve just nicknamed it, I can imagine it has some kick-ass exhibits.  “Famous tow trucks,” for instance, would feature the one that hauled OJ’s white Bronco to the evidence room.  There would also be dramatic interviews with tow truck drivers that include lines like “I wanted to take a smoke break… but I had a job to do.”  And the parking lot would be filled with cryptic signs about where to leave your car.


Anyway, the ’74 GMC wrecker hammered for $28,600.  One can only assume it went to someone who plans to capitalize on the ITRAM’s runaway success by opening a similar museum on the West Coast.



My favorite Sunday sale took the phrase “mint in box” well beyond its usual use describing car models and action figures.  Lot 1518 was a 2003 Harley-Davidson Softail completely wrapped in its original cardboard box.  Imagine the joy at this buyer’s house next Christmas when the big present under the tree turns out to be a Harley.  Of course, the mood may soften a bit when it comes out that the buyer paid $18,700 for the ten-year-old bike, and that every rubber part in the motor needs to be replaced immediately.


This concludes our Barrett-Jackson coverage, which hopefully eased the pain for those of you who couldn’t make it this year.  Personally, I’m glad I wasn’t there, as I would’ve ignored all of your great used car suggestions and blown my entire $24,000 budget on Lot 403, a lifted 1970 FJ40 with a Chevy 350 under the hood.  Be honest: you would’ve done the same.

Doug DeMuro owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.



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Monday Mileage Midget: 2011 Honda Accord LX Tue, 20 Nov 2012 13:00:54 +0000

Not too long ago (but in a galaxy far, far away) I wrote about the deals you can get on unpopular new cars that have brand new replacements waiting in the wings.

Today we’ll examine what happens when those vehicles fall off the depreciation cliff. Again.

This 2011 Honda Accord LX has only 8,900 miles on it.

But it is the automotive equivalent of a heffalump at a retail lot. Because it also comes with…

1) A five-speed manual transmission.

2) Carfax confirmed accident & frame damage history.

3) A new generation that has just been released to the public.

The Honda dealer down the road from me needed well over six months to sell all of two manual equipped Honda Accord sedans that were allocated to him for this year. They each sold for $18,500 out the door.  A minor loss on paper and more than likely also in the perception of the Accord as a premium vehicle to a limited extent.

Let me explain the dealer perspective on this. Manuals can do fine on the seemingly fun and sporty midsized vehicles… so long as you keep the sticks spec’d towards sportiness.

Toyota and Nissan can get away with selling SE branded models as sticks because there is at least a passing glance towards sporty driving. The Altima SE more so. The Camry SE less so.

However, big boring base models don’t have near the level of market acceptance when it comes to all things stick  The larger the car. The more comfort oriented the interior. The less you can sell this stick.

This Accord happened to fit all three pre-requisites for flying off yet another depreciation cliff. Big. Boring. Base.

The minor accident history and the buzz on the new Accord all but closed the coffin like interest in the Accord today. Still, it is an Accord and rarely is there a vehicle in the marketplace more popular and well-regarded as one with this hallowed name. So it will sell. Somewhere. Somehow.

Your question for today is this. How much? As a measure of value for all things Accord, let me just say that I bought a silver 2005 Accord LX sedan for $7300. Mid-level. No sunroof. But owned by one family with dealer records and no accident history.

You want a better yardstick than one? Check Autotrader, Craigslist, or even the values given by Edmunds, KBB and NADA.

Then check your gut. Make a guess, and perhaps throw in a nice story of a stick bought for cheap. Did that car equipped with a handshaking theft deterrent system meet my critieria? Or was it that rare good deal that is as common as this Accord?

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Monday Mileage Midget: 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan SE Tue, 06 Nov 2012 14:00:07 +0000

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.



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I’m No Dummy Fri, 02 Nov 2012 18:33:01 +0000

photo source: Wikipedia

Statistics Canada reports that there are more than 26 million registered vehicles deemed fit to ply our 900,000km of Canadian roadway. Not bad for a group of souls who wear wool socks for six months of the year and feast on poutine. Transport Canada sets regulations for such things (the cars, not the poutine) and is thus charged with crashing, smashing, and otherwise ruining brand new vehicles with single digits on their odometers – all in the name of safety, of course.

The amount of detail available on the Transport Canada website is superb. Descriptions are there for the Test Plan of a Smart fortwo micro hybrid drive. An environmental analysis of the BMW 118d, curiously not for sale here or anywhere this side of the pond, is readable in all its oil burning glory.

What I didn’t know is that after the cars have been crashed, debris swept up, and crash test dummies put back on the shelf, Transport Canada sells the remains at an online auction like a black market physician going through the best of his cadavers. I thought they simply crushed them all. Nope.

May I interest you in a slightly bent 2011 Mazda Miata with five (five, not five thousand) kilometers for $4009.00? A 2011 Audi A3 with thirty-one kilometers for $2,266.00? At these prices, some judicious bidding and subsequent eBay hawking of non essential parts would bring the net investment down to LeMons territory! Alas, purchasers have to prove that his or her recycling firm is commercially recognized in Canada. Simply having four abandoned Mustangs on blocks in one’s front yard doesn’t count. I’ve tried.

It’s notable that they also auction off Euro-specific cars that are not registerable in Canada, with the stipulation that the car be hightailed out of the Colonies upon purchase. The BMW 118d mentioned above auctioned for $11,188.00 in August. Peugeots and Renaults as Canadian Government Crown Assets? Mon dieu!

Matthew buys, sells, repairs, & races cars. He is fond of making money and offering loud opinions. He can be found on Twitter @matthewkguy

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Hammer Time Remix: Behind The Gavel Sun, 14 Oct 2012 16:23:42 +0000

Six hours to showtime.

We have 58 vehicles and 1 motorcycle for today’s sale. It will be a very interesting day between the first dealer conversation and the last car that rolls (or gets pushed) through the lane. We’re going to be managing an on site sale for a large financial institution that is most definitely not in the car business.

Their business is the money business. They will demand 59 checks in hand within 24 hours, and these vehicles must help keep their books healthy for the end of year bonuses.

As for us… we have the bank’s managers, a long line of new and returning dealers, flat tires, dead batteries, cars with varying sorts of mysterious starting problems, and a thunderstorm set to hit in an hour. The cars? Everything from a ragged out 2008 Chrysler 300 to a pristine Mommy-van van whose only owner had the misfortune of dying back in September. The cars are here… now we just need to build the market and have a great sale.

One of the fortunes I have is my dealer work. As a dealer, I get on a lot of mailing lists from other sales and when I do, I get to constantly build my market. In an entirely legal way of course. This weekend yielded some very good results.

By Monday morning we have already sent off a list of vehicles to our dealers that now include several dozen new names. Within hours we have new dealers who are ringing our line to become registered with our sale. It looks to be a great day which isn’t surprising. Given that we’re on the cusp of tax season where folks put their returns towards down payments on their new rides, today’s sale will more than likely be especially strong.

Most auctions have one lot manager who is in charge of a given number of vehicles. They will battery jump the vehicles, add fuel, pump tires, change batteries, and will even shoot some starter fluid to awaken a long slumbering jalopy or ten. We have two lot managers for our sale. Why? It’s cheap insurance and all of these cars have been sitting for a while.

When you’re dealing with a lot of older repossessed inventory that has been laying about, you simply need extra hands to prepare for the unexpected. Even if one vehicle doesn’t go through, that ‘no-sale’ will translate into two lost fees. A buyer’s fee and a seller’s fee. Needless to say, we’re always amply staffed.

I love cars. But like the bank, I want the metal to go away. The long and the short of it is that our job as auctioneers is to take care of the “patient” after the patient’s dead. Most of these cars have lived rough lives and when you open the door to these cars, you get a very complete picture of most of their owners.

Some were single moms whose debts and economic misfortunes simply caught up with them. Others were big spenders who were willing to pay big money for rims, audio systems, and TV’s. A couple were perverts. A few were gangsta wannabes, drug addicts, or simply had more money than sense. A surprising number are laid off teachers and government employees.

In 2007 very few repos on average came from responsible owners. By 2009, the title histories and well kept metal told a very different story.

Looking at the titles for these vehicles, virtually all the rough ones are bought and repo’d within a year’s time. Low savings and a quick dose of unemployment will do that to those paying 12.5% interest a month on a title loan. The ones that had long periods of ownership really break my heart. Folks that kept their cars well kept for ten, even fifteen years, can find themselves behind the eight ball of a terrible economy.

Medical expenses bring down a lot of these people. You can often see the unpaid hospital bills, pills, and test results that put them in the American poorhouse. Many of the dealers are also dealing with the effects of these situations. Situations like these, and my own distaste for financing, are what kept me a strictly ‘cash’ dealer for the well to do until October of 2008.

Anyhow, we’ve prepared well for the sale and the dealer interest has turned into a swarm. Cars are being started up. Wholesalers are calling their used car sales managers. Retail car dealers are checking to see what cars are worthy of their clientele.

The first vehicle sells strong. A 2008 Chrysler 300 goes for $2700 above the reserve and the rest becomes the automotive version of a bull market.

Other than a tampered 1998 BMW 5-Series… that still sells at a healthy premium, fifty eight cars come and go through the auction block within a matter of thirty-five minutes. By the time the 7th Ford Taurus roles through, we’ve managed to sell all but two vehicles. Only a Mazda that the bank was buried in and a Honda crotch rocket that was smashed by it’s owner pre-repo, keeps the sale from being a clean sweep.

We shake hands. Enjoy a few conversations. Take care of a lot of checks and titles, and close shop. The sale is over before 4:30 and by 5:30 we’re on the road. We’ll be coming back to do it all over again in two weeks.

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Hammer Time: The Return Of The 1967 Arabs! Mon, 03 Sep 2012 16:19:23 +0000

9:15 A.M. Labor Day.

I get a surprise message on Facebook this morning from a guy who bought an old Volvo 940 wagon from me nearly six years ago.

That BMW? What did it go for?”

A month ago, I posted this article regarding the grey market Bimmer.  It had sold on the block for a mere $2,300 due in part to a broken odometer. I clicked on the Ebay listing hoping for a fair disclosure. Instead I got…

No disclosure of the fact that Carmax had sold it earlier as, “Not Actual Miles” and “Odometer Inop”.

A 16 digit VIN listed instead of the actual VIN number on the vehicle.

From my side of the fence, it’s the dealer that bears the responsibility of telling their audience about any title and mileage issues. It can be a tricky line in our professional world.

Some folks are not willing to hear out anything that someone else may have done in error. The 16 digit VIN listed on this vehicle’s title is obviously not correct. Go to the last picture, and you’ll see that the 10th digit of the VIN is without an ‘H’ that signifies a 1987 model and that the title lists this vehicle as having 6 cylinders, which is also incorrect.

However these were just two small ingredients in the recipe of mistakes and omissions. When I checked for the databases I use for vehicle histories, nothing popped up. I did find out through this decoder that the vehicle was actually produced in September 1986. But inserting a ‘G’ as the 10th digit generations nothing.

As someone who has traveled the country liquidating 10,000 vehicles a year, and even bought grey market cars, I can’t say I have ever seen anything quite like this. 16 digits on the title? A close-up of the VIN on the vehicle would add wonders to this seller’s audience, and perhaps their ability to verify the miles.

Mileage issues are nothing new in the world that is older used cars. Dealer auctions sometimes have to deal with sellers who think that an exempt car, a car that is 10 years or older, doesn’t have to have known mileage issues disclosed.

They do. It’s required by law.  Though I don’t believe the folks at Bring A Trailer have anything but the best of intentions for classic car enthusiasts, at least now they have an extra incentive to verify VIN numbers when the opportunity to do so is there.

They have been contacted and hopefully their article and the Ebay listing will be amended.

This saga brings on a more personal question. What was the most misrepresented vehicle you ever saw in your life? Sometimes auctions will get the details wrong as we witnessed in the earlier post about this car. Some of them will go through thousands of cars over the course of the year, so that’s understandable.

But a guy who bought and kept a car like this with ‘True Miles Unknown’ announced on the block, and written on the bill of sale? So many unusual coincidences in one listing? What says you?

Special thanks to John Dillingham, a long-time fellow brick enthusiast and all around good guy, for tracking down the listing. 



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Hammer Time: And Now For Something Completely Different… Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:58:39 +0000  

This 2009 BMW 535i has 45,000 miles and looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. It offers nearly the same acceleration as a 550i, and far more space than the 335i, which is more sought after in the enthusiast world.

To me, if you’re a true keeper, all of this is good news. The better news? It’s a lemon!

Specifically, this late model BMW is a lemon law buyback. It happened back in the first year of its existence, due to BMW’s chronic fuel pump issues when it was first released. The recall has since taken place. The part has been over-engineered and the problem solved and warrantied for the life of the vehicle.

As for the title, it will be branded as a ‘Lemon Law Buyback’ until either the end of the time or the moment it’s exported.

These common 5-series models are not particularly popular in the export market either. So the question now becomes, “What is it worth?” The rough book on this model came down at right around $22,500. With the branded title and the bad history of way back when, it sold for only $17,300 at this morning’s auction.

There were two other vehicles that I ended up finishing in a firm but profit vaporizing second place.

This 2010 Impala LS has the tried and true 3.5 Liter v6 and 28,000 miles. The bidding went all the way down to $9000 and I jumped in at $9100. Once the price hit $10,400, a few hundred below the rough book, that’s where it stood. The auction fee probably put it right around $10,650.

Then there was a 2010 Honda Insight LX, which I still kind of regret not holding on to the bidding. The unpopular hybrid had some dings and small scuffs, but only 9,700 miles and a perfect Carfax history. Rough book was $12,800. I jumped in at $11,000 and walked off at $11,900.

Part of the reason was because we are getting right near the model change and 1 to 2 year old vehicles can take some nasty hits during this time period.

The other issue is the vehicle in question.  Unpopular models can be hard to unload and experience has lead me to be more of  a hedger than perhaps I should be in my daily life. I am more willing to bid up a low cost car than a high cost one due to the fact that it’s easier to finance on the lower end.  There were a whole lot of second place finishes today and I deeply hate the fact that some potential deals slid right by my eyes.

However, the higher end of the used car world can be a tough market. Some folks try to wholesale the inventory and let that be that. But I’m always wanting to retail vehicles like the Impala and the Insight. My overhead is far lower than the new car dealers and I’m still of the persuasion that a good presentation can always beat up a big bowtie or giant H on the front of a building.

We’ll see. In the meantime, if you folks want to enjoy the sweet lemonade of a killer deal, you often have to throw some lemons into the mix. Branded titles and the unpopular ‘retail’ car are just two ingredients I try to throw into my personal recipe.


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Piston Slap: Panther Love is a Siren Song? Mon, 30 Jan 2012 14:00:36 +0000

TTAC Commentator cc-rider writes:

Hi Sajeev- Happy New Year.  A local 2003 Marauder popped up next to me for a very nice price.  It is a one-owner car with 113k.  I spoke to the owner and it just needs a bit of cosmetic work.  The grill is busted up a little bit.  He bought a new car and wants to unload the Marauder before the new one comes.  He has it listed for $4995.  It seems way underpriced by me from what I have seen.  It seems that the going rate would be more like 8-9k at least.

Do you have any feeling for what the market is for these cars?  I am tempted to pick it up, give it a once over with my porter cable buffer, and list it on eBay.

Sajeev answers:

Smells fishy!  I hopped onto the online Manheim auctions to see what the current crop of Marauders are doing, and yes, it’s a fair bet this one is possibly 2-5 grand under retail.  If it could be reconditioned well enough to be classified as “very good condition”, of course.

Which this one is most certainly not. Maybe the grille only needs to be replaced, or probably that’s the tip of the iceberg.  A good indication of a decent vehicle–that needs a little TLC for maximum profit–is to check the interior, namely the leather seats and vinyl bits.  Cracks or tears? You don’t want to replace them, it will kill your profit margin. Luckily these Panthers are a far cry from the upscale trimmings of the “Fat Panthers” of the mid 1990s, so they can handle abuse and still clean up quite well.

Another good indication?  Accident damage.  If there’s any sign of frame, fender aprons or any other portion of the crumple zones receiving repair, walk away.

Usually a vehicle needing a quick sale, usually being sold at a “retail-like” number such as anything ending in “95” gives me plenty of pause.  This could very well be the work of a curbstoner.

Good luck with your further research into this one: I bet you won’t like what you see. Furthermore, you better pull an Odysseus and tie yourself to something when you see this Panther, as its Siren song might be rather alluring…but I am pretty sure you want none of it.

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Used 2006 Diesel Jetta Fetches $35,000 At Auction! Sun, 22 Jan 2012 19:18:28 +0000

Reporters gasped at the $160,000 a hand-built custom Ford Mustang went for at the auction in Scottsdale. The same reporter nearly had a heart attack over the $4.2 million a rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing fetched ( it could have been $4.62 million, accounts by the same reporter differ.)

The media missed the sensation of the day: An oil burning six year old Jetta sold for $35,000.

The 1.9 liter 6-speed red Volkswagen race car had competed in the Speed World Challenge Touring Car Series. The proceeds went to the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer.

The absolute star of the show: A 35hp 2007 New Holland “Boomer” tractor. It went for $535,000, the fact that it was signed by Jay Leno did not reduce the price. Its proceeds went to the Fisher House Foundation. (It  may have been signed by President George W. Bush. Accounts differ again.)

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Hammer Time: Escaping The Crusher Tue, 15 Nov 2011 16:36:01 +0000
There are vehicles at the auctions that are supposedly worth more dead than alive. Inop vehicles. Cars and trucks that are not running and a mere bid away from the crusher. It’s the hardest area of all to find a decent vehicle… and also the most fun.

The first question you always have to ask when looking at these vehicles is, “Who is selling it?” Independent used car dealers tend to only throw away the very worst of their problem children. A bad tranny, blown engine, electrical issues, and the scourge of tinworm will all result in a vehicle being ‘recycled’ to some other soul who can make use of it. As a rule, I tend to avoid these cars like the plague.

But then are there are those who sellers simply don’t have the time or interest to fix a car. Title pawn companies and banks are notorious for not getting keys or needed repairs for their vehicles if the cost of replacement is too high.

Newer model Saabs, Volvos, Cadillacs, Jaguars, and Land Rovers tend to have high key replacement costs.  Throw in a two way tow to the dealer and the auction, and removing an employee from one of your businesses for half the day (only owners and lienholders can get copies of keys these days), and the cost for one key could hit surprisingly close to the four figures.

Title pawns in particular are noted for liquidating a vehicle ASAP so that they have access to working capital. Repairs, replacing a battery, even just putting gas in the car can be a non-starter for certain title lenders that simply have no one in charge of all their repossessions.

I’ll give you a recent example. Recently I bought the following vehicles at the inop sales.

2002 Saturn SL2, 104k, Automatic:       $900
1998 Ford Explorer XLT, 140k, V6:        $575
1993 Lexus LS400, 180k, Clean:           $725
1997 Ford Ranger XLT, V6 Stick 119k: $675
1987  Volvo 240 Wagon, Stick, Mint:     $525

The first three were bought a little less than 2 weeks ago. The Saturn just needed to have the ignition switch repaired and a radio. I sold it last weekend for $2300. The Explorer had a good engine but a crappy transmission. I had it running through the sale the following week and broke even. The Lexus only has an exhaust leak… but a bad body. I’ll be saving it for another Lexus with a good body.
The Ranger was perhaps the best find. I purchased it last week and started up the engine this afternoon after charging the battery. It runs fine. Keys were $45, the tow to my repair place was $65, and the car wash after getting it started was $5. I’m going to put it online for $2500 for a quick sale.

As for the Volvo (soon to be pictured)… that  was the most interesting purchase by far. Most vehicles at the inop sale I attend have a set bid of $475. The cost of steel scrap and other commodities within cars makes nearly every vehicle worth more than $500 these days.

However relationships do help in this world. I let the largest purchaser know that I was on the Volvo well ahead of the game. Due to it being the end of the sale, he had to wrap things up anyhow. So I flashed three fingers to the auctioneer who was busy trying to find a ‘new low’ to start the bidding. Someone else bid $350, I bid $400, and a few seconds later the old Volvo was mine.

Who needs an old Volvo? Well, I guess I’m about to find out. You can always crush em’ these days if you don’t like em’.

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Hammer Time: The County Auction Sat, 01 Oct 2011 20:25:12 +0000
Have you ever dreamed of owning a big red fire truck? Well here’s your golden opportunity.

Counties, cities, municipalities and parishes throughout the country get rid of their surplus government cheese through auctions. Police cars, fire trucks, commercial lawn mowers, dump trucks, confiscated merchandise, and most everything you can find inside a modern office are available for bidding.

The trick is to know when to bid enough.

Your success in large part depends on two things. The first is experience. Do you know what to look for when buying a Kubota Box Blade? Do you even know what one is? As someone who has been a part of thousands of auctions as both a buyer, seller, and member of the auction staff… I see tons of people buy ‘stuff’ that they simply know nothing about.

Why? Because they get caught up in the moment. They see a tractor they always wanted and decide that the seductive auction chant asking for a seductively low number is all the influence they need to make a bad decision. There is a ‘mob mentality’ that goes with nearly all large public sales that makes people consider buying things that they normally wouldn’t even consider under a regular retail setting.

Therefore, start with the knowledge that the auctioneer is paid by the county. Not you. His job is to make money for the county. So if you have excessive cash flow and want to find a quick way to donate it without recourse, a county auction is a great way to do it. Just remember that you will need to find a place to store the parade gaiters and the twenty-seven printers wrapped in cellophane.

The second ingredient to your success will be something called, “asymmetric information”. You need to figure out things that other attendees simply don’t know.

Let’s say you are simply going for a specific motor vehicle. You should start by visiting the sale early during the ‘preview’ time which is the day before the sale.

Bring four things with you. A ‘heavy duty’ battery jump box, an OBDII scanner, starter fluid, and someone who can assist you with the constant testing of the vehicles. You need someone that will help you inspect the vehicles and pass the time. Preferably someone who has a healthy level of experience working on and inspecting vehicles.

Some folks will inventory each vehicle’s major defect before the sale (bad engine, trans, parts removed, salvage, biohazard). But the overwhelming majority just let the tires go flat, the batteries go dead and the history to remain a mystery. Start unraveling the mystery by putting that jump box onto the battery. Try to start it up and see what happens.

If it turns over… great! Rev it a few times to see if there is any lower engine noise or obvious issues. You may find that the vehicle has old gas in it. In which case it may idle a bit funny or die off. Don’t be too alarmed if this happens. But be persistent with trying to get it in a normal idle mode.

If it idles fine and the check engine light remains off, then do the usual things you would do when testing out a vehicle. Put it into gear. Hold the break while accelerating (emergency break helps if you’re new too this). Test out the steering gear by shuffling the wheel to either side while testing for noise, Check for obvious leaks in the engine, chocolate milk on the radiator cap (blown head gasket), check out the a/c and heat, tire tread, interior leaks, oil, coolant, and tranny fluids …you need to spend a lot of time with these vehicles to see if they’re going to be worth your money.

If you are at a sale where a lot of vehicles are listed as ‘True Miles Unknown’, don’t be concerned. The county and auction company were too damn cheap and lazy to authenticate the mileage. This isn’t much of an issue with most Ford vehicles which are analog in the first place. But I see tons of ‘TMU’ vehicles these days along with ‘salvage’ vehilce, simply because most surplus units are used as parts cars after their time on the road. Not because anything dire happened to them.

A wreck is a wreck. But don’t be too concerned about bidding on a ‘salvage’ vehicle if it’s missing the headlights and a few other minor parts. Some of my best deals came from acquiring those vehicles.

If you’re not in the market for a police interceptor, your next stop will either be a vehicle owned by a county official… or a truck.

The trucks usually have hard lives. Especially if they’re older commercial trucks. If you don’t know much about older trucks don’t bid on them. Pre-1996 trucks don’t have OBDII diagnostics to make your life easy. You would be better off renting a truck when you need one at the Home Depot.

County official vehicles are a far different story. In almost all cases you will be looking at a generic midsized car from the days when Detroit amortized out their less competitive models. The bright side is that these vehicles are often maintained quite well and don’t have near the record of stress and abuse of the former police cars.

Find the few that pass your muster. Take down the VIN’s and give a call to the government’s maintenance department. Each one will keep a record of what’s been done to a vehicle and why.
Tell them that you’re looking to buy a vehicle for your family… or to save some money long-term… and ask if there has been anything recently done to the vehicle. Some folks will actually introduce themselves to the ‘fleet manager’ a few weeks before the sale. Unless you’re dealing with a large and borderline fascist government entity, it’s usually okay to just call in, be exceptionally nice, and find out what if anything has been done to the vehicle.

Keep it to no more than a few vehicles… and you will be surprised about what you find. I’ve had police vehicle vehicles that were given brand new front suspensions AND factory engines, only to have been mothballed within a year of their replacement. You may find that the car you’re interested in was the mayor’s car. Or the financial planner’s vehicle. You may also find that the vehicle has some chronic issue that makes it a no-no nadir. Do your research and be extra nice.

Congrats! You now know more about these vehicles than 99% of the public. Good luck!

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Auction Monday: Oakwood Mon, 02 May 2011 16:25:23 +0000 

Wanna buy a Hummer? You can buy them as cheap as dirt these days. There was a beautiful one that went through the block at a weekly public auction in Oakwood, GA. Nice leather interior. Well kept. The H2 models in particular were an easy piece to market and sell not too long ago… but not last Thusday. It no-saled. Not even the hope of a bid at $13k. Then came the H3. No sale at 10k. No takers. Only two no-sales from new car stores that generally sell everything. Why?

If you said that SUV’s simply don’t sell these days…. you would be wrong. So many folks are taking the contradictory logic of buying used gas guzzlers these days. They want an SUV for all the usual reasons. Big, safe, luxurious. And of course ‘the big one’.  Consumers can ‘supposedly’ buy them cheap when gas is high. So they pull the trigger on the belief they bought it at the right time. Gas prices are high right now. That is true. But so is the bidding at the auctions. .

In today’s wholesale market there is a fierce pecking order that comes to play even before the consumer gets his foot in the dealership’s door. First off, the imports absolutely rule the used car roost when it comes to midsized and full-sized SUV’s. Sequoias and Pilots are high above the endless herds of forever sitting Tahoes and Expeditions. Toyota 4Runner’s and Nissan Xterra’s still have strong cache and are becoming increasingly difficult to find in good shape. RAV4’s and CR-V’s are even rarer birds these days.

All of them are still bought at stiff price premiums at the auto auctions. All of them represent ‘finance fodder’ where the actual selling price depends on payments and the term of the loan. In today’s finance driven market, the cash dealers are definitely SOL compared with the buy-here pay-here dealers. Finance deals make more money. Plain and simple. So those buyers rule the sales.

Except now something has changed on a global scale. Even the former mighty dealers of funny money have fallen to a new force at the auto auctions. Exporters.

Exporters send high demand Japanese SUV’s far away from our depressed domestic economy.  Thus enjoying the simple returns that come with weak US dollars and less shaky local currencies. Even with customs, duties, and tariffs to contend with, they make a solid profit. Ghana, the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica… even Nigeria.  Japanese SUV’s with American levels of features and content are a red hot commodity in dozens overseas markets.

The funny money that is the US dollar has gradually made all the auto auctions fiercely competitive. Dealer sales. Salvage sales. Even the public sales are now export happy. I’ll give you another example at the Oakwood sale.

A 2004 Honda Element EX 4WD with over 136,000 miles and at least $1000 in cosmetic issues, an orange exterior, and a bad Carfax to boot… still sold for $8300. I saw an 08 in a good color and half the miles sell for $10k just six months ago. Dogfights between exporters always drive the prices beyond clean Black Book values at the auction.  But they are just the top dogs in a long pecking order.

Then there are the used car stores that are brand specific. Many folks think that the used car stores can easily buy these types of vehicles by the boatload these days. Not even close.

The ‘factory’ (a.k.a. the manufacturer) is now busy trying to keep their dealers healthy at all costs. Japan is rebuilding which means far fewer vehicles on the new side of the ledger for franchise dealers. Where is that money going that once went to new cars? On the used side of course.

The used Japanese cars and trucks are getting bid up with a vengeance. Add in the fact that we’re still in ‘tax season’ where used car prices are already sky high, and you wind up with an auction market that has prices beyond the best and worst of public expectations.

That is unless you buy the ‘unpopular’ SUV. If you want a late model Trailblazer with high miles, you can buy them aplenty. Orphan brand SUV’s such as Saturn VUE’s and Saab 9-7’s are there for the taking. Even the larger public sales in your state should have plenty of unpopular SUV’s.

As for those Hummer’s I mentioned earlier? You can’t find an SUV more dead in the financial water than a Hummer. Clean Manheim Market Report value on the silver 2003 model with 100k was $16,400. At the public sale it couldn’t even hit $13k. The 2006 H3 with 79k had even less traction in the marketplace. No money even below ‘rough’ value.

So if you’re looking for Bush era bling factor… there are Hummers. Then of course there is the practicality of a Trailblazer if you want better capability at half the price. But if you want the absolute best bang for the buck… don’t buy anything right now. It’s still tax season.

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Ssangyong: Going, Going – Still Here Tue, 10 Aug 2010 19:25:54 +0000

Times must be good again. Rarely has the bidding for a down and out automaker been so hot as for distressed Ssangyong in Korea. Today was the deadline for putting in binding for a majority stake in the sorry little thing. Two of the six presumptive bidders did a cop-out.

Ssangyong has been under court-led bankruptcy protection since early 2009. Today, at 0600 Zulu the bids had to be in. No messing around like with Opel in Berlin, there are Korean courts involved.

South Korean private equity fund Seoul Invest and a group led by Renault SA did not place their chips.

Seoul Invest said the outstanding debt is too high. Renault griped about the price.

The Nikkei [sub] confirmed that Daewoo Bus, a South Korean bus and fork-lift maker, did submit a bid. India’s Mahindra & Mahindra and Indian conglomerate Ruia Group had said they planned to submit a bid by the deadline. After the deadline passed, both companies said “no comment” for confidentiality reasons. So did they or not?

There was a previous bidding round in June where Mahindra & Mahindra, Ruia, Daewoo Bus, Seoul Invest, Renault/Nissan and a mystery buyer places bets – too low.

Word on the street is that bidders want to pay between $340m and $428m, but that the company insists on more than $630m, that’s what they owe to banks and suppliers.

Ssangyong wants to whittle the field down to one or two preferred bidders in August, with the deal hopefully be closed in October.

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