It's often been said that the happiest day of your life is when you buy a boat, and the second happiest day is when you sell it. While the maxim rarely holds true when it comes to Corvettes, life challenges or shifting priorities do occasionally conspire to necessitate the sale of even a cherished automobile. So, how do you liquidate your Corvette in a manner that ensures you the best possible price? Why, at auction, of course. And not just any auction, but one that specializes in performance, vintage, or other special-interest cars.
As car enthusiasts, we've spent many hours covering automobile auctions, but up till now, this author had never participated in one as a buyer or a seller. So, when the magazine's C5 on a Shoestring project wrapped up several months ago, we decided to run the car through the auction process and write about it for an article. (To recap, the project covered contributor Paul Zazarine's effort to restore his stock '97 Vette while simultaneously modifying it to outperform a C5 Z06, all on a total budget of $35,000.)
The concept sounded straightforward enough, but we quickly discovered that there was a lot to learn. What venue would we choose, how would we transport the car, and what paperwork was required to submit the car for auction? All of these questions would need to be answered before our C5 could cross the block.
If you're following along at home, the best advice is to plan several months ahead. Start by choosing a venue that represents the type of car you're trying to sell. Since we were selling a Corvette, we choose the Mecum Muscle and More event in Indianapolis.
Once you've decided on a venue, contact the auction house as soon as possible to secure a spot. The auction staff will then advise you on the documents required to sell your car. You will likely be asked to provide several photos, which will appear on the company's website and in the auction brochure. You will also be expected to provide a detailed overview of your car, to accompany these photos. Most auctions feature phone-in bidders whose buying decisions are based largely on what they see online; the more information you give them, them the better.
Once you've selected an event, the next decision is whether or not to include a reserve price. (A reserve price represents the minimum amount you're willing to accept for the car.) "No reserve" auctions tend to spark more interest, because everyone knows the car will sell. If you do set a reserve, you run the risk of not selling the car if your price is not met. (And remember, if your car doesn't sell, you'll need to make arrangements to transport it back home.) Keep in mind, however, that you can always remove the reserve at any time during the auction if bidding comes close enough to the price you want. We decided to create some excitement and go with the no-reserve approach.
Having been to a number of Mecum Auctions in the past, we knew that the Reliable Carriers was a common choice for vehicle transportation, and so we chose the company to transport C5 on a Shoestring. The process was simple: call the company, schedule a pick-up date, and wait for the truck to show up. Reliable is given an express check-in at the auction, which gives the car more time on the grounds and allows more potential buyers to inspect it.
Any concerns we might have had about the safety of the vehicle while in transit was assuaged when a Reliable rep told us about the $5 million of insurance the company carries on each truck. Reliable also provides GPS tracking on every carrier, so you know where your car is at all times.
With our shipping schedule confirmed, it was time to schedule our travel plans. Should you choose to send your vehicle to auction without attending yourself, be sure to contact your auction liaison to work out the details before the event takes place.
Arriving at an auction of this size is a real kid-in-a-candy-store experience for any car nut. While there were literally hundreds of cars on hand, the help Mecum staff helped us quickly locate our Corvette, which had arrived three days earlier. It's always a good idea to find your car as soon as you arrive, so you can inspect it for damage. Fortunately ours was unscathed.
The staff of McCullough Public Relations had created a "showboard" depicting some of the magazine articles in which our C5 was featured and placed it next to the car. If your car has an interesting history, strongly consider bringing along a story board, a photo album, or any other pertinent paperwork to increase the value of the vehicle. The more information you can offer a prospective buyer, the better.
After spending a few days on the exhibition floor for inspection by potential bidders, the Vette began its trek to the block. Detailed and shining like a new penny, she rolled out . . . into the rain. Not to worry, though, as the staging lanes were completely covered, and all of the cars received a quick, pre-auction wipe-down and shine from the staff. Once the C5 was restored to its original luster, it was show time!
Bidding quickly hit $10,000, and then $12,000, before a lull in the action set in. It was then that the finality of the situation began to set in. We realized that our days of driving this fine-tuned machine were over, and began to wonder if we were doing the right thing. It was then that we were jolted back to reality by the cry of the auctioneer: "Sold, for $19,500!" Whew, what a relief!
With a satisfactory outcome secured, it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of the auction. The only step left to complete was to pick up the check for the purchase price of the car (minus any applicable seller's fees), which we were able to do the very next day. The Mecum staff works diligently to make sure on-site sellers are paid promptly. If you choose not to attend, your check will be mailed to you.
Participating in an auction is an unforgettable experience for any Corvette enthusiast. The emotions that flood your mind when you see the attention your car brings is immensely gratifying-and the check in your hand at day's end isn't bad, either. Should there be any more cars in the garage that need selling, we'll definitely be taking the auction route.