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Dealers Selling Used Cars from Far-Away Public Auctions

Hi folks,

Back in 2014, I got great advice from everyone here in my post about keeping my reliable 1997 Toyota Rav4 instead of purchasing a new car.

Unfortunately, my daily mileage is about to jump during rotations, so my trusty Rav has to go. I’ve found a used, low-mileage subcompact MT hatchback from 2016 in both the color and trim I like from a local franchised dealer for a competitor brand. It’s well below my budget and the Car Fax report suggests that the new vehicle was repossessed after 10 months when the only owner missed payments, so I feel less suspicious about any lapsed maintenance. However, the original owner was in Florida and the dealer is here in the upper midwest. I understand that Florida is a large automotive market, but why would a dealer half-way across the country be at a public auction there? Is this common?

While I’ll still check the fluids myself and have two local mechanics inspect the car, I’m feeling a little uncertain about why this car was purchased by the dealer so far away.

I appreciate any advice! Thanks!

You’re doing the right thing, by paying somebody to perform a thorough inspection BEFORE buying the car

Anyways, I doubt the “upper midwest” dealer sent anybody down to Florida to scour the market. Seems like too much of a hassle, in more ways than one

Possibly, the car was dealer traded once or twice, and somehow wound up in your area

I suggest whoever does the inspection . . .

Drive the car on good AND bad roads
Drive on streets and highways
Exercise the brakes a few times at highway speeds . . . is the pedal kicking?
Does it track straight?
No funny noises?
Look carefully for flood damage
Put the car on the lift, if possible
Any signs of accident damage
Look at it from all angles, any waviness, orange peel, etc.?

You’ll want to make sure the guy doing the inspection has absolutely nothing to do with the seller, in any way. That would obviously be a big conflict of interest

A few more things . . .

Does this car have any kind of remaining new car warranty?

I advise you to not buy any aftermarket extended warranties. If it’s a Ford, don’t buy extended warranty from the Chevy dealer, where it currently resides, for example. IMO the only extended warranties that are even worth considering are if they’re from the manufacturer of the vehicle. And you’ll probably not break even, unless the car is such a POS that you shouldn’t have bought it in the first place :smirk:


There is a large auto auction here in my town and on auction day there are large and small car transports from all over the east. Most are from Ohio, WVA and PA, but it is not unusual to see plates from farther away. Your dealer probably went to a similar auction to get a deal. There are lots of companies that will move the cars and a lot of retired guys who carpool in and drive the cars back to their new dealer lot.


Anytime I have even the slightest doubts about a vehicle purchase I just move on. That said if you can find a left over 2016 with color and trim that you can live with it might not be that much higher in price. As long as you apparently keep vehicles I would think new with full factory warranty would be best.


Thanks for the quick responses, everyone.

I feel pretty reassured about how the Wisconsin dealer got this Mazda 3, but I’ll definitely ensure that the mechanics follow those points (thanks, db4690). The vehicle’s initial warranty is still good, so that spares me from any useless extended ones from the other dealer.

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Couple of things. I am not sure about the warranty since it would technically require maintenance records. If you bought this car from a Mazda dealer with Mazda CPO warranty, then it would have been different.

I am in CA and have made a point not to buy out of state cars, but then CA is a low rust place and I do not want a car from MA. In your case it might not be that bad. But beware that sometimes esp for flood cars/salvage cars, it is easier to clean the title when they move the car to a different state. So IF you decide to buy this car, let your inspecting mechanic know this and have him go through the car with a paranoid glass. Don’t trick yourself in a bad car/deal and a lot of headache down the road.

Market value can vary by location, a wholesaler can make money by moving a transporter full of cars from one region to another.


My Pontiac was a rental in Boston, sold at a dealership in Minnesota. I don’t think its unusual if they can buy it low and sell it high.

My uncle does the “long distance” auto auctions for a living. Dealers buy vehicles on the internet from large auction houses like Manheim and his team drives them back from Nashville, Columbus, Indianapolis and Atlanta. I drive on a part time basis since most of the driving team is composed of family members. If a vehicle has major problems on the trip back…it’s repaired and sent back to the auction in most cases. Dealers around here like this method because it’s the only way to truly test the auction vehicles. Trucks are only used to transport vehicles to the auction. Most local dealers around here like this method because it results in a quality used vehicle to sell.

My biggest concern would be @galant 's - make sure it’s not a flood car. As for the warranty, maintenance records might only be needed if the dealer claims to problem was caused by poor maintenance. With so few miles that’s a hard claim to make.

I was just reading a short bio of Earl “Madman” Muntz, who made his first fortune with used cars, and later moved on to hawking his own brand TVs and auto tape players. Muntz had his first used car lot in Illinois, and on a visit to California, he noted that used cars brought much higher prices in The Golden State than they did in the Midwest.

So, after opening his second used car lot–in California–he used to pay GIs $50 to drive cars from the Midwest to his lot in CA. According to the article, Muntz even drove some of the cars himself, and he claimed that he could do the Illinois to Cali run in 30 hours.

Even after paying $50 to transport his cars to CA, he still made a significant profit, due to the higher selling prices for used cars in Cali.

Wouldn’t those Midwest cars have stood out like a sore thumb . . . because they were rusting away . . . standing next to cars which spent their whole lives in California

I guess most CA buyers never check for rust as they don’t know what it is :slight_smile:

Probably carfax and similar services were not around then.

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That is logical, so I have no explanation for that factoid, courtesy of Hemmings Classic Cars.
Who knows…perhaps they will next report on The Bowling Green Massacre or the terrorist attack in Atlanta (you know…the ones that never happened).


Even in the old days of Muntz TVs, it took a few years for cars to show up with rust issues. Its not like a four year old car would be a rusting hulk from Minnesota. Common rust problem areas were the lower front fender, around the rear wheel wells, lower doors, and so on. Wouldn’t be something you’d notice until it rusted through.

In Europe, in years past, some cars were rusted through BEFORE 4 years had elapsed

Not every car, clearly, but it did happen from time to time

IMHO that is the best advice here.