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Sherri Richards, Published May 16 2010

Impound auction draws crowd

David McCrackin of Fargo paid $4,600 for his own car Saturday.

The 2000 Cadillac Deville was one of five seized vehicles up for sale at the Fargo impound lot.

McCrackin said he was buying the car for his younger brother, who had gotten it seized last year in a marijuana-related arrest.

McCrackin was glad to have the opportunity to buy it back. He said he would have paid $7,000.

“This is a piece of him,” he said. “He learned his lesson.”

Twice a year, the city holds the auction, selling seized, impounded and used city vehicles.

There were about 116 impounded cars for sale Saturday morning in the north Fargo lot. Off to the side was a sea of impounded bicycles and office equipment also for sale.

More people have been coming to the sale to buy bicycles, said Terry Babler of Babler Auction Services. High scrap metal prices have also increased attendance, he said.

More than 200 bid numbers had been handed out by the time the first car was auctioned off. It was a rusted 1989 Toyota Camry with a smashed windshield and duct-taped front fender. It sold for $150.

But people come to the impound auction sale, cash or check in hand, for a wide variety of reasons.

Richard Svobodny of Lake Park, Minn., was looking for a car for his 16-year-old son, Beau. He’d never been to an auction and thought he could find a good deal.

“We circled a couple,” he said, holding the auction list. “Trouble is you don’t know if it really works.”

Jeremy Bushee of Emerado, Minn., is a hobby mechanic always looking for a good deal.

He frequents the auto auction circuit. A couple weeks ago, he bought a passenger bus at a Clay County auction. He hadn’t been looking for a bus, but the price was reasonable.

“Some people drink and gamble or have other bad habits. This is mine,” he joked, leaning against a black F-150 pickup.

Sarah Greene, a Moorhead mother, was desperately seeking a new vehicle. Her current car is “broken” – she wasn’t sure if it would start when they left. She’d heard she could get a car for $100 to $400 but began to doubt that when she saw the crowd.

“We don’t have any credit, so this is our last hope,” she said.

It’s getting more difficult to get a good deal on a car at sales likes these, Bushee said.

“More and more people are coming to them,” he said. He said one reason was the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program depleted the supply of used cars.

McCrackin agrees. He said he’s attended the impound sale for 10 years. “It used to be cheap,” he said, adding you could get a car for $75 to $100.

But McCrackin, who has an auto sales business, said he planned to buy 15 to 20 cars Saturday. He’ll either fix and sell them or crush them. Either way, he’d make a profit.

“There’s a lot of money here for the right person to make if you’re looking to scrap,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556