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All About Auto Auctions Part 2

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All About Auto Auctions Part 2

Edwin Donuhue, RVP Sales-Automotive Solutions

Last week I started a series on BHPH attending auto auctions. This week I have compiled even more helpful tips along with some details about the auction process in hopes that this info will be of use to you when you are preparing to attend your next auto auction!

The auto auction process, what to expect.
Usually at the bidding area there are several lanes going at once, each with its own auction running. Typical of auctions, the auctioneer is talking very fast, in fact, too fast for most people to understand what they are saying. It takes you about 20 minutes to get used to it. They sometimes have helpers in the lanes watching for your bid. As the car drives up the lane to be bid on, flocks of potential buyers will come up to it, you'll see several buyers rub their Elcometers on the paint to determine thickness, and they'll sometimes open the hood and trunk to check for signs of body damage. This is not the time to evaluate the car you are about to buy! That is why you should arrive early before the auction starts to view the car.

Red Light, Green Light…what’s it all mean?
Behind the auctioneer is usually a traffic light with Red, Yellow, and Green lights. These lights are used to indicate the status of the car's title. Make sure when they write up your purchase that they indicate the color of the light on your contract. If they say it's green, that title better not have any issues. The classier Highline auctions would probably take back the car if something went wrong there, but for other auctions, who knows.

Red Light - Usually means there are issues with the title, rebuilt, not actual mileage, or some other problem. This is important, because you would not expect to pay as much for that car as one which had not been in a wreck. At wholesale auctions as the cars come up to the block, the ones with bad titles trigger the red title warning light to come on over the auction box. At this point, usually 50% of the bidders take off. The remaining 50% don't know what the heck to do, and the price ends up dropping usually 30%. The reason is a rebuilt car is just bad news. It's one thing to have a quarter panel replaced or door dent removed, but a rebuilt title means something very bad happened to this car. It means the car was totaled in an accident, then rebuilt, and the title was "branded" back to used car status again.

Yellow Light - Usually means the title is in transit, or there is some frame damage, but not enough to brand the title, and Usually the seller is right there next to the podium and they have the owners manual and title ready to hand over to you, and you settle in the closing room. Ideally, when you buy at a car auction, you'd like to have the title right there, since you are required to pay in full on the spot. Unfortunately, many titles at auctions are "in transit". That stinks because you would like to have the title there on the spot so you can drive home in your new purchase. They expect you to pay in full for that car now, yet they won't give you the title now. Sounds very lopsided. Each car is usually on the auction block for about a minute or 2, and the bidding moves fast.

Green Light - means everything is OK with the title.

Finally, this is a list of common items that can affect the car value that is typically seen at Auctions:

  • Bald or uneven tire wear on all the tires or (indicates bad alignment, possibly from a wreck).
  • Damaged wheel rims on one side of the car only, usually the side not facing the bidders.
  • Rebuilt title. This usually drops the value of the car by 30%.
  • All VIN#'s stickers from the doors, hood, trunk, dashboard do not match. Could have been wrecked or stolen.
  • No title present for you to take today. Avoid "title in transit" cars.
  • Problem title cars (junked, salvaged, flooded, fire, etc.).
  • Excessive dimples, scratches, dings, dents, paint chips, especially on bumpers.
  • Airbag fraud, fake airbag covers.
  • Variations in thickness of the paint. (Requires a digital coating thickness gauge).
  • Traces of paint over spray along windshield, engine compartment, inside door edges, along door seams.
  • Evidence of leaks or hand applied seal material to plug up window leaks.
  • New carpeting for no apparent reason. Could have been flooded.
  • Feel around door edges for leftover evidence of masking tape from body work, and doors that don't line up.
  • Loose or crooked windows, or power windows that don't work. Motors are over $500.
  • Malfunctioning convertible top.
  • Excessive exhaust coming out of the muffler.
  • Malfunctioning A/C.
  • Evidence of odometer tampering.
  • Excessive mileage for the car's age. This gets overlooked by lots of people. I deduct $0.15 per mile extra.
  • Follow your gut instincts. If something does not seem right, do not buy that vehicle!

Good luck bidding!

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