"There are two types of public auctions," explains Steven Lang, who runs a used car dealership in the Atlanta area and once owned a dealer auction (not open to the public). "There are government auctions and there are public auctions." Both are full of potential pitfalls. Here's a quick rundown on both and 10 tips for getting the most out of either. That is, if you dare to venture into the auction pit.
"At a government auction it's, say, a county that has 30 or 40 police cruisers it needs to get rid of. And they want to sell all of it," Lang says. "All the vehicles have known histories—how they were maintained, used and fixed, and their mileage is virtually always honest. You'll know what you're getting." Still, you don't get to drive a car before you bid on it. So you'd better have a sharp eye. Make that a sharp, trained, cynical, wary, pessimistic and rabidly suspicious eye.
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"As our police business has grown, we've been approached by other liquidators," Bellomo said. "This downturn has put 3,000 brick-and-mortar retail stores out of business. There is distressed merchandise all over the United States. Brand-new jewelry and watches, authentic sports memorabilia, fine art. Liquidators are coming to us and saying, 'Can you work with us the way you work with police agencies. Can you turn this excess inventory into cash?'
As the action at public auctions has grown hotter, the cars have grown shadier. "I've personally seen cars with over 300,000 miles on their clocks rolled back to 120,000 and sold as 'Miles Exempt' meaning no guarantee of mileage," he says. "Most of the cars at a public auction are the worst trade-ins or very rough repos." And as in a government auction, you can't drive a public auction vehicle before you bid on it.
You will be required to bring all of your paperwork (Bill of Sale/Receipt and Dealers License, if needed), Identification, and gate fee of $30 to your assigned pickup date and time. Important note: If you are sending someone else to pick up your vehicle (including a shipping company), you must call Corona’s Auto Parts and Towing to inform them of who will be picking up the vehicle, and you must send a notarized letter of authorization that the individual picking up the vehicle must have with him/her upon pickup.
Watch the mood and trend of the crowd in the bidding before your vehicle comes up for sale. I've noticed that at auctions there are frugal crowds and there are spendy crowds. I don't know why this is. I've seen furniture, tools, and kitchen cabinets sell for 10% of retail. But I've also seen them sell at what you'd pay for full retail in a store at the same auction house on different days. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Always be prepared to walk away. There'll be another auction in a week or two.
If you're looking for a good deal, you'll find it at online auction websites. Cars, jewelry, clothing, books, homes, and land are all available at bargain prices at these bidding sites with their amazing variety and choice. Collectors — from Star Wars to Disney — will also appreciate these websites, because frequenting them is a great way to increase your collection without breaking the bank.