Hammer Time: Road Warriors

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time road warriors

600 to 1500 miles a week. Some of you may consider this travel excessive, or, perhaps, bordering on the psychotic. In the auto remarketing business it’s a way of life. Wholesalers, auctioneers, ringmen, and managers of varying stripes all have to spend their time on the road. Auctions are often separated by several hours and states. Not to mention that the folks in the Great White North often have to travel to different provinces, upwards of 2000 miles a week, to get where they’re going. That’s a lot of time with a seat, a dashboard and a radio. You may think that a Camcord or some type of hyper-efficient vehicle would be the car of choice for so much travel . . . but you would be dead wrong.

The domestics completely dominate this unique niche of this business. It’s not even close. Why? Because when it comes to large cars, SUVs and pickups that are inexpensive to maintain, Ford and GM (not Chrysler) still rule the kingdom. A lot of travel time equates to a greater need to stretch out and avoid the fatigue of the road. A reasonably quiet interior. Power when you need it. Room to kick the psychosis of claustrophobia. All of this plays into the hand of the road warrior.

The most frequent road warrior for ‘keepers’? It’s not a Crown Vic although they’re among the brethren. It’s not a Town Car although that’s sometimes chosen if the price is right. Suburbans and Silverados also make their presence known as do Avalons. The most frequent vehicle I see is a full-sized GM midsized sedan with the 3.8L V6. Why? Power is plentiful with anywhere between 200 to 240 horses. Fuel economy can hit at or close to 30 mpg which is far better than the real world performance of old V8s. Maintenance is cheap. Depreciation is steep, and despite Buickman’s pontifications, Pontiacs and Buicks have not been embraced by the fashionable media elite.

Bonnevilles, LeSabres, Park Avenues, and Impalas may not be the cars that lubricate the dreams of the gearhead, but they are an exceptional deal for those folks that buy their cars with anywhere between 50k to 100k miles and keep them on the highway until they hit 200k to 250k. Once the intake manifold gasket is replaced (an absolute must), the powertrain that propels these vehicles is among the best in the business.

The ‘traders’ in our business fall into three unique categories. There are those who prefer a certain range of vehicles. Before I became a keeper, I changed cars on a weekly basis. More often than not what I drove was a variant of the Volvo 850/S70 or a Subaru Legacy. I knew a lot about them and sold them by the dozens over the years. These two models were predominantly bought by folks who brought their cars to the dealer and were willing to pay a premium for diligent maintenance. In the case of the Volvos, most of the buyers drove their cars conservatively which is a huge plus in an auto auction world that has more than its share of cars that are more worn out than an old mop.

The other two categories are the large wholesaler and the independent dealer. The former drive whatever vehicle strikes their fancy. The same can ring true for the large independent dealer. A surprising number of them will actually keep a Mercedes or Lexus if they’re within a metropolitan area. Several independent dealers will drive cars with niggling problems, title issues, or what we call ‘selling issues’. Most dealers have to deal with diagnostic issues that can be more tricky than a politician at a town hall meeting. Others can throw too much money into the rabbit hole of repair and ultimately surmise that it’s better to just drive the thing since it’s been practically rebuilt.

Finally you have those cars that have cosmetic issues and were bought on the cheap, and those that have title issues that require a bonded or court order title to resell. In certain instances the cars can be driven another 100k with $0 depreciation to show for it. Obviously, the best cars to drive are those that ‘make’ you money; but once you’ve polished a car with too many personal greenbacks or setbacks, it can often become a companion instead of a commodity. In our business we call it ‘getting married’.

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  • Chuck Goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee on Sep 09, 2009

    Brian P, I'm with you on that. I'm on my 4th VW Diesel since 1980. Put well over 150k on each one. Great cars. My operating costs are well UNDER a dime a mile. --chuck

  • TRL TRL on Sep 09, 2009

    What he said, "ohsnapback : September 8th, 2009 at 3:10 pm ......Even here in the states, I’d bet any day on a Buick not leaving me stranded compared to ANY Volkswagen/Audi product, and you can make that twice on Sunday." After two A6's I switched to a Lucerne in 2007 for my 35,000/year and I say at least twice any day and three times on Sunday. He was being kind to VW. In 70,000 miles the Buick has been to the dealer one time and I define one time as 1 time. Period. My fun car is a Mini Copper so it's not like I don't get to see that dealer often to balance it out as it suffers from the standard BMWitis.

  • Johnny ringo It's an interesting vehicle, I'd like to see VW offer the two row Buzz in the states also.
  • Chuck Norton And guys are having wide spread issues with the 10 speed transmission with the HP numbers out of the factory......
  • Zerofoo "Hyundais just got better and better during the 1990s, though, and memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Never. A friend had an early 90s Hyundai Excel as his college beater. One day he decided that the last tank of gas he bought was worth more than the car. He drove it to empty and then he and his fraternity brothers pushed it into the woods and left it there.
  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!