By on May 7, 2012

300,000 miles. Precious few vehicles get up to this point of longevity without some serious issues. This afternoon over 90 vehicles were auctioned off in front of over 90 dealers. Only 1 car hit that miestone. A plain-jane 1997 Toyota Camry with substandard paint and a broken front bumper on the driver’s side. Check engine light on. Prior Rental. Title Branded. Scratches galore.

It went for over $2300. That was one of many “Holy!” moments.

2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo: 141k, Auto & Alloys, No Roof: $5500

2006 Toyota 4Runner Limited : 139k, Prior Fleet, Loaded:   $12,700

2000 Ford Focus SE Wagon: 198k, Auto & Alloys, No Roof: $2800

2006 Honda Civic LX: 114k, Auto only, $8100.

2007 Ford Expedition XLT: 205k, Prior Rental, Leather, 4WD No Roof: $10300

1996 Ford Windstar GL: 98k, Forest Green, Xmas Tree Dash: $1750


You may see a small trend here. SUV’s for all of the griping and moaning about gas prices, are still in demand. In fact there were two Explorers that went for more money than what I paid for the exact same vehicles four years ago.

A 2000 Explorer Eddie Bauer with 171k went for $3350 and a 1999 XLT model with leather went for $3650. This was not to be outdone by a 2002 Toyota Camry repo with an assortment of dents and scratches that went for $6700. That nearly matched one that I bought 3 years ago that was in clean condition.

There are a lot of strateiges that I try to use in the course of an auction. Holding bids when the auctioneer is looking for price support. Delaying my next bid after five or six have gone through, to encourage doubt and uncertainty as to the vehicle’s value. Bidding in front of allies and potential allies who abide by the king’s rule of ‘looking out for each other’.

In some sales you can get your advantage by doing these things. But today? I may as well have been in Toledo bidding against 90 strangers. I finished second with the following vehicles and took back nothing.

1994 Toyota Camry XLE: 185k, Auto, Leather & Roof, Good Carfax: Stopped at $1800

1998 Toyota Camry LE: 101k, Auto, LE model, Scuffs on passenger doors: Stopped at $3000

1999 GMC Jimmy: 199k, Clean, 4WD, Leather, Roof: Easily Financed: Held at $1500… sold at $1600


The good news is that I got seven other vehicles last week. Most of which were at ridiculously low prices and resembled the “Hit Em’ Where They Ain’t” philosophy I try to embrace at the auctions.

You can always find a good deal. Just not at a popular auction during tax season. Speaking of which, feel free to let me know what was the worst deal you have ever seen in your retail travels.

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35 Comments on “Auction Day: Putting All The Holy In Toledo...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Darn I was given hope by the title that it would be nothing but Jeeps for auction… :P

    Was the leather in the Jimmy at least clean and rip free? Or at least rip free?

    Maybe its my GM Fan-bias showing (I was raised as one) but unless the Explorer is a V8, I’d rather roll the dice on a 4.3V6 Jimmy with that sort of mileage.

    • 0 avatar

      The weakness on the Jimmy is the Playskool interior and accessories. At that kind of mileage the insides are usually crumbling. The electronic 4WD switching system was typically a piece of crap also. The GM 4.3L V6 may have been a gas pig and lacked HP vs. displacement. But it bows at the altar of torque and is as reliable as the sunrise.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I’m driving a 2000 model right now that was pulled out of the back of the school districts motor pool. It has ONLY 56,000 miles on it in the 12 years the district has owned it. It is an SLE model so the interior is fairly nice (no leather but all the power options). It had been sitting for so long the battery was dead but the AC still works (seals evidently did not dry out) a few speakers are bad, and I had to ArmorAll the interior cause I couldn’t stand to drive the thing as dusty and dirty as it was. The ride stinks cause someone fitted it with HD Wranglers at some point in its life (they still have decent tread), but the 4.3V6 and four speed auto are still more than up to the task. The interior has NOT fallen apart despite 12 years in the hot NM sun with no shelter of any kind.

        I am sure that 1999 Jimmy above will reliably get some working man to and from his thankless job. :P

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I would have taken the 94 Camry for $1800 those were the best IMHO of the bunch. You mean to tell me my 98 Corolla with 335k miles is not worth $500 anymore?

  • avatar

    Next up for bids is this beaten to death 1997 Toyota Camry with 300K miles on the odometer. This optionless rental car stripper has seen better days, so lets start the bidding at $500

    Yo! *it’s OK it’s a Toyota

    $800! It’s OK, its a ’97 Toyota

    $1,100! It’s OK, the paint is sub-standard

    $1,400! It’s OK, the front bumper is broken, I can fix that.

    $1,700! It’s OK, the check engine light is probably a gas cap or something

    $1,950! It’s OK, I mean, rental agencies service their cars.

    $2,175! Salvage title? No problem, look at it, it’s a mutha f**king Toyota Camry damn it!

    $2,350! Those scratches, I can buff them out – oh ya, I’m getting a killer deal.

    I WON! I WON! I WON!

    What’s a guy got to do to loose in this place?

  • avatar

    Apologies for my ignorance, but can someone help me decode the following sentence:

    “I finished second with the following vehicles and took back nothing.”

    I’m assuming took back nothing means that Steve didn’t (not surprisingly) buy anything at this auction, but what does ‘finished second’ mean?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      It means another dealer bought the vehicle with a higher bid.

      At this auction there are no half ($50) bids after the price gets over $1000.

      So in the case of the 1994 Camry, the winning bid was $100 higher. $1900… plus the auction fee of about $125.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    It’s incredible what is happening to the price of used cars, even the ones that could be had for a song and a dance, now you need to finance.

  • avatar

    Pardon my (more) ignorance, but I don’t understand the meaning of these phrases in this context:

    no roof
    xmas tree on dash

    If these phrases are examples of “dealer jargon,” perhaps an article of jargon definitions would be worthwhile (?).


    • 0 avatar

      “No roof” — a car with no sunroof or moonroof.

      “Xmas tree” — a car with many warning lights lit, making the dash look something like a colorful Christmas tree.

      • 0 avatar

        OK, I was worried for a moment it meant there was a big hole in the roof where the sunroof glass was supposed to be — which would make some of those bids even crazier.

    • 0 avatar

      No roof = No sunroof / moonroof
      Xmas tree = many, often multi-colored, warning lights on the dash

    • 0 avatar

      The worst deal I’ve ever seen? The year was 2000, I was at the same auction where I bought my 1987 Volvo 740 Turbo for $500 with 256k (needed a battery and detailing)

      Parked in the very front of the auction was a basket case of a 1980 or so Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. I think it went for the $10k ballpark. Did I mention basket case? I do think it started, though… or at least turned over. With the amount of bodywork and interior that would have had to have done it was a very bad deal.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been reading these for a while, and I still double check the picture when he says no roof. I expect to see the sheet metal missing or peeled back by the jaws of life.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Just saw a 94 Camry XLE online 157k miles going for $2900 dealer price 4 cyl XLE are harder to find since most XLE came with V6 engines.

  • avatar

    Wow! Used car pricing is just unreal! I suppose the cash-for-clunkers program worked better than anyone expected. The auto sector is just going from strength to strength.

    • 0 avatar

      CfC was only a small part of it.

      Remember, starting in 2008 car/truck sales plunged. The supply of clean, five to six year old cars, trucks and SUVs is almost half of what it was ten years ago because sales were almost half of what they were ten years ago. Yet you have a bigger population, keeping cars longer, and gravitating toward used because the average slob can’t afford the “average” $30,000 new car these days.

      The average car is now 11 years old, and the average one going to the crusher is pushing 14. There just isn’t a lot in general beyond the impact of CfC.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes used car prices are unbelievable. IMO, CfC did have some effect on prices and you’re onto something about the “average” buyer either unable to afford or in my case not wanting to spend $30K for a new car.

        I recently sold my daily driver(2002 Buick Century) for stupid money and my mind is boggled by the number of high mileage high priced cars for sale out there.

        Another overlooked factor in the rising price of used cars is our devalued dollar. With Uncle Ben and the Fed printing money at breakneck pace over the last 3-4 years our dollars are worth bupkus. Has anyone bought a jar of peanut butter or a box of cereal lately? But not to worry the brainiacs in DC tell there is no inflation.

  • avatar

    What is scary to me is that these are WHOLESALE prices.

  • avatar

    Those Camry’s would be seeping red if it was Toledo, Ohio. I’ve seen my share of rust bleeding Japanese cars in the Cleveland area as the winter road salt takes it’s toll.

    Those prices are crazy high! I can see who is driving the used car market.

    • 0 avatar

      Those Camrys are cockroaches in the sunbelt. My kid is approaching 300k on the 1999 V-6 LE I gave her. Still runs perfectly. Engine and trans have never been opened up. Someone here on TTAC a while back said that that generation of Camry was seriously cheapened from before. I disagree. The “soft touch” interior bits are still in good shape. Paint is still shiny, though it was never garaged. In fact, only the sunvisors are shot.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, living in Central New York, the origin of the term ‘winter rat’ (refers to a beater you sacrifice to road salt), I consider myself a bit of an authority on cars when it comes to rust.

      The 1992-1996 and even more so the 1997-2001 generations of Camries are just about the most rust proof cars there are from the 90s. The only better cars I can think of are Volvos of various ilk, Audis, some Saabs, and Mercedes pre w210.

      Worst offenders as far as starting to rust in less than 5 years are hands down Mazda 3s and 6s, it’s absolutely embarrassing.

      GM W-bodies and vans have horrendous rocker rust, Tauri’s have rotten rear quarter panel dog-legs (not to mention rusted through rear springs) Windstars break their rear axles due to rust. Tacomas are in need of new frames, Isuzu Rodeos lose rear trailing arm mounting points, 90s Hondas have typical rear quarter panel cancer. Chryler vans have rotten hoods, trunks, and sliding doors. Jeep Grand Cherokees mask their rot well behind plastic cladding, as do Nissan Pathfinders.

      In conclusion, pretty much all manufacturers have problems with rust around here, but you picked the wrong fight calling out Camries out for poor rustproofing.

  • avatar
    beach cruiser

    Steven, I have to ask. What usually happens to a car like that 1997 Camry with 300,000 miles? In your experience, are cars like this bought to be resold for a profit of some sort. Or are they rented out, or parted out or what. I live in Sunny SoCal and I think that Camry would be a no sell at $2300, even on the sled lots that are prevalent around here. Your opinion?

  • avatar

    I believe what we have at work here is an alternative universe. I went to a number of car auctions with my son and nothing I read here tickles my memory. $$$$$$$

  • avatar

    This one made me laugh yesterday…

    I stopped at one of the better dealerships in Bay City, MI yesterday to take a look. They had a 2003 Focus SE, 75k, a few scratches and could use a better interior detailing than they gave it. The sticker on the side window said $6850, it was worth MAX $6000 IMO. Hanging from the mirror though, was a bright orange sign that said “SALE”, and under it…$7500.

    Now could someone please explain this to me…

    If used car prices are so insane, then why can’t I sell my 1995 Buick LeSabre Limited for around $4000?

    I had one guy email me saying he has $3000 cash, but I owe almost $3500, and I’m not selling it at a loss. He wrote me back saying it’s real nice and all, “but you are too high on your price”. I disagreed with him. For one, I paid $5200 for it a year ago, and two, it’s far nicer than any one of that vintage in this part of the country.

    If everyone around here can command and get top dollar for a used car, why can’t I???

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      To hazard a guess, age + domestic.

      I would assume that Michigan is chock full of domestic sedans, and that most of them are well under 18 years old. People may not care about mileage but they do still care about age, and unless yours is a low-mile cream puff most folks will be looking for something newer. If it was a Toyota or Honda, the buyer would fluff it and put it on a boat, but there’s no overseas demand for ’90s Buicks.

      • 0 avatar

        To hazard a second guess, cash flow among the likely customer base. I always tell people they should buy the best $3000 car they can find rather than shackle themselves to a BHPH deal. The problem is that a lot of these folks cannot put together $3000 at one time. So the BHPH deal with $1000 down (which can often be paid in two installments) and $200 every paycheck forever seems attractive. Many banks and credit unions will not finance a purchase from a private seller no matter how wonderful the car is.

      • 0 avatar

        Mine is the little-old-lady-garage-kept creampuff one would hope for. Part of me wants to keep it, but every time I walk past it in the garage I’m reminded of my dad (he loved it) and how much I miss him.

        And in this part of the country, Toyotas and Hondas are even harder to unload, no one wants them here! There is a Chevy-Caddy dealer around the corner from me and they have several sitting on the lot, been there for a while, and will probably be sitting there till they get sent to auction, with the one exception of a clean used Fit that a lady from my church just bought.

    • 0 avatar

      In working class areas, year 2000+ LeSabres are taking place of older ones. The pre-92’s are rare to see. So, if shopping for sub-$5k, newer years win out. 90’s cars are dying off in perceived value, and don’t have the ‘retro cache’ that 70’s or 80’s Yank tanks had.

      Also, that ’03 Focus has not sold yet. Compare sales prices not tags

      • 0 avatar

        Oh I know, it just struck me as funny that some hapless salesman didn’t pay enough attention and marked it up. But Focus’ do seem to be in high demand these days. at least here in MI.

        And it’s strange that I see far more ’97-99 LeSabres running around, that are in FAR worse shape then they deserve to be, which would make mine seem like an even better buy, especially with the 3800 engine.

        But what do I know, I’m just a banker that loves cars… :P

  • avatar

    Wow. Maybe my ’06 Suburban is worth something after all.

  • avatar

    The 300K mile Camry is a prime parts car for an Auto Recycler. It will get picked over quicker than 4 old Cavaliers. The buyer will double their $ or more.

    Toyotas are like fresh meat in pick and pull yards, to keep others running.

  • avatar

    Makes me feel good about my Focus Wagon (it’s in my avatar pic). It’s a 2002 with 74K I got in 2009 for $5000 after tranny flush and 4 Michelins. It’s got 118K now and needs shocks. Glad to know it’s still worth something.

    Also have a 2000 Explorer XLT Sport Package (one level below Eddie Bauer) with 4×4 and no leather. Needs reg and battery though…

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