Buying a Car At Auction – Life With a $5,000 Vehicle

So David Lardner bought a 2005 Volvo Station Wagon for $3,900 at auction. Pretty good deal? Looks that way, but he didn’t know for sure until he brought his car past a trusted mechanic.

After spending $170, David saw that his car only needed an oil change and air filter, a pretty spectacular outcome, really, for a car bought practically sight unseen.

Turning this high mileage Volvo into his daily drive brought a little more adventure than he was really ready for. He was doing ok until the third day when the transmission would not move into park. This made David very nervous because that could have meant the transmission was bad or that the specific part that would not allow the car to shift to or from park without pressing on the brake could be bad. That’s not as expensive a repair as a transmission, but still costly.

Upon inspection David noticed that a broken piece of plastic was getting in the way of the shift lever. With just a little elbow grease and a pair of vice-grips, he was able to move the shifter freely for a huge relief.

This is an example of how frightening it can be to buy an auction vehicle. Had the transmission been bad, that would likely mean that this particular car could not survive on the road. Serious warning: had this happened to someone less mechanically inclined, this simple problem may have resulted in unnecessary towing and repair costs.

Here are David Lardner’s 6 tips to remember if you want to buy an auction vehicle:

Before embarking on this adventure, make sure you have the following items on your checklist:

  • Be very mechanically inclined (in regards to automobiles) or have someone who you trust with you.
  • Set a budget and remember to figure in buyer’s fees and tax/tag/title
  • If previews are online, look at them closely. Many times VINs are included so you can run a CarFax or AutoCheck well in advance.
  • Show up a few hours early so you can inspect the cars you decide to bid on.
  • Show discipline. Know ahead of time and stick to the maximum that you would pay for each of the cars you decide to bid on.
  • Be realistic. You are buying a car that will likely need, at very least, a complete servicing, and perhaps much more.

Feeling brave? Check out the final segment of David Lardner’s adventure in buying a car at auction, and then make up your own mind whether this makes sense for you.

P.S. When you file Chapter 7 there are special rules you need to follow in order to keep your car. Take a look at my video

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