Hammer Time: Late Model Dings

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time late model dings

Everyone wants a showhorse car at a workhorse price. When folks find out about my work,they automatically assume that the auction lanes are paved in pure gold. A late-model Honda that’s high in demand? They think I can get one for $5000 under retail when the truth the few I can actually get are already selling at retail. The finance game changes the cost of popular late model cars dramatically as do tax refunds. An unpopular car or one with a minor accident history? Now that’s a different story.



Today I saw two late model vehicles go off to the great beyond and both were great deals. A 2009 Ford Focus S. A base model in black (two strikes in the Hotlanta market) also had a smashed front bumper and a missing rear quarter window. Drove fine. Looked ugly as sin with 20k on the odometer. That one got sold for $5400 plus a $200 fee. Throw in transport, parts and labor and my friend will probably be looking at the $6300 level. Still a great price. But right after that there was an immaculate Cadillac Deville DHS with 78k that went for $5000… which was still far better than the 2001 Altima automatic with no luxury at all that also sold for $5000. Both of those cars pretty much sold right at retail.

On the more enthusiast oriented side of the equation there was a 2008 Inifiniti G35 with 20,000 miles and some rear bumper damage. Not bad, but enough to bring the price down a bit. The first time it went through the block it was offered at 30k, 29k.. 28k… 22k… no-saled at $21k. No bids. Second time the first bid came in at $19k and two rural dealers fought it out at $19,700. Even when you throw in the transport to another state and another $700 in body work, the dealer will come out ahead. But between now and then he’ll have to hold it and G35’s are no longer the popular cars of the mid-2000’s. Everything is cheap (or expensive) for a reason.

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  • NulloModo NulloModo on Apr 08, 2010

    Good article Steve, if only most of my customers would read it. No matter the number of dents, dings, scratches, bald tires, past accident history, etc, almost every customer thinks they are entitled to a trade in value equal to the 'Excellent' or 'Good' value on KBB. I recently lost a sale because a gentleman trading in his '04 Mercedes with four different tires all showing different amounts of wear, broken trim pieces inside, and plenty of scratches would not budge from his demand for invoice pricing on our car and KBB 'Good' codition on his, despite his car being a solid black book rough. The sad thing is that he will go down to the next place, and maybe even another after that, get told the same thing, and finally accept reality, but be too proud to come back to us with his tail between his legs, so someone else gets the benefit of us giving him the truth. It's also amazing how many people forget their cars have been in accidents when they are asked, and then are profoundly surprised that we run a carfax on them before we give them a value. The best have probably been a 350Z that ran incredibly rough, and then just wouldn't start when the guy wasn't happy with the money offered and had to be towed away, the Audi that had paint work done via the 'similar colored can of spray paint' method, and the Lexus whose front bumper fell off during the appraisal drive. Oh, the BMW which had obviously either been in a flood, or left out for a week in the rain with the windows and sunroof open, had a stench so bad that you had to hold your head outside of the window to breath while driving it, and had plantlife of some sort growing on the back floormats, but whose owner swore was in excellent condition also deserves an honorable mention...

  • Otsegony Otsegony on Apr 09, 2010

    I think that it is worth mentioning that once a title gets stamped "salvage" you can enter the crazy bureaucratic wonderland of the DMV and insurance offices of the world. As you may know, a "salvage" designation is put on any car's title by the insurance company whenever they determine that the cost of repairs is more than the value of the automobile. Most often this designation is giving to smoking wrecks that are clearly totalled, however sometimes it is put on lightly damaged cars that for one reason or another the insurance company does not want to repair. Years ago I was moving from Vermont to upstate New York and I needed a car for the family that would haul a lot of stuff and be repairable in a rural environment. As it happened the son of a neighbor was a used car dealer who specialized in "lightly damaged" insurance write-offs. He had a 1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (the big Caprice-based wagon) that had been rear ended in an accident that had ruined the tailgate. Because the car had 95k miles and the parts were expensive, the car was "totaled." The fix was mostly bolting on a few new parts and a respray of the entire car (he documented the entire process in pictures). It looked good to me and the price was right so I bought it. Once I got to NY State it was an absolute nightmare to register and insure the car. The clerks at the DMV office looked at me like I was trying to pass off stolen goods and the insurance people wouldn't consider putting a policy on the car until the state had finished it's paperwork. I finally was given a "special number" at the title bureau in Albany to call to see how I could get the car registered. The person there told me that the Olds was subject to a title search and "special inspection" that I had to pay $150 for. When I asked why it cost so much I was informed that the State of New York took the safety of their citizens very seriously and this car's safety systems, including air bags, safety restraints, and frame could be compromised and they need to thoroughly inspect the car to make sure it was safe to drive. It turned out that the inspections were only given at certain times and places by roving inspectors, so I took the next appointment available, and arranged to have the car towed to a highway department garage two counties away for the inspection. On the set day I showed up with the car and the inspector waived me into the bay. He checked the VIN and two or three components serial numbers and then signed my form. I noticed that he was wearing a holster with what looked to be a 9mm Glock pistol so I asked him why he needed to have a gun while inspecting the car. He told me that his job was to find stolen parts on cars and he went in and out of a lot of chop shops in Brooklyn and the Bronx so it came in handy at those times. So the upshot of the whole thing was that there was no "safety inspection", the car could have been welded together from two or three different wrecks from all the inspector saw. My $150 was simply to pay for the law enforcement arm of the DMV. I wouldn't have been nearly so angry if they had been honest about all of that and hadn't snowed me with the "safety inspection" BS. By the way, the Olds was a great car. It died with about 160k on the clock because of an oil leak. Other than that it was totally reliable and very practical.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Apr 09, 2010

      My dad bought a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in about 1995 or so that was a rebuilt title from the body shop that repaired it. Great car and no problems (he gave it to me as a college graduation present in 1999) till I moved to MI from OH and the vehicle was stolen. It had been in the family for about 5 years at that point and I had forgotten that it was even a rebuilt till it came time for the insurance to pay out. I had a thousand dollar deductible (young guy high insurance rates, no money) and the insurance company said the car was worth $2500, oh wait its a rebuilt title so it's only with $2000 - your deductible = here's a check for $1000 bucks kid.

  • FifaCup Loving both Interior and exterior designs.
  • FifaCup This is not good for the auto industry
  • Jeff S This would be a good commuter vehicle especially for those working in a large metropolitan area. The only thing is that by the time you put airbags, backup cameras, and a few of the other required safety features this car would no longer be simple and the price would be not much cheaper than a subcompact. I like the idea but I doubt a car like this would get marketed in anyplace besides Europe and the 3rd World.
  • ScarecrowRepair That's what I came to say!
  • Inside Looking Out " the plastic reinforced with cotton waste used on select garbage vehicles assembled by the Soviet Union. "Wrong. The car you are talking about was the product German engineering, East German. It's name was Trabant.
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