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Later, I worked at the kind of place where cars that were worth more dead than alive were sold by the lowest of used-car dealers. Many of these cars would literally spill their precious remaining fluids as they rolled through the block, and at least one or two a night would die from an overheating engine and become a rolling paperweight -- right there on the block. Automotive garbage was collected by the ton at this place. Which brings me to my $25 car.
"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.
Government seized-property or surplus auctions are held all over the country at various locations and on various schedules. Typically an auction is held at a particular location on a regular basis — usually monthly or quarterly or annually. Local and national newspapers often have listings and details. Usually these are more than just car auctions. All kinds of property are included, including real estate.
All vehicle types, makes, and models are sold at such auctions – SUVs, coupes, sedans, vans, minivans, even convertibles. Obviously, these government agencies institutions are hoping to get as much money as possible for their goods. But good bargains and cheap cars can be had. Otherwise, the auctions wouldn’t be as popular as they are and no one would participate.
Do your research. Check Kelly Blue Book for the proper price for the vehicle, including its mileage and apparent condition. Always downgrade the condition by one ranking for government auctions. Also, do some smart used-car research, such as checking Consumer Reports for reliability and the frequencies of particular repairs, and checking our road test information if it's a recent model vehicle.
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