The Real Deal: Deal or No Deal?

John Clay Wolfe
by John Clay Wolfe

Out of 200 Ford Motor Credit cars at the auction yesterday I bought 10. Seven that I designated for retail, three for wholesale. I was second to last bidder on appoximately 30 more. Which means from a sellers perspective, I was crucial to him driving his overall prices up. The truck in question is an ’04 F150 4×4 reg cab with 60k on it. Terrible paint, needs a solid grand spent on a strip down and repaint. But it was cheap, I mean silly cheap. I gave $5,000 for this little pearl, and ready to go it’s worth 9-10 grand. The why is simple. It’s a 4×4 with under 80k miles in a recent body style. That’s the why on the value part. The why on, how did I get it for 5,000 is not as simple.

The answer: mainly timing, and condition. The truck looked like a cow’s ass sewn up with a grapevine bc of the paint. Someone mixed the paint wrong on a repaint, and just ruined it. That was $2,500 of the $5,000 price discrepancy. The other $2,500 A) end of the auction B) I’d been buying heavy all day, running the bidders, and everyone was just tired out in reality. Opportunities like that happen regulary, but one must hunt hunt hunt, and be patient and ready to react when opportunity arises.

Leaving the auction yesterday, I give the post-sale inspection people all 10 purchase slips with instructions “give me a 7 day post sale on these” Translation: I’ll pay you $115 per unit to inspect these purchases, and guarantee me for 7 days nothing breaks. Cool, I’m off to lunch.

This morning I call my paint man, ask him to go pick up this pick up to repaint. He sends drivers to the auction, driver calls me with message “The gate pass to the truck I came to pick up is not here?” I thought, “hmmm, it must have been arbitraded off the post sale inspection, hmm somethings must be wrong with it. I’ll call arbitration and see what’s up. But for me not to take this thing $5,000 back of the money, it’ll have to have a blown motor and tranny.”

Arbitration lady tells me “we called you yesterday, told left a message, I said “no you didn’t, what’s the deal?” She replies, ”well it was arbitrated for uppper engine noise.” I’m thinking “OK, $500 fixes that so big whoop.” She continues to tell me the sale was unwound; it’s checked-in for next week’s Ford sale.

I say “THE HELL IT IS, that’s my truck, I own it.” She say’ ‘The hell you do. We’ve paid Ford for all the deals yesterday, that truck was not one of them, and that truck belongs to Ford Motor Credit.”

This is a very odd scenerio for those in the trade. Typically buyers are arguing to get OUT of a car that didn’t pass arbitration. Whereas, I am arguing to keep a deal together. I have never in my years experienced this.

So I bought the auctions additional services, and it cost me an estimated $2500 net wholesale profit. My argument: I’m their customer. I paid them to inspect the truck, and then to advise me on its condition so that I can make a business decision. They took it upon themselves to make that decision for me, and I’m not very happy with the decision they made. I paid for an inspection, not business advise, or did I?

I’ve only bought and sold about 20,000 used cars in my day. Guess I’m still learning. I feel like Brad in Fast Times “Hope you had a hell of a piss Arnold!” Maybe next time I shouldn’t try to be so careful.

John Clay Wolfe
John Clay Wolfe

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  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Oct 26, 2009

    I think that this is more a "what do you expect in a tank of sharks" issue. It's an Auction. In this case, the auction house screwed a buyer. The buyer (much like a retail buyer at a dealer) has little leverage over the seller. This dealer will need to return to auction to buy again....where else where he find hundreds of cars for sale at a low price to clean up and retail ? Deceptive and unfair ? uh-huh, but sadly that is expected in the car buy/sell world.

  • Rick Rick on Oct 26, 2009

    A Ford with bad paint? Unpossible.

  • GregLocock Not interested at all. Apparently I've got Apple car play but I've never used it in 3 years. The built in nav is ok.
  • Corey Lewis Probably worth about what they're asking, given its condition. The color combo isn't a desirable one, they look sharper in non-beige shades. Like two-tone green, maroon, navy, or gray. The end of the time when MB built its cars properly. No shame in turning up in a clean W126, they'll always command respect.
  • Lou_BC Another way to look at this is the upgrading of hardware and software. ...............The average length of car ownership is 10 - 12 years ....................The average lifetime ownership of a cell phone is 2.5 years. ................................................................... My phone will remain up to date, my vehicle won't. Especially if you buy a new "end of run" model.
  • TheEndlessEnigma "...we could be seeing a foundational shift in how Americans and car buyers see Stellantis products." yeah, I view Stellantis products as being off the cross-shop list. Stellantis is doing an excellent job of killing the Chrysler and Dodge brands and turning Jeep into something it isn't.
  • 2manyvettes 495 hp in a base C8 is more than enough. 800+ hp in a ZR1 is not worth the extra $60k (plus dealer markups). Unless the buyer is going for bragging rights. I remember when the C7 Grand Sport came out, and a reviewer got his hands on one and put it on the track at Lime Rock. His conclusion? Save yourself $15k and skip the Z06 and get a Grand Sport.