Archive by Author
August 27, 2013

Basic Auto Auction Tips

Auto auctions offer experienced consumers the possibility of great car values at unbelievable low prices if you know what you’re doing.  Auto dealers have been the primary benefactors historically, finding auctions to be excellent places to sell off trade-ins as well as to buy for resale.   Vehicle auctions are becoming more and more accessible to the ordinary person, but as with many “good deals,” let the buyer beware.  In other words, an auto auction is also an excellent place to be a cheap junker!

Bloomberg Business Week provides some sensible tips for the inexperienced, prospective buyer.  In general, be aware that you’re buying a car as is, without the detailing or fixing up that a car lot will do.  That represents some of you savings as well as certain risks.  Depending on the auction format, in person versus on line, you may get little to no opportunity for a thorough inspection.  Ascertaining the value of a prospective buy is a much greater challenge.

1.  Arrive early.  This will give you time to get as much information as possible about a car or cars that interest you.  If you can get a VIN number, then you should do a CARFAX to determine if there are any serious problems in its history such a flood damage or a major accident.  The article doesn’t mention it, but having someone with experience in auto mechanics is a good idea, if you’re not a pro yourself.

2.  Know what you can afford and are willing to pay.  Do not let the emotion of the moment draw you into over-bidding your resources.  Successful auction buyers don’t buy on impulse.

3.  Bloomberg Business Week strongly emphasizes being sure that the paperwork is in order, that the title is clear, and that there really is a car (for on line auctions) before paying out the full price.  Check out the article for more details.

For the real inside scoop on vehicle auctions, who would know more than an auctioneer?

July 18, 2012

State of Michigan Vehicle Auctions

When I asked recently about auto auction stories, one person mentioned they knew someone who had gotten a good deal from Michigan’s state auto auction. When I Googled for it, I found auctioneer Gary M. Berry who actually serves as an auctioneer for these state auctions.

State auctions of “excess vehicles” occur 4 to 6 times a year. According to Berry, a person could expect a price of between $2500 and $5000 for a decent, well-maintained vehicle, although one that hasn’t been cleaned for sale. So, the bargain price may require a bit of elbow grease. Cars available range from 4 to 6 years old and are low mileage.

Mr Berry says some “satisfied customers” return every 2-3 years to buy cars and trucks through the Michigan State Auto Auction. Some purchase cars for sons and daughters heading to college, and others are just buying a family car.

Berry recommends visiting an auction and seeing how things work before participating in one. The next auction, noted on his web site, will be September 8 at 10 a.m. Inspection of vehicles to be auctioned is available from 8-3 on Friday, September 7, and the morning of the sale from 8-9:30. The auction will be held at 731 N. Canal, which is the MDOT garage located on Canal, just north of Saginaw in West Lansing. Berry’s web site provides sale arrangements.

The State of Michigan also hosts an on-line auction which, at the time of this writing, had 6 cars and 2 motorcycles available.  For those who may be interested, numerous other items are available for bidding on the same site.

July 13, 2012

How Does It Work? Tell Us Your Stories

A recent college graduate, shocked at how expensive cars can be, decided he wanted to try the auto auction route. He asks some specific questions, which I will address shortly. First, though, I want to ask readers to share their experiences with us—good and bad. Did you get an amazing car at an unbelievable price? Did you get ripped off? Did you find the auction business you dealt with helpful or not? Did you find the process difficult? How much work did you do ahead of time to assure you got what you wanted, both vehicle and price? Are there pitfalls you warn other prospective buyers about? What did you do they got you what you wanted? Do you have regrets?

As I’ve reviewed some of the Michigan auto auction web sites, I’ve observed that most if not all have on line photos of available vehicles; most also have lots where cars may be viewed in person. However, I would verify with a telephone call before driving any distance for that. Some cars to be auctioned may not be at the lot till the time of the auction, another thing to check.

If you’ve never been to an auction of any kind, you should go to one, just for the experience before you go to bid (You can watch one here, but it’s not quite like  being there). One article I reviewed, suggested among its tips having a firm maximum bid in mind…and sticking to it! I would add, be prepared to let your choice go to another bidder rather than breaking you limit (or bank!). The auction experience itself can become intense, especially for the less experienced. Someone who wants the same item or even the owner who wants to drive up the price may run the bids up. If your goal is to get a get value, then you don’t want to get caught in the emotion of the moment.

If you don’t happen to know someone who has purchased a vehicle at auction, then I’d suggest calling and chatting with a couple of different owners of auction businesses. Prepare a list of questions and ask for their advice. I did something like that when I was shopping for paint, years ago, and I settled on one particular brand because the clerk clearly knew his business and gave me really sensible advice. A good dealer will do the same.

July 9, 2012

Charity Motors–Accepts Car Donations for Charity besides Auctioning Vehicles

Most people consider auto auctions as a place to purchase a decent car at an affordable or even an unusually low price. If you know what you’re doing, it is probably a good choice, and assuming you’re willing to do the necessary legwork.

Another benefit from some auto auctions is as a place to dispose of an unwanted car, as an alternative to attempting to sell it directly, especially if you are interested in giving to charity and gaining a tax benefit in the process.

Charity Motors in Detroit accepts donated vehicles, allows you to direct your donation to any church, school, or charity you choose, guarantees the full market value of your car at the time of you donation (no waiting for the car to sell), and provides the necessary tax record of your donation. If you do not have a particular charity you have chosen or favor, you can select on of Charity Motor’s favorites or simply let them decide for you. You also get the satisfaction of a secondary level of charity in your donation, as Charity Motors uses donated cars in their own special transportation assistance program to help the underprivileged with transportation.  So you make a donation to charity of the value of your car to your chosen charity, a comparable tax deduction, and the car in turn helps people who cannot afford their own, making Charity Motors the ideal place if you wish to donate a vehicle.

Charity Motors has donated more than 24 million dollars to over 2000 charities; some of their choices are listed here. Charity Motors also holds a weekly auction on Saturdays and direct retail sales from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. Their telephone number is 888.908.CARS .

June 16, 2012

One Customer’s Suggestions for Buying at Auction

I’m still educating myself on vehicle auctions.  I’ve made contacts with friends who used auto auctions to purchase cars and a dealer.  I can provide information on the various auction businesses in Michigan, and that will provide information that dealers may use, especially since some businesses work only with dealers.  I’m intrigued by the possibility of finding and buying a car I want at a better than normal retail price.

I posted earlier tips for buying seized autos, but today I want to share an article from a simple buyer and a woman buyer at that.  This story happens to be from Canada where Jacq purchased a loaded 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS 4WD for $11,000, about half of the normal retail price.  She shares nine steps for buying a car at auction.   Briefly, they are

1.  Find an open auction with newer cars not restricted to dealers (We have Michigan auctions on this site).

2.  Check the auction’s inventory and choose a few cars that interest you (in your price range).

3.  Inspect the cars that interest you in person and check for obvious problems.

4.  Learn all you can about the cars that interest you–value, reported problems, user satisfaction.

5.  Determine you maximum bidding price, then hold to it.

6.  Visit a couple of different auctions to get a feel for how they work before  you place your first bid on a car you want,

7.  Check the mood of the bidders.  Some days a crowd will be frugal and bidding will be low, and then at other times, the bidders are willing to spend and bid high.  Be prepared to walk away.

8.  Don’t let yourself get too much into the spirit of the thing; do not exceed your maximum price (set when you were thinking calmly and reasonably.

9.  Take advantage of the on site inspection services some auction houses offer.

I’d add that you should acquaint yourself thoroughly with the particular auction’s policies, so that you are prepared to follow their procedures, once you’ve won the car you want.  This article also includes a video of an auction house in Charleston.

June 14, 2012

Midwest Auto Auction-An Industry Leader

Whether a person wants to buy, sell, or donate a car to charity, Midwest Auto Auction stands out.  Located on Telegraph Road in Redford, Michigan, Midwest Auto Auction has spent 60 years establishing itself as an industry leader.  As we noted earlier, Midwest Auto Auction is “considered one of the oldest and most established public auto auction houses in the country,” and its business has grown from vehicle auctions to a number of other services, such as estate auctions and an auto pawnshop, but still considers auto auctions its premier business.

Their website provides a current inventory of available vehicles, a history, FAQs, and even a 6 and a half minute video presentation providing an overview to the viewer.  A person may purchase a vehicle at their weekly auction, every Friday at 10 a.m. or arrange a purchase during normal business hours, Monday through Friday 10-5 or Saturday 10-3.  The weekly auction is in two parts; the first features vehicles that cannot be driven or are too large for the auction facility, and the second where vehicles are driven into the auction area.  No registration is required for bidding.  Winning bidders must provide a $300 deposit and then have 24 hours to provide payment.

Besides cars, Midwest Auto Auction also sells boats, motorcycles, RV’s, construction equipment, jet skis, snowmobiles, Semi trucks and trailers, motor homes, aircraft and pretty much anything with wheels.  They also buy cars whether they are old, new, badly rusted or not even working.  Donating a car or other vehicle is as easy as filling out an on line form including the possibility of pick up, with proceeds.

Midwest Auto Auction’s reputation is enhanced by its membership in several associations including the National Association of Public Auto Auctions, which we wrote about previously.

June 11, 2012

National Association of Public Auto Auctions (N.A.P.A.A.)

As I was exploring the web site of Mid-west Auto Auction, Inc., with the intent of expanding on what we posted previously, I noticed that the listed, among their membership and associations, the N.A.P.A.A., or National Association of Public Auto Auctions.  Thinking that such a listing might provide a bit more confidence in an auto auction’s business, I decided to check out this association and see how many Michigan Auto Auctions are members.  Assuming I understand what I found, Mid-Michigan Auto Auction, Inc. is the only Michigan business that is a member in this association.

What I found most interesting about the N.A.P.A.A. was its “Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct, which include the following:

  • To serve the automotive auction industry with honesty and integrity.
  • To treat all buyers and sellers fairly. “The Golden Rule” shall prevail.
  • To be honorable and trustworthy in all dealings.
  • To abide by all applicable Local, State and Federal Government Laws and regulations.
  • To act in a fiduciary manner regarding a client’s funds.
  • To never commingle client funds with personal funds.
  • To protect the general public, dealers and fleet accounts from unscrupulous practices.
  • To conduct ourselves in a professional, dignified and business like manner so as to merit respect and confidence from fellow members, industry affiliates, dealers, fleet accounts and the general public.

Only 17 auto auctions across the United States are members of the N.A.P.A.A.  In addition to its “Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct,” its web site has a map of member businesses and a search engine a person can use to locate the car they want among its members.

June 7, 2012

Advantages of Seized Auto Auctions

Lee Connors wrote about “Five Reasons to Try Seized Auto Auctions” in this 2007 article.  His thoughts seem worth a look today.  If you’ve ever bought from a dealership, you know how challenging it is to get a good price, perhaps later discovering that someone had gotten a better deal.  We a ll want a great car and a great price.  Seized auto auctions offer “vehicles seized by the banks, police agencies or government” or pre-owned government vehicles with potential for thousands of dollars in savings and, in come cases, starting bids of as little as $100.

1.  Peace of Mind

To maintain a good reputation, auctions sites offer a variety of customer services.  You may get a vehicle history report, buyer protection from fraud or misrepresentation, or even a buyer’s rating if he has sold before.  Some sites also offer resources on how to bid and how to buy on line.

2.  Convenience

With on-line auctions, you may bid from home.  With a laptop or iPad, you can bid from anywhere with wireless and be taking care of other business while you wait for your winning bid.

3.  Staying on Budget

On-line bidding isolates you from pushy salesmen determined to get your name on a sales contract.  With the placement of a maximum bid, you also establish your limits before the excitement of bidding begins, giving you a better chance to stay with your means.

4.  Easy Paperwork

Many sites seek to keep your purchase as simple as possible, starting with on-line forms.  Many also offer courses on bidding procedures, access to finance or insurance companies, and even a way to verify V.I.N. numbers.

5.  Thousands of Choices

Starting with vehicles on site, to lists of cars to be auctioned with their location, and finally access to databases, auction sites can help you find a car you want, pretty much where you want it, or take you request and inform you when the car you want is available.  Some business are dealer only, while others allow access through membership.

Connors wraps up with this excellent counsel:  “Remember that information is key. Like any major purchase you should do your research on the car you plan to purchase. Once that research is done familiarize yourself with the policies and guarantees offered by the seized auto auction site. Find out what you can about the vehicle and the seller. Look into insurance and financing options. Prepare well and you should have a very enjoyable experience and own the car of your dreams for thousands less than the guy next door all buy trying out the seized auto auctions.”

June 1, 2012

More on Motor City Auto Auctions

Suppose you want to try your hand at finding, bidding, and purchasing a used car for yourself.  You just want to get a good car for a good price and prefer not taking your chances with a used car lot or dealer.  An auction business like Motor City Auto Auction might be an option since it allows bidders who are neither dealers nor resellers, it doesn’t charge to place a bid, and holds 2 auctions every Saturday.

Motor City Auto Auctions has a user friendly web site which features a virtual tour, a simple and quick application process to become a bidder, very detailed instructions for bidding, and both financing and warranties available.  The site provides a list of available vehicles with year, make, model, and color, and it features a weekly list of display vehicles that include a pictures.

I expected their customer testimonial page to feature comments by satisfied customers; but, while the menu of photographs of  around 80 cars, some with what I assume to be buyers, I did not find any working links to comments by buyers.

Motor City Motor Auction is located on Groesbeck Highway, just north of 13 Mile Road, in the Detroit suburb of Fraser and is open every day except Sunday to view vehicles on site, although some only arrive close to their Saturday auction.  Motor City Auto Auctions has both a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@MotorCityAA).

Besides a weekly assortment of fresh vehicles and a supply of hard-to-find luxury vehicles, Motor City Auto Auctions promises friendly service, “a comfortable, no pressure experience,” and a “unique, fun, and interactive live auction experience.”

May 29, 2012

Salvage Auction Goes High Tech

I attended auctions with my parents when I was a kid; much of my grandfather’s farm equipment and some household things were sold at an auction after his death. Many of us have some experience with on line auction sites like eBay. While eBay has its own car site, vehicle auction businesses offer their own on line auctions. One represented here in Michigan by facilities in Lansing and metro Detroit is Copart, founded originally in California but now with facilities nationwide and in Canada. Their original on line auction is called VB2, and bidding can be done on line or a one of their local facilities.

Copart has prepared a number of videos to demonstrate their on line auction process, such as this one. Unlike eBay, where auctions end at a given time, Copart’s auctions are similar to live auctions where the process continues till the highest bid is reached and the auctioneer announces, “Sold!”

Copart’s Lansing area facility holds local sales on Fridays at 12 noon at:

Copart, Inc

3902 S Canal Road

Lansing, MI 48917-9540

Phone: (517) 322-2455

Copart’s metro area facilities holds local sales on Thursdays at noon at:

Copart Salvage Auto Auction

21000 Hayden Drive

Woodhaven, MI

Phone: (734) 365-0070

Copart sells more than cars. They also sell trucks of every size and classification, SUVs, ATVs, trailers, motorcycles, dirt bikes, boats, jet skis, and snowmobiles, as well as classic cars and even fork lifts. Copart also buys vehicles. As I write this, their web site lists nearly 75,000 vehicles of various kinds for sale. Each vehicle shows its make, model, year, mileage, current location, and the highest bid, along with a photo and more detailed information.

Copart’s success has earned it a place on Forbes “200 Best Small Companies” list nine years in a row. Copart was also featured on the television show, World’s Best as “The World’s Best Remarketing Company.”