By on July 16, 2012

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.

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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11 Comments on “Auction Day: A Meaty Ogre Morning...”


  • avatar
    modelt1918

    A 2008 Smartfortwo Pure for $6000? Forgetaboutit.I’ll give ya $2000 Max! Didn’t those sell for around 12K to begin with? I agree on the Benz, good deal.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    A clean C220 for around 2 sounds pretty sweet, even if it is over fifteen years old.

    The Camry Hybrid seemed a bit low, but I wouldn’t fret over it. Could have had gremlins running through it and buyers were in the know.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    Pretty shocked at that Camry Hybrid’s going price but I think that generation of hybrid vehicles all were relatively unwanted due to the really crappy trunk space. I remember Nissan having to blow out the Altima hybrids at cheaper than 4 cylinder prices just to get people to take them.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Cheap gas = cheap used hybrids. Also, if it needs bodywork, and paint is a little off when fixed, buyers who see it will walk.

    It’s sweet revenge to see Smart cars flop. Old friend thought they were ‘going to save America from oil, blah, blah…’ Never heard the end of it, and was on the ‘waiting list’.

    Regarding FedEx truck, suprised to see it, since UPS doesn’t sell their old trucks with markings, etc.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    The Benz is a surprise for me. I saw a couple down here when I was looking for a car. They were cheap, but being German, Benz, old and with unknown history (no RWC or rego was provided) didn’t add in my $$$ equation.

    They have a nice size and seem to be comfortable. I’ll sit in one next time I visit the “clearance lot”

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    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 .

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      IIRC, Fedex Ground trucks are USUALLY independent contractors who actually own their own delivery vehicles. That’s why you see such a variety of machinery from Toyota Tacomas to Econolines to Sprinters to box vans with the Fedex Ground/Home Delivery logo. Fedex Ground used to be Roadway Package System, but was bought out by Fedex some time ago. So that “Fedex Maintainted” Sprinter may have just been Bob Smith’s POS delivery truck dumped at the auction.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        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.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    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.

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