Auction Day: Funny Money Edition
Would you pay over $3000 for a 20 year old car? How about if it was a base 1991 Chevrolet Caprice in faded battleship grey with only 37,000 miles? As much as I love driving a big boat, owning an ancient mariner like this Caprice would have been no picnic. By the time you end up replacing all the worn items and catch up on the maintenance issues, you would be looking at nearly $4,000. It wasn’t a great deal. But with 95 dealers all looking at the same vehicle crossing the block, I got to see a lot worse.
A base 2000 Toyota ECHO with 112k went for over $4000 when you throw in the auction fee. Keep in mind we’re talking about a a ‘base’ model which means no power anything and an interior inspired by the Japanese version of Tonka. The dealer will likely try to get $1000 down and around $60 to $70 a week in payments. In today’s market that’s not bad. But waiting over a year to break even and risking non-payment, accidents and neglect is one hell of a risk.
Then there were the odometer issues. A 2004 Toyota Camry LE sounds like a good deal at $4700. Throw in 245,000 and a near $200 auction fee and you’re looking at a $5000 car wholesale by the time the vehicle is transported to the lot.
I’m willing to bet that the Camry is sent somewhere overseas. Toyota’s go for very stiff premiums in the Middle East and much of West Africa and one that is cosmetically nice will go for a higher value than one that has been hammered back to shape.
I can see this ‘American spec’ one easily following in those footsteps with a ‘revised’ odometer cluster that reflects it’s low wear. Also there was a 2009 Camry LE with 127k that went for $9900. Neither one of these Camrys had moonroofs or other preium options that would command these prices. Other than their nameplate, there was nothing that would have made a sane buyer bid these prices at an auction.
The 2002 Buick Regal that sold for $4600 was more of a mystery than the Camrys. Cloth interior. No roof. No premium sound or upscale options. Has the market completely lost it’s mind? The fact that it had a bit over 85k may have helped it’s cause. But geeze! This car would have sold for just $2800 a couple of years ago. I would be scared to finance it.
I did buy two low-end vehicles today. A 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee with leather, 1 owner, 130k, I bought for $1350. Then there was a 1997 Chevy Lumina, garage kept, 159k that went for $1050. Both of them were decent buys. But not nearly the shangri-la of a few years back when I could find good five year old vehicles for less than $5000. Today that $5,000 vehicle will be twice as old and half as good.
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The price of the ECHO doesn't surprise me. People are poorer these days and the banks don'e lend like they used to, but the basic need for transportation in this country doesn't change. If you're desperate to buy a beater to work your three crappy jobs (or look for a nonexistent crappy job), you're going to default to established reliability, and a used Toyota is where it's at in that department.
I think the market is anticipating that the economy is gonna get worse and new car sales will plummet so used car prices will keep on going up, especially economy, reliable cars like Toyotas and Hondas.