RM Auctions–Auctions for Collectors

RM Auctions claims to be the “the global leader in the collector car auction industry.” They offer a variety of services including, “auctions, restoration, appraisals, collection advice, private treaties, and estate sales.” They caught my eye for two reasons-first, I just love looking at old cars restored to perfect condition; second, they hold an auction, this fall, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I imagine that is in conjunction with the annual classic car show there, one I attended some years ago, a highlight of my college years!

As far as looking, the RM Auctions web site allows, indeed welcomes, you to look, either at its entire collections or narrowed down to a particular auction. I clicked on a red 1953 Ferrari, and I not only could look a a number of photos of the car but also a nearly 5 minute video story about the car and its history. That car will be auctioned in Monterey in just a few days. The site also includes a lengthy and detailed fact sheet about the car.

Without a doubt, the vehicles offered here are the best of the best, meaning of course, expensive beyond the budget of most of us. Still it is fun to look around to see what they’re selling. They offer a both a magazine and catalog, and they link to information on both consignment for sale and on their restoration services. In addition, RM Auctions also does estate auctions of entire collections, with links to a number of collections as well, largely from past sales. They also make interesting viewing with a collection of woodies, of micro-cars, and of auto-related signs, to name a few.

Auctions may be viewed live, on-line, and a person may register and bid on-line as well. Catalogs are available both digitally and in print. Clicking to related events will take you to the page with information on both the annual car show in Hershey from October 9 to 13, 2013, the one I attended, as well as to the “Night at the Museum,” October 9, at the AACA Museum (The AACA is the Antique Auto Club of America.

The Unique Challenge of the Auto Auction

Paul Duchene, writing for Car and Driver, offers his take on how to make the best of an auto auction after providing insight into the risks. “Marry in haste, repent at leisure” is his way of introducing the greatest risk: paying too much! Considering that saving money is the typical perceived benefit of the auto auction, overspending would definitely qualify as a likely disappointment. As he notes, “Auctions are the fastest of fast tracks—you are betting you know what you want, that you can recognize a car’s strengths and faults, that you know what it’s worth, and that you have the cool head to stop bidding at that point.” He adds that auctions can be fun, but they are work.

First, he suggests reading the catalog. His goal is to identify the car and any hidden changes that may have occurred. A person doesn’t want to be tricked into buying a lemon.

Second, he recommends attending the auction in person because a first-hand examination will reveal more than what can be seen via the Internet, one strike against on-line auctions.

Third, he says to register early so you can be sure not to miss the car or cars that interest you. Here is where they confirm you can pay for any car you win in the bidding.

Fourth, examine the car closely. Bring along an expert if you are not one yourself. You are again seeking to confirm the car is what it claims, that it is in good condition beyond the shining of a new coat of wax, and so that you avoid surprises after you own the car.

Fifth, he advises standing where the auctioneer can see you clearly. Here he offers insights that only an experienced bidder could. Above all, however, is not going over your price limit in the excitement of the moment.

Finally, Duchene recommends having the car shipped to spare the risk of unexpected car repairs in an inconvenient place.

Duchene has plenty more to say.  Get all the details at Car and Driver.

Wisdom from an Auto Auctioneer

Steve Lang offers his take on auto auctions based on experience, not just as an auctioneer, but also as a bidder, buyer, seller, and auction house manager. With that broad perspective, Lang has seen a lot, and his tips are not to be ignored.

He notes, “This is a world that average car buyers enter at their own peril.” The hundreds of thousands of deals he observed—everything from a $200 VW to a $200,000 Ferrari—have included both “future joys” and “long-term sorrows.” Perhaps his greatest warning is that “Almost nothing is what it first appears to be.” In other words, sellers will do almost anything to get the best dollar for their car while buyers hope to get the best car for the best price; so unwarranted assumptions can lead to disaster. He warns that hidden problems can be serious and that removed warning lights and recently changed oil may hide known problems, known to the owner, that is.

Here are 10 tips from the experienced auctioneer’s perspective:

  1. Decide If You Can Really Handle an Auto Auction-He explains why auctions may not be for everyone.
  2. Know the Sellers-Banks aren’t car people. New car sellers auction off brands other than their own. Independent dealers are most likely to sell to someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing. “Public auctions serve the purpose of finding the people who fit the “clueless” mold.”
  3. Do Your Pre-Auction Research-As noted elsewhere, Carfax and AutoCheck are excellent sources to learn a vehicle’s history.
  4. Know the Auction Rules-Are there fees or deposits? Can you drive the car? Lang says never to bid on a car without driving it.
  5. Assess the Car by Assessing the Previous Owner-Examine the car for indications of the owner’s being someone who didn’t care for his vehicle.
  6. Pay Attention to the Auction Lights-Auction block usually have 4 colored lights. Red is for “as is.” You buy it, and it’s yours. Yellow is for caution, because the car has an issue that could be serious. Green means the winning bidder may drive the car for 1 to 3 hours, and may be able to get out of the deal if an extremely serious issue is discovered. Blue means you may have to wait for the title, though after 30 days you can probably get your money back (He says, “Always pay with a check!”).
  7. Don’t Get Drawn Into the Drama-Don’t allow yourself to get suckered into paying more than you planned or into buying junk.
  8. The Auto Auctioneer Is Not Your Buddy-His job is to sell cars, not help you.
  9. You Have a Court of Last Resort-If you’re among the few who get a misrepresented car, remember that auctions hate bad publicity.
  10. Build a Relationship-The auctioneer has a job to do, but if you’re pleasant and interested, he may become you ally.

This is a summary at best. If you’re serious about buying at an auto auction, I highly recommend reading this entire piece and getting all the choice details. You’ll have greater success for doing so.



GSA Fleet Vehicle Sales

The United States General Services Administration (GSA) sells off “U.S. Government owned cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans to the public at substantial savings” according to their web site. Besides being a resource for the prospective buyer at auction, the website has a user-friendly layout for the novice auction buyer. The site provides for windows to provide the information that you, as a prospective buyer, will need to get the best deals on the vehicle you want.

First, “Find a Vehicle” allows you to search the entire database for the specific car you might want. For example, I found 3 Hondas but none were Accords. The site has a registration option that allows you to maintain a search for a particular vehicle or vehicles until they become available.

Second is a “Search for Auctions,” which allows a user to locate specific GSA auction houses by state. A search for auctions in Michigan came up with 5, one in Gaylord, Michigan, on August 20, 2013, with the information on the auction house, including a map. The other 4 were in near-by states—Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The third window offers general information about the GSA and its auto sales. It provides helpful information including a page regarding alternatively fueled vehicles. It also links to a brochure, but I found myself on a USA Publications page where a search would be needed to get to the auctions brochure. At that point, it seemed unnecessary, although I saved the link for future use.

The fourth window provides links to explain how GSA auctions and auctions in general work, with one for first-timers. Experienced or not, I would recommend looking through those links.

Just go to the GSA Fleet Vehicle Sales site and look at the scrolling information. You will quickly get a clear picture of a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a good car at an action price.

Auction for “Time Capsule” Vehicles

It’s hard not to get excited about an auction that features the old cars that you remember seeing or maybe even driving, cars in excellent condition for their age.  Many like car auctions for the price, but it would be so cool to win the car that you loved when you were just a young driver,  I would any way!  For those who share my interest, here is the auction for you, featuring cars stored away for the past 17 years.

Ray and Mildred Lambrecht, now in their 90’s, retired years ago from their auto dealership, but they kept nearly 500 new and used vehicles from their inventory in storage in various buildings in Pierce, Nebraska.  The collection includes 50 brand new Chevrolets from the 1950s and 1960s with less than 10 miles on the odometer.  These cars bear none of the wear that would have come from being driven over the last 40 or 50 years, and now they are finally to be auctioned.

The auction is scheduled for September 28 and 29, this fall, at Vanderbrink Auctions in Pierce, Nebraska, and you may go to their site to see what they will be auctioning and for further information.  Their site includes videos and photos, which are being regularly updated.  The available vehicles include cars in great condition, others that are “project cars,” and some that are basically only good for parts.

I found a number of photos on the site where I originally found this story, too. My personal favorite was a 1959 Chevy Impala, a car I started driving when I was a senior in high school.  Mine was blue, and my college buddies called it my “Winded Wonder!”  Of course, it was a heavy beast, and the gas mileage would be atrocious.  Still for the chance to drive one again, I’d be in Pierce, Nebraska, if I could for this auction.

Just watching the video on the site is fun, so go ahead and check it out.  By they way, you can bid for vehicles on line, if you cannot get to Nebraska.

“Time Capsule” Auction

Those who buy cars for reasons beyond simply getting a quality car and a great price probably already know where the auctions for their specialized interests can be found, unless they’re newbies, of course. However, I came across something unique, recently, a collection of old cars in better than normal condition for their ages. These cars have been sitting in an old man’s buildings for 17 years.

An auto dealership in Pierce, Nebraska, closed with 500 cars in its inventory, among them 50 brand new Chevrolets from the 1950s and 1960s with less than 10 miles on the odometer. These cars have not been driven since, and apart from the minor damage of aging itself, these cars are in first class condition.

The article reporting on this find lists auction dates of September 28th and 29th, this fall. Owners Ray and Mildred are now in their nineties, and their daughter says selling the collection came from what a painful decision for them. The auction will be held at Vanderbrink Auctions in Pierce, Nebraska, and their site provides further information.

On Vanderbrink’s site is a video of some of the “survivor” vehicles to be sold. It is one of 66, if you’re interested, and you can get started here. I watched for just a few minutes, and I was reminiscing while I enjoyed seeing some cars of the past in beautiful condition.

The original story site includes a number of photos of cars to be auctioned. About half way down, I found one of a 1959 Chevy Impala, the car I drove through my college years. Mine was sky blue, and my friends and I called it the “Winged Wonder.” If I could afford it, I’d be in Nebraska, this September, to see if I could buy one. What an opportunity for those who want to relive their youth!  Oh, and if you’re into collector car auctions, you might want to check this out.

Do I Have to Be Present to Sell my Car through an Auction?

Depending on what auction format you plan on using, you may or may not need to be onsite when your automobile sells. In my opinion, you should always be available and ready to answer questions even if your car is being sold by a third party. Think about it, nobody knows your car like you do, and who else better than you would be able accurately to answer questions about your car?. Now, in other instances, such as online auctions, you need not be online when the car is selling but must be available to field any questions that arise during the process. For example, when using an eBay auction to sell a car, you will get plenty of questions from prospective buyers, any time, day or night. It’s in your best interest to answer these questions promptly and honestly. In essence, you’re competing against other auto sellers for someone’s hard earned cash; so quick, honest answers are to your advantage.

Now, at most live auctions, your car’s information will be available on a sales sheet. The information will also be provided prior to the auction over the house speaker. Again, I would suggest always being on hand and available to answer questions if the auction house will allow you to do so. Another major factor in your decision to be present or not is the overall condition of the car. If you have a limited edition vehicle with low mileage and minimal wear, the car will sell itself. If the car is not in high demand and you have some reservations about the final sale, you’ll probably want to be present and ready to answer questions. Your first-hand information about the vehicle being auctioned will, at the least, eliminate negative assumptions or fears. Doing so will improve the chance of selling your car for the highest price.

Do I have to Have a Permit or License to Buy at an Auction?

Auto auctions come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some auctions require you to be an active, paying member, and others only require you come on-time with money in hand.

A major factor to consider when attending an auction is whether you need a permit or license to enter. First, if you plan to go into this industry with the idea of selling cars for profit, your state may require you to obtain a car dealer’s license. I’d advise checking your local DMV for laws governing your state. Also, some auctions are only open to auto dealers so, before driving to the auction, be sure to check ahead on the license requirements.

Secondly, some states don’t require you to have a license to enter normal auctions but do require you to have a business entity such as a LLC or S Corp before you can purchase. This rule lifts the liability from you, the purchaser, and the auction house and places it firmly onto the shoulders of your corporation. Again, check the state requirements by contacting either the local DMV or the auction house and requesting a requirements sheet.

Lastly, remember even if the auction doesn’t require you to have a permit or a license, they may require you to have insurance before you can drive away from the lot with the vehicle. Although it’s the buyer’s responsibility to do so, the auction house can be fairly firm on this stance so make sure you have the proper accommodations in place before you leave the lot. In reference to auctions, my favorite set of words are “due diligence”. You must take the time to research the place where you intend on purchasing well before arriving tp participate. Doing so will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. 

How Do Auto Auctions Make Money?

When you think of your local auction house, you may simply think of them as places where you can find you a quality vehicle ready for the road obtainable at an affordable price. However, the auction house is also a money making entity with many different streams of revenue. Here are some of the various ways they bring in revenue.

1) Sales Commissions – Some auction houses purchase cars bought directly from the local dealerships for profit. Others sell cars for the dealership and take a percentage of the profits from the total sale. For example, Dealership A wants to get rid of its trade-in “inventory” so it enlists Auction House A to sell the cars for them. Auction House A agrees to sell the cars and receives a percentage of the sales as a commission for doing so. Everyone leaves happy with profits!

2) Membership Fees – Some exclusive auction sites don’t allow individuals to come in and purchase cars. They require a “membership fee” for people to join the club and to place bids. This format is usually seen in high end auction formats where the average automobile cost is over a hundred thousand dollars!

3) Parts Sales – You may notice parts being sold at some auto auctions. These parts come mostly from junk automobiles and custom vehicles. In most cases, the parts are sold separately, not by auction.

4) Online Auctions – These auctions are hosted over the World Wide Web and are very profitable for the companies hosting them. Auctioneers charge sellers hosting fees which allow them to sell for profit on their website. EBay is the industry leader in online auto auctions.

Auto auction houses are expanding and growing larger across the United States. Their growth is based on customers who find great cars and great prices.  As they grow, so will their revenue streams and creativity, along with their appeal to prospective buyers like you.

What are the Pros and Cons of Selling a Car through an Auction?

Auto auctions are a great place to sell your vehicle if you’re looking to off-load your car. It can also be a painful experience if you don’t complete your homework regarding the full process. Here, we’ll address about some of the pros and cons of selling a car by auction.

Pro: Quick way to sell: If you’re looking for a way to sell your vehicle for cash, there’s none better than an auto auction. As long as your vehicle is in decent condition and has all the criteria to operate properly, you’re going to be able to sell the car fairly quickly. One thing to remember is that a buyer usually comes to the auto auction with cash in hand, ready to spend.

Con: Commissions paid to the auction house: Remember, the auction house must be paid, and you’re the person making the payment. Usually, they require you to pay a percentage of the sale price for selling your car at their auction. This is considered a disadvantage because you could sell your car directly, if you wanted too. You really don’t need them to sell it.

Pro: Experts to help with the process: Most auction houses have professionals on hand to help with the process of offering your vehicle. They’ll walk you through some of the more essential steps of the process. Otherwise, you’d be left with the responsibility to complete this all by yourself, which could deprive you of profits.

Con: Loss of control over sale price: The overall downfall of the auto auction is that you don’t have the last say in what your car is sold for. Once it’s listed, that’s it. The people who are bidding on your car are the deciding parties. They determine the final price for buying the car. The exception to this rule is eBay. Ebay allows you to set a reserve price which must be met before your car can sell. If you have reservations about what you want to make, I would advise using eBay to have some control over what your car eventually sells for. 

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