Regardless of their mileage or whether they’re running properly or not, most vehicles at auctions tend to get labeled “as is” in order to prevent any headaches for the auction house down the line. So don’t go in expecting warranties or the ability to sue someone for selling you a total piece of crap. Auctions are like gambling in a lot of ways, and the only way to win is to pay to play.
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All items are sold “AS IS-WHERE IS” without any guarantees or warranty expressed or implied, statutory or otherwise of any nature whatsoever in respect of the lots offered at the auction. Specifically, but without limitation, Auctioneer makes no representation or warranty that any of the lots conform to any standard in respect of safety, pollution or hazardous material, or fit for any particular purpose. The Auctioneers, sellers, or any member of their staff make no guarantee as to the authenticity, of any particular age, year of manufacture, model, make, mileage, hours, condition, or defect of any lot or item being sold. Bidders are encouraged to make their own physical inspection and rely solely on that inspection before bidding. Failure to inspect does not negate that Bidders responsibility to perform under the auction terms and conditions.
But the competition at county auctions is brutal and it's only getting stronger. "Taxi companies want the old cruisers to use as cabs," Lang says. "And often there are government employees who are going after a vehicle that they used on the job and grew fond of. A lot of the school buses and trucks get bought by brokers looking to ship them overseas to poorer countries that will use them for public transportation. These are guys who go to government auctions all the time, know what to pay and know a lemon when they see it. You won't be the only bargain hunter out there."
These programs are meant to benefit taxpayers as a whole, but could they benefit you, the individual taxpayer? Can you bag a bargain at a government auction? "GSA's goal is to maximize return to the federal government," the GSA spokesperson said. So they're not giving this stuff away. In fact, the government sets "reserves" or minimums for the most valuable property it auctions off. But judging from a wide tour of current government auctions and bids, there are still opportunities to walk away with valuable goods for a great price. Here's a look at who's selling what, where, and for how much.
High-end classic car auctions like the Barrett-Jackson events are common on cable channels with three-digit numbers, such as Speed and HD Theater. Perfect Shelby Cobras, Ferraris with long racing pedigrees, glorious Duesenbergs, exceedingly rare muscle cars and old Mercedes roadsters so gorgeous that your eyes water cross the block and sell for insane prices.
The bidding started out fairly tame. Individuals there bought a beat up Impala for $525, a Chevy Astro van for $425, and the shittiest Chrysler PT Cruiser I have ever seen for $300. As for the awesome Ford Escort wagon? Well, it didn’t do so hot, in part, Kevin told me, because it’s so light and has low scrap value, and because parts are in low demand:
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Policeauctions.com is run by a private company and is not affiliated with the government. It provides information and links to government-run auctions, but the site itself is part of the wholesale liquidation auction market. Items are sold as is and sometimes there are fees. You have to register to bid and get information, but it doesn’t cost anything to join the site.
Cars at public auctions are often those that wouldn't sell at wholesale dealer auctions. Yes, some are flood vehicles, and Hurricane Irene should still be fresh in your mind. Some are cars quickly reconditioned in dealership shops to fill in slow periods when there's otherwise little work to be done. And many are just flat out junk. "A car that goes across the block at a public auction that isn't spewing smoke is often packed with thick racing oil to ensure it doesn't," Lang continues. "Everything at a public auction looks shiny, but shiny doesn't mean much about the quality of the car."
Private auctions are held on-site at your dealership. Each vehicle is driven either underneath the tent in front of a self-contained mobile operations unit. In some cases we can even transform a building at your dealership into an auction arena. These dealer only auctions are conducted live by an auctioneer and are designed to sell 40-200 vehicles. Operated much like a conventional auto auction, these private auctions are easily adapted to the specific needs of your dealership, with even simulcast sales available.