mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Van, gone...

I tried to buy a car last week.

The college I work for sells off excess vehicles every year - and this year I decided to put a bid on one at the sealed-bid auction they hold.

The vehicles they sold were pretty eclectic - a couple vans and minivans, a pickup, a Toyota Corolla, and two Cushmen 3-wheeled vehicles. They set a minimum price for each vehicle. Since it was sealed-bid, you didn't know what other people were bidding until bids were opened, which made bidding difficult, since you wanted to bid more than anyone else, but didn't know if anyone else was bidding or how much.

The vehicle I bid on was a 1989 Dodge Ram van. It had 90,000 miles and was in decent condition - ran good, some dents and rust, but nothing major. It also had a full rack and bin package, including a workbench with a vice. I bid $576, which was pretty close to blue book value in fair condition. My brilliant plan was to use it to move, and then either keep it as a second vehicle for hauling stuff or resell it either on craigslist or to carmax.

I was surprised that it received more bids than most of the other vehicles. I had the second highest bid, losing out to someone who bid $627. So thus ended my plan, which was either brilliant or stupid (considering it would have cost me about $1500 a year to insure it, although that is at the expensive rates of the city neighborhood I live in now and not where I will be moving in a few weeks).

The auction was interesting - I and a couple friends went to the bid opening at lunchtime, and were surprised at the results. The Cushmen sold for well above the miniumum bid - one, with a stuck throttle cable, went for $700, and both had many bids. The two minivans (an Astro cargo and a Caravan passenger) were also popular. On the other hand, what I thought was the most desirable vehicle and one I briefly thought of buying to replace my current car - a '95 Ford F-350 4X4 diesel with plow and only 33k miles - got only one bid, and it was well below the minimum, and the other "nice" vehicle (a 98 Corolla with 54k miles that needed a new windshield and brakes) went for $4300 but got few bids.

The whole thing did make me ponder if buying a second, crappy vehicle was a good strategy given the issues I've had with my PT Cruiser and my strong desire to get rid of it, as well as my fear that it will have another major problem. But chances are I would just end up with two vehicles that break down all the time instead of one.

The best strategy is probably to replace it with something more reliable - either a sharply discounted new car or a good used car. It's something I would love to do soon, but I figure I should probably wait a while to see if my budget estimates for how much the new house will cost me are accurate and how much money I have left after buying furniture and the like and moving. I'm thinking December or next summer, assuming nothing major happens with the car or my life between then and now, but given how often I change my mind, or say I'm going to do something and don't, it's hard to say.


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