Cars for $100- fact or fiction?

I’ve heard stories of people going to various repo auctions (IRS, police, etc.) and getting cars and things for unbelievably low prices (one person told me about someone who got an ATV for $100) Is this true?

yes, but there are no warrantees whatsoever. they often do not run at all.

… and there are stories (urban legends? true?) about such cars having faulty exhausts (among other things that don’t work right), causing carbon monoxide to pile up – potentially fatally – inside the car.

For every safe and driveable car sold at auction, there are at least two dozen that were hauled off to the local impound lot because they’ve been abandoned.
There are no guarantees. And after you make your purchase, you must remove it from the lot that day.
All in all, I’d go with a leased new car.

I heard that since some of these cars are seized from drug dealers and smugglers that sometimes you can get the car home and search in its door panels and other areas and find lots of money and/or diamonds.

So for a $100 investment you wind up with thousands or even millions. It sure seems worth it to me.


My mechanic had told me in no uncertain terms (he’s a personal friend) NEVER to get a car from one of those auctions.

  1. His logic is: if there is a good car, why would they AUTION it?

  2. He gets a lot of fix-ups, from accidents, etc. from people who he knows are used car dealers. These people wants him to just patch up the cars to “look” ok, or to make the engine “start” only. In other words, “do the minimum”. He knows these cars are going to auction. Frequently, the structural integrity is not there anymore, or worse…like brakes that are missing parts. Since an inspection sticker is not involved, he can only do what the client asks of him.

  3. I know people who had purchased a car from auction in another state an never makes it back home with the car.

Sort of. If you are talking about ads you see for them at get one for $100, then no, sorry, just a trick to get you to pay for information on how to get them, free info you can get on the net.

Believe me, they are searched completely for drugs…

Auto auctions are a great place to get a deal on a good car. BUT like everything there is a catch. For every person at an auction, you can bet there is an auto dealer at that same auction. And you can also bet he will outbid you on any decent car.

I worked at a hotel and they held the auto auctions on Tuesday. We had dealers from as far away as Alabama (I was based in the Chicago south suburbs) coming up to bid on those cars.

I personally bought a pick-up truck at the Greenwood (LA) auto auction about 8 years ago. It was a couple of years old, less than 20,000 miles. It was just what I wanted and it lasted until my roommate wrecked it 6 years later. For $75, I was able to transfer the factory warranty to my name.

This was a major auction, with dealers all over the region buying and selling. Some vehicles were sold “as is,” while some had warranties. I guess it depends on who is doing the selling. My truck was a repo by Chrysler Credit Corp.

Souvenieeeeers, nov-elties, par-ty tricks

Like anything in this world, you just have to know what you are doing. Buyer beware.

Buying at any auction is a crapshoot. At car auctions, the professional buyers for car lots and stuff will have scoured the lot on the days before the auction, often bringing mechanics to go over the vehicles on the spot, doing compression tests, etc. If the car has value, the bids will go close to wholesale. But this does mean that you can buy a car for what the car lots are buying them for, and not for what you’d pay a car lot.

Sometimes you can stumble across a screaming deal if you happen to come across something that no one else wants for whatever reason.

I used to attend a lot of auctions of high-tech equipment, and it was the same thing. For common use stuff, there were no bargains. PC’s, Monitors and the like went for about what you’d expect. But for special-use items, it really depended. If there were a couple of guys there that wanted it, they’d bid each other up and sometimes these things would sell for more than new purchase price. ‘Auction Fever’ sets in. But if no one else is to bid against you, you can pick stuff up for the floor price. I saw a $20,000 color separator for a print shop go for $150, I bought a 24-line PBX with phones for $100, etc.

Those ads where they say, “Airplanes for as low as $200, Jeeps for $50” typically are describing the government’s floor price, or the price at which bids start.

I love Sheriff’s auctions, but getting a “steal” is rare. I did get my current stereo turntable (nice!) at a Sheriff’s auction for $10, but that’s because no one else was interested. I generally would not, however, buy a car there. I have bought my last 2 cars at an auto auction. The first one I bought for $950, drove over 50,000 miles in about three years, and then sold it at the same auction for $500. I bought my current car at auction for $2000. I have now had it for 3 years and 50,000+ miles. I could probably get $1000-1200 for it, but I think I’ll drive it a while longer.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

There are several different kinds of auctions. “Cop auctions,” I was led to understand while I was in the car biz, are a vast wasteland, because the police are supposedly given first dibs on the merch before it ever goes to the block. Believe me, even if a five-O has two confiscated Lexi in his garage, he’ll buy that '91 Taurus that still blows ice cubes for a hundred bucks and give it to his babysitter for Christmas before he’ll let you have it.

On the other hand, “professional” auto auctions, like the high line auctions at Mannheim, PA, have crazy deals go across all the time. I personally watched a black '73 Eldorado (convertible, power everything, 500 cubic inch engine, mint) with 25K miles go for $2000 just because the Ferrarris were up for grabs on adjacent blocks. Nobody was paying attention, and the seller just didn’t care, I guess. It seemed like that sort of thing happened all the time.

But no question, it’s always a crap shoot. You have to ask yourself, “why is this car really here?”

Buddy of mine used to buy totaled cars at auction, tow em to his house and wait. A few months later he’d find another one of the same model and year and tow it too. A month later he’d usually sell the result of combining all the non-totaled parts for a good profit, the rest was hauled as scrap. He did decent work and most of his jobs were “requests” from previous customers and referals.

How about IRS auctions then? Can you get good deals there?

You’ve got to remember that the agency that now owns the cars is not stupid. They’ll offload the best cars first to car lots and the like, unless they are forbidden to do so by statute or something. However, cars that have cosmetic damage or are older than 5 years or so don’t do well on lots and may wind up at auction and go for good prices.