Imagine it’s 1974 and you’ve just arranged to trade in your 1968 Oldsmobile and buy a new car. You’re excited! You bring your family to the dealership for the momentous transaction.
You park the old powder blue vehicle and everyone gets out for the last time. You proudly envision your family getting into the new car that you’ve worked so hard to be able to buy for them.
You all start to walk toward the office, but your preschooler won’t go. She is crying.
“What’s wrong, Bonnie?” you ask, surprised.
She sobs for a moment and then pushes out the following words between hiccups, “I feel sorry for the old car.”
And that, my friend, was the last time my dad took me with him when he bought a new car.
I actually remember this incident very well. I felt sorry for the old car because we were leaving it alone and it would know we didn’t want it anymore, like an unfortunate dog left at a shelter. That’s how it is to have a sensitive child, I suppose. My parents had to explain to me that the car was different from a dog and didn’t really mind that we were leaving it.
Nonetheless, I wondered what would happen to it. It took more than 40 years, but I finally found out!
Last week, I got to see the auto auction for the first time. That’s where the old cars go. You can see hundreds of them glittering in the lot, under the sun, parked in clusters with their own kind. Volkswagens here, Chevrolets there and a mile away across the huge lot you can see some BMW’s and Fords.
Some of them are cars that have been returned after a lease. The manufacturer brings them to the auction to sell them to dealers. Since this auction is in Colorado, we also saw hundreds of hail-damaged vehicles. If you want to know what a hail-damaged vehicle looks like, imagine what would happen if you parked your car in the middle of a golf course. I don’t mean a regular golf course, I mean one where it also rains golf balls from the sky. That will give you a pretty good picture of what these cars look like.
The cars and trucks and RVs are inspected and then auctioned off when their turn comes. I haven’t seen an auction yet, but it sounds like it works a lot like a livestock auction, except with VIN numbers. They bring the car into the bay and the auctioneer offers it at various prices while people bid.
Want to know what the best part is? As a Licensed Dealer Salesperson, I will be allowed to go and drive all the cars! Yes! I can go when there is no scheduled auction and find out what it’s like to drive any of them. That’s going to come in handy since I’ve never owned a BMW.
I’m excited to learn more. Even as an adult, I’ve never been able to bring myself to trade in a car. To this day, I find them good homes with friends when I’m ready for a new one. But I feel better knowing that they get to hang out with the other cars when they are in between owners.
And maybe, just maybe, now I’ll be able to convince my dad to let me go with him next time he trades in a car.