More than 200 buyers bid for bargains at tow lot

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than 200 buyers are hoping to get the deal of the century Tuesday at the monthly municipal auto auction.

Cars, trucks and motorcycles impounded for more than a month are being sold to the highest bidder.

Nearly 500 vehicles must be cleared out of the lot by the weekend. And they are all being sold for cash.

Many have been involved in crashes and are being sold for parts or salvage value to auto  suppliers.

But there are a few diamonds in the rough that can attract a crowd. So-called premiums don't need a lot of work to get back on the road and can sell for $2,000 or less.

"There are cars that will sell below retail and below wholesale," said Wes Schlobohm, auctioneer and owner of Official Auctions. "A lot the cars go for scrap or go for parts but there’s 10 to 20 percent of the cars out there, you can probably put the key in them and start them and drive them."

This is the purest example of the free market at work, with open competitive bidding. There are even online bidders from across the nation who don't have to be present to buy a car.

The auctions raise about $5-million a year to cover the expenses of operating the tow lot.

Previous owners often can't afford to pay the tow bill and storage fees, or those costs are more than the vehicle is worth so they abandon it.

Some vehicles may have been used in crimes, others simply were parked illegally. It's a risk many are willing to take to get a bargain.

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