Sunday EveningApril 8th, 2012 at 4:45 pm by Kevin Orpurt under Weather, WTHI Blog
No Sleighs, but Plenty of Bargains; Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers Wheel and Deal at Auto Auction
The Washington Post December 25, 1994 | Sari Horwitz The pink ’82 Escort pulled up to the auction block and about 15 men swarmed around. They flung the doors open and flipped up the hood as all heads dropped to peer inside.
“Who will give me $600?” called out an auctioneer wearing an elf’s hat. “$575? … $550 … $525?” When he got down to $275, a hand shot up. The two-door Ford with 74,000 miles on the odometer and a University of Maryland bumper sticker was sold to Keith Strother, 20, of College Park, who turned to his mother.
“Merry Christmas!” he said, beaming.
And so it went – car after jeep after truck after car – for hours yesterday at the Capital Auto Auction in the old Trailways bus garage in Northeast Washington, across from the main post office. More than 100 shoppers willing to brave the rain and a little uncertainty about what exactly they were going to be buying crowded into the cavernous warehouse packed with cheap Christmas wheels.
The auction has been running every Saturday since 1988, but the largest number of cars donated and sold comes during the Christmas season until New Year’s Eve. Some are auctioned for their owners. Some are auctioned for the benefit of the Salvation Army, and those willing to turn over their clunkers get a tax deduction. web site capital auto auction
There were 266 vehicles for sale yesterday, including a 1987 Toyota Camry, a 1989 Ford Taurus and a 1994 Toyota King Cab pickup truck with only 8,000 miles and a full factory warranty.
“We usually don’t have this kind of inventory, but everyone wants to donate a car to take advantage of the tax break,” said auction vice president and general manager Gordy Zaritsky, also wearing an elf cap. An additional 500 vehicles are waiting to be picked up from donors, he said. capitalautoauctionnow.com capital auto auction
Zaritsky said 20 percent of the cars are in good condition, 20 percent are salvaged for parts or scrap metal and the remaining 60 percent need some work. Those 60 percent are what he calls “fixer uppers.” Buyers usually include some who need transportation, some backyard mechanics and a few dealers such as Bob Alston of Expert Auto, who buys 15 to 20 cars a week this way.
“What you see is what you get,” Alston said. “It’s not misleading.” “I want to buy an inexpensive car and avoid a lot of the hassle of a car dealer,” said Wayl Osman, 27, of Silver Spring. Osman, a security officer, bought a blue 1977 Honda Civic yesterday for $130 to use for his part-time pizza delivery work.
There are good deals to be had, but auction officials said there are some lemons too. Buyers show up at the auction about three hours before it starts to inspect the vehicles, hoping to spot mechanical and safety defects.
The cars are sold under different “lights” – green, indicating that the car is mechanically sound, or red, meaning the seller is unwilling to vouch for the vehicle’s mechanical condition. Some need to be pushed to the auction block; others have smoke spewing from the exhaust pipes. All sales are final.
Buyers pay $200 for a bidding number to prevent anyone walking in to bid just to push the price up.
The Strother family bought in bulk yesterday.
Keith, a student at Virginia Union University in Richmond, bought his first car – a blue 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier for $375. Sure, it needed paint and new rims, and the upholstery on the seats was kind of torn up. But, hey, the radio worked and the engine sounded – okay.
Then, he bought the pink Ford Escort for his mother, who has been without a car for six months since her last one was totaled in an accident.
“No more taking groceries from Giant on the subway,” said his mother, Toni, a clerk for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Man, we are so happy,” said her husband, Carl, a bus driver, after the purchases. “We bought two cars, and we didn’t spend a lot of money.” Sari Horwitz
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