Hammer Time: Don’t Buy With Your Eyes!

People buy with their eyes in this business. I always have and always will.

I don’t care if you’re a pseudo-sophisticated yuppie wannabe who thinks Subaru is a value brand (it’s not. They cater to the Costco crowd) or an impoverished mother of five who takes your $6,000 tax check and he spends it on the Cadillac of the minivans.

The image completely governs this matter. New or used. As much as I’d love to sell tough old trucks and functional minivans that will last another seven years, my customers want the modern crossover. The SUV that hypothetically gets great mileage if you read the window sticker backwards. A compact with an unattainable leather interior and of course the premium ride with nice big wheels.

The first test of whether a car sells in this industry comes down to a simple question.

“How much does it cost?”

This question is not answered by the window tag. It is understood by the eyes, the hands, the ears and all the senses of your body when touching, seeing and even smelling this vehicle.

New or old? Does not matter.

The reason the Mazda 2 and Honda Insight didn’t sell, while the Mazda 3 and Honda Accord remain hugely popular, is that those first two cars completely failed the test for most buyers.

Doors, steering wheels and dashboards. Most cars are psychologically sold within the first twenty seconds of sitting in a car, looking around, figuring it all out, and turning the key. His facial expressions and implied behaviors tell the whole story. If you sit in a vehicle that feels and looks cheap, it’s not being sold. Not enough soundproofing? Knobs and dials that have the tactile qualities of a rubber dog chew toy? These are the things that quickly reduce a car’s sales potential long before the dealer tries to sell it for a higher price.


The same dynamic occurs at the wholesale level. At wholesale auto auctions, where your trade-in, non-lease and trade-in vehicles are sold to the highest bidder, it’s a vehicle’s appearance that creates demand in the marketplace.

Do you want a premium price at auction? It should look clean and ready for the front row. Interiors should be cleaned and deodorized. The wheels must be gleaming, and there’s still one ingredient missing that 99% of my fellow dealers don’t see when they come to sell on sale.

A well paid auctioneer and ringman.

Do you want the premium price? Give them a good tip. The guy using his power of persuasion to shop with a microphone, and the guy with him on the floor, are no different than showroom salesmen trying to get rid of surplus Cruzes and Silverados.

Incentives create sales. And unlike the commission salesperson at new car stores, auctioneers and scammers are paid a flat rate per auction. Which means when I come down to the block and sell my inventory, I always tip them.

I usually give $20 each if it’s a small run of ten vehicles or less. Great sets get $50 and a particularly successful one gets $100. As a car auctioneer and ringman in my early days, I experienced the importance of getting good tips, and in the late 90’s and early 2000’s their tips often exceeded what they were worth. that the auctions paid him. Tips are rare these days, which frankly makes me want to do it even more.

I had a small six-car race two Tuesdays ago, which was a continuing representation of how important clean cars and well-paid staff are to any organization.


Late last year, he purchased a smooth beige 1999 Lincoln Town Car with 211,000 miles for a full $425 at a title pawn. It was chopper money (the market price of vehicles destined for scrap) and with the interior driver’s door panel shattered and five months sitting in dirt and debris, it wasn’t worth much to the pawn shop. The body was perfect. However, long-term neglect can make even the best vehicles look like relics from a junkyard.

I took my Snap-On battery case, powered it up and bought it. From there, I hired a detailer who works for Carmax for $70 to do a good deep clean on the Crown Vic, top up the fluids, and have a driver take it to the auction for $25.

It sold for $1800 minus the $125 auction fee. Two guys who never bothered to open the door on this deal got into a fight and the auction staff, which consisted of a world champion ringman and a very competitive bidder, They made the best of this thing.

Most of my other vehicles fell into the same pattern. Even my 2013 mistakes. A 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP that was bought for $3,200 and only triggered a transmission code after driving for a week sold for $3,800. A green Kermit-the-Frog rodeo with an engine that blew up after the distracted customer forgot to put the oil cap back on cost $900. Bought a red 2000 VW Golf four-door with low miles but a tranny who couldn’t keep going full throttle for $2155. Another mistake that happens when buying vehicle packs where you basically sometimes play the percentages between good cars and bad cars. I made a few hundred selling it that day. If I hadn’t tipped my auctioneer and archer, I have no doubt it would have sold for at least $500 less.


What didn’t sell? I bought a 94ft Lexus LS400 for $900 plus $120 auction fee in late 2012. This one was bought without a serpentine belt and I was lucky to be honest. It was financed twice and although I didn’t want it back, the brief owners had employment problems. Not even a four month grace period each time could keep this vehicle off the lot. So I have it back and forth these days, and since I rarely have time to clean it, I was expecting a low price during the sale.

I was not deceived.

I did not sell it with an auction price of $1450. Much less than the fucking Lincoln. Enough to break even on a pure purchase basis. But not enough to pay for the new set of tires I bought, which typically cost $600 a piece, and the Lexus still has plenty of life. A clean one this time of year will usually wholesale for at least $2,000.

This is how the cookie collapses in the automotive sector. Homework and good work lead to higher earnings. But what about you? Was there a vehicle you bought with your eyes instead of your head? How did you finally get out of this endless spending?

Source : thetruthaboutcars.com

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