Thursday, January 21, 2010

Auto auctions: Where junkyard dreams come true

Want to drive home in a new $400 car? Take a trip to a local auto auction and beat the recession blues. Deals are ready to be had on ‘new’-to-you cars. Keep in mind these deals might have some dents, fire damage or be inoperable. That means the savings are passed on to you. No monthly payments to worry about or high-pressure from a salesperson. Win the bidding, pay up and drive or tow your prize home.

I checked out the auction action at Weil Wrecker in Birmingham, Alabama recently. Steve Weil, the owner of Weil Wrecker, his wife, Sharon, and daughter, Stacey Kaylor, were signing bidders in and giving them bid numbers when I arrived shortly before 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. Two dozen bidders were canvasing the giant surface lot, inspecting possible purchases. Shortly after 10 a.m. bidding started on three vehicles seized by the U.S. Marshals. To bid on these vehicles a deposit of $500 was required. That covers storage fees, should you win the bid and be unable to pay.

Auctioneer Drexel Johnson was seated on a flatbed wrecker with a metal awning. A long table and chairs lined the makeshift stage. An orange traffic cone was placed on each vehicle as it went up for bid. This is a precaution to prevent people from bidding on the wrong vehicle. Drexel entertained as he worked the crowd for the highest bids. 

Some bidders in the crowd were first-timers, Tyrone Colburn is a regular at Weil’s auctions. He has his own bid number automatically on the bid sheet at each auction. He usually buys wreck vehicles to rebuild. Once he bought a 1997 station wagon for $200. He took a test drive around the auction lot to make sure it was roadworthy, then drove it home.

Adamsville's Bill McDonald enjoys auctions despite buying a vehicle which he learned had a 2-inch hole in the engine block. He discovered the busted engine block when he got the car home. “I buy cars for my son to fix,’ said McDonald.

I noticed several familiar faces that were at a recent ABC Towing auction in Trussville. Gordon Madden, an auction regular, is a salvage/scrap buyer. He placed a $425 bid on each of the cars on the abandoned vehicle lot. By doing so, all the bidding started at a minimum of $425. There were 160 cars on the abandoned vehicle lot. That takes some guts and money. Gordon says business is soft right now. He worked the lot like a seasoned auction pro. Positioning himself between the auctioneer and the vehicle being auctioned. Madden was confident and bid without hesitation or fear of making a mistake.

If you are the lucky bidder, be prepared to pay immediately following the auction by cash, check, credit card or cashier's check. Sales tax will apply on vehicles without a title. If you want title paperwork, it costs an extra $35. Weil says vehicles must be removed within a week.

On the third Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. Weil advertises the auctions in The Birmingham News' legals classified section, The Alabama Messenger newspaper and

A total of 222 vehicles were sold at the Weil auction I atteded. Prior to the sale a gentleman was escorted out of the gated lot by security. He was caught him stealing items from the cars. You can look, but be advised, do not remove anything from the vehicles like this guy did. The police showed up, ran his name and arrested him for outstanding warrants. How many good deals did he miss out on?

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Tyrone Colburn discusses a possible auction purchase

An early 60s Corvair ready for auction.

Bidders register prior to auction.

Bidders gather near the auctioneer’s mobile trailer.

Bidders inspect a former Homewood, 
Alabama police car.

Dozens of small economy cars were up for auction.

Many of the vehicles were wrecked or damaged.

1987 Pontac Fiero Formula at the auction

1979 Camaro lowrider at auction.

Interior of Corvair at Weil’s auction.

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