Auction Day: A Meaty Ogre Morning

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

Some mornings are surreal.

You wake up and all of a sudden, there is some theme music to your life.

Every step seems to be moving to a strange beat. The beginning credits begin rolling in. Walk out of the house and into your 11 year old Honda Insight with 190k. Turn on the key. 10 mile commute, and…

You end up buying two cars that weren’t even on your initial buy list.

auction day a meaty ogre morning

The first was a 20002 Suzuki Aerio with 106k miles. A small crack on the lower part of the front bumper. But otherwise it was surprisingly clean. I didn’t steal it at $2425 (includes the auction fee). But if the vehicle only requires a few hundred in maintenance upkeep and goes the route of a finance vehicle, I should be fine.

The other vehicle I bought was a bit better of a deal in my opinion. A 1996 Mercedes C220. Nothing special. Garage kept. A long-term owner who maintained everything properly, and a ‘check engine’ light that turned out to be nothing other than a gas cap.

I got it for $2015 and, to be frank, Benzes are among the most popular finance vehicles out there. These particular models get far better owner reviews than any of the more expensive E-Class, ML, or S-Class cousins from the same time period. It has 166k and obviously has been kept up. So all is good with that purchase, for right now.

As for other vehicles? A lot of interesting surprises.

A 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid went through the sale with a nice sized scuff on the rear driver’s side door. 28k miles and everything else on it seemed perfectly fine. It sold for $11,900 which I thought was a helluva deal. Add $1000 for a new door and a good paint job, about $300 for the auction fee, and $50 for transport. The dealer would have right around $13,300 in it and easily finance it for about $5,000 more.

I should have bought that thing! Live and learn.

The Chrysler Crossfire prices continue to go far beyond my risk tolerance. A 2004 model with 98k went for nearly $7500 if you include the auction fee. On the flip side of it, a 2004 Chrysler Sebring with paint peel on the rear bumper and 104k went for only $2000. I usually don’t even look at them due to the fact that they sit for obscenely long periods of time at the dealer lots. Nobody wants an old man Chrysler car. But if you have a hankering for mis-oxygenated plastic and the old Neon 2.4 Liter, I guess you could do far worse.

This was also a pretty good auction if you wanted a Dodge/Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter. There were two for sale. Both with over 240,000 miles.

The 2004 stripped out 2500 cargo van with the usual automatic/diesel set up and 255k sold for about $5800 (including the fee).

While a Fed Ex maintained 2007 Sprinter with a differential needing service and a transmission also needing a bit of help went for nearly $9700. I am not an expert at evaluating diesel engines or cargo vans in particular. But perhaps there was a bit of gold hidden in those glow plugs. Either that or the maintenance regimen, interior set up and the Dodge emblem upped the value of this model by a considerable margin.

What? Me worry?

The Smart Fortwo is quickly becoming the equivalent of herpes at the auctions. You can’t get rid of em’. This 2008 Pure model with only 61k sold for just over $6000. I see the novelty of these vehicles wearing out quicker than Mark Gastineau at a real boxing match.

Then there was my own pride of joy… or at least a kissing cousin. My daily driver has remained a 2001 Honda insight with 190k. This 2001 model has only 114k. Everything seemed fine… except for one thing.

The battery. When I looked at the display (which is almost identical to the one in a Honda Helix scooter) the battery showed to be only about a quarter filled. In the four years I’ve driven mine, the battery has never gone below three quarters, and once my wife’s Civic Hybrid started dancing with the 50% mark, I was thinking it only had a few years left at most.

The 44 MPG this guy was getting was a full 20 mpg less than mine, and he was driving a stickshift to boot instead of my CVT which is far less stingy with the gas. I got in the bidding at about $2000, jumped off at $2400, and watched it sell for $2850.

If the dealer needs to replace the battery, good luck. Insightcentral has shown one other shop that may do the trick other than a Honda dealer. But the technology is still unproven. Besides, I would need an Insight that seats four to make it worth my time as a keeper.

Should I have flipped it? Nope. If you already know that something’s going to be a headache, it isn’t worth the trouble.

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4 of 11 comments
  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Jul 16, 2012

    I'll second Chicagoland's comment , I'm amazed that Fedex would get rid of a truck without removing the ID . Seems like someone might buy it with some nefarious idea in mind or that some delivery type might feel that they could get deliveryboy cred out of it or find parking / admittance to a loading dock easier . Years ago I worked for some crappy Denver oil company where my company car was a Ford Aerostar in a UPS like color scheme of brown with a tan/ gold company logo on the side . What a POS it was , but when I'd drive up in it people would think I was the UPS guy and wonder why I was wearing blue jeans instead of being in the brown UPS drag .

    • See 1 previous
    • Toad Toad on Jul 17, 2012

      Fiasco is correct; FedEx Ground delivery people are independent contractors that own their own trucks. FedEx requires that a vehicle with their logo be "de-identified" prior to sale, but if the the contractor was fired or the truck was repossessed that requirement is hard to enforce. Those parcel delivery routes are hard on a vehicle; all stop and go with lots of hard acceleration. With 240k delivery service miles that vehicle is no bargain.

  • Chicagoland Chicagoland on Jul 16, 2012

    I read a small book once called 'Why do..?' [Pre-Wikipedia] Had a chapter "Why do you never see retired UPS trucks?" You see many former Penske rentals, but no UPS trucks with logo painted over. Book said that UPS parts their fleet out and scraps the rest.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.