It Runs, It Moves, It Has a Key!: A Day at the Chappelle’s Auto Auction

It’s 7am and people are already on our lot. They’re jiggling door handles, popping open hoods, looking up VINs and taking notes on what’s available.

Without having to check the calendar, we know it’s Auction Day.

By the time the auction starts at 11:15am, we’ve got a pretty good-sized crowd. Like we said, most of them have been here for hours. Some of them we see every auction, at both locations! Our buyers come for all sorts of reasons: buying a first car for their kid, needing parts, or maybe getting one for specific purposes, like hauling equipment or long-distance drives.

On this particular day, we’ve got 32 available vehicles. They range from a well-maintained Subaru Impreza to a Ford Explorer that looks like it’s been hollowed out.

Regardless the condition, our co-owner Sean (and auctioneer) likes to let people know exactly what they’re in store for as he opens the auction. After he greets everyone, he starts with the rules.

“First off, we like crisp $100 bills,” he jokes. “Second, the vehicle comes as is. If it breaks in half when you drive it off the lot, then both halves are still yours.”

Sean cracks a few more jokes, explains the rest of the rules and kicks off the bidding.

First up is a VW Passat, nicknamed “The Milkshake”. It goes quick for a few hundred dollars. The crowd then moves en masse to the next vehicle.

Amongst the crowd, a few bidders are talking about the lot. One of them we recognize from nearly all of our past events. He leans into another and says, “I’ll tell you what, that Nissan Pathfinder is the steal of the auction.” He’s pointing to a well-maintained, navy blue Pathfinder ahead on the lot.

“How can you tell?” the other guy asks.

“Someone cared for that vehicle. That thing is 20 years old and in great condition. It smells good, looks good. Maybe the owner got a DUI or something, but it wasn’t just abandoned,” he explains. “Then look at that [VW] Beetle. It looks nice, but then you pull out the oil stick and don’t see a drip on it. That person drove that thing into the ground and ditched it.”

Minutes later, that Beetle goes for $330.

The crowd keeps moving. Some cars are sold quickly, like the Passat, others are bounced between bidders and jump as much as hundreds of dollars per bid.

“Next up, Toyota Avalon,” Sean says. The car is stuffed from window to window with cleaning supplies. “You can start your own cleaning business with what’s inside. Who wants it?!”

A young woman behind us, with a baby in one arm and Dutch Bros. coffee cup in the other, offers a few hundred dollars for the car and it’s hers. We tally it up as her fifth purchase of the morning.

And so the auction goes. Some people have bought multiple cars, others are waiting to make their move. Our highest bid of the day goes for $3100!

The whole thing is over in about 45 minutes, with every single vehicle being purchased. It’s a good day for Chappelle’s.

Our auctions are one of our favorite parts of the business. We run them every other Thursday, at both our Vancouver and Battle Ground locations. For buying a cheap, used vehicle, you can’t beat ‘em!

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