Auction Day: Trying To Catch A Wave

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
auction day trying to catch a wave

The volume at the last sale I went to yesterday was down be nearly a third. Apparently, the powers that be wanted to move some of their vehicles to another location and see whether that market would yield higher returns.

They could have saved themselves the tow fees and the hassle of it all. When I liquidated vehicles, it seemed like almost every major seller would try to do a ‘test’ of sorts. Chasing money. Chasing the wind, and chasing their own tail.

“Hey! Maybe an SUV with a leather interior would sell better in New Jersey than Charlotte?” The seller would be subjected to a few buyers who, at a unique moment in the prior sale, would create a pop in the prices. All it would genuinely take are two dealers who are short on inventory and long on cash reserves.

Enough coincidences of this unique sort, and the seller would think that this behavior represented a stronger market.

So off 20 or so of those vehicles would go. The auction would advertise a greater number of vehicles for that upcoming sale. A slightly larger audience would attend and….

It sometimes worked. At least for that sale. Then some other consignor would be highlighted in the next sale. Demand would normalize over the long run, and the tow fees would eat up the net proceeds.

This was more common back in the pre-Katrina days. Since late 2005 I haven’t seen that much of it. Transport costs have gone up and online bidding has served to improve the results for the unique and high demand vehicles.

I only bought one vehicle at yesterday’s sale. Nothing special. The 1999 Blazer pictured above with 150k miles and 4WD for $1915 (including the $115 fee).

There was a two year old base 2010 Scion xB with 28k, steel wheels and a stickshift, a repo in blue, that went for $10,000 even.

While a pretty looking 2005 Chrysler Crossfire, well kept, with about 80k miles went for $9500. Pretty usually beats out ugly, regardless of the brand. While a high traffic area like Atlanta values stickshifts about as much as Hollywood values a double chin.

There was also an amazing case of deja vu all over the again. Two 1993 Mercedes 600SL models went through two different sales from the same auction company. The first one was in red, with the removable hardtop, and had only 52k original miles. Gorgeous vehicle in exceptional condition. It went for about $8300 if you include the auction fee. The unloved sister, same car but with a typical retractable convertible top and 97k miles went for only $6100. Apparently someone had labeled the title ‘mileage exceeds mechanical limits’ way back around 1994 so maybe, perhaps, it had around twice the mileage of the scarlet red sister.

Finally, for the low mileage lovers, we had two of the most unloved cars of the prior decade sell for ‘all the money in the world’. The highly coveted 2005 Chevy Malibu Classic, with a scuff on the rear passenger door but only 38k miles went for $5200 (plus auction fee).

While a gold 2002 Mazda 626 with the 2.5 Liter V6 and 33k original miles went for $4800 (plus auction fee). As a tribute to the potential bang for the buck that the next buyer may will get if this Mazda gets driven until the wheels fall off, a 1997 Mazda 626 LX with nearly 297,000 miles and an automatic (probably the third or fourth one), went for all of $500.

That’s all for now. Oh, and if you are in the market for a car in the low to mid 2’s, the vehicles below were six of the first ten that got sold in the sale. Note that the prices don’t include the auction fee, transport, defects and recon costs.

2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, 191k, $2300 (worn IMA battery)

2000 Toyota Corolla CE, 156k, $2400 (front clip was replaced and a different shade of blue)

1999 Ford Explorer XLT, 152k, $2200 (paint fade and interior cosmetic issues)

2004 Chevy Impala, Base, 147k, Fleet Car, $2300 (scuffed, trashed and below average)

2002 PT Cruiser, 108k, branded title $2100 (just as bad as the Impala, but worse smell)

1998 Honda CR-V, 186k, frame damage $2300 (Christmas tree dash)

For all of you who want a cheap beater, I have three recommendations for you. Minivans, stickshifts and good friends. Find a deal that offers all three? Email me at steve . lang @ the truth about cars . com , all one word.

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2 of 38 comments
  • Xeranar Xeranar on Jul 13, 2012

    For the record the xB is not blue. It's "Hypnotic Teal" as my '08 is the same exact color. Right now trade-in on mine is hovering around 11K so one two years newer is probably close to 13. After financing it's not a bad deal and once they list it as near the price of a soul it'll be eaten up. The soul is proving that the hamster/toaster design works fine but it has to be at the right price point.

  • JohnTheDriver JohnTheDriver on Jul 13, 2012

    This series is the reason I come back to TTAC. Keep 'em comin Steve!

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂