OXFORD — Think Pontiacs instead of pigs, Subarus instead of sheep.
Former Lewiston state legislator Stavros Mendros is starting a weekly car auction open to the public at the Oxford County fairgrounds on Pottle Road.
He’s hoping for between 150 and 200 vehicles during its kick-off Saturday, Sept. 22.
Mendros, who received his automobile auction license from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles on Sept. 6, said the idea for Maine Public Auto Auction has been in the works since 2015.
“I tried to open one at the Prides Corner Drive-in and it couldn’t have the dual-location with the drive-in, and then we moved to the fair last year, but we applied in August, by the time they got around to licensing it was December and we’d missed the season,” he said Monday. “We’re ready. It’s been 15 months of licensing and working to get everything ready. Two weeks away, I’m pretty excited.”
Mendros, who lives in Hollis and is running for that Maine Senate seat this fall, said he’ll own the company and do the marketing but won’t be the auctioneer and won’t sell cars himself.
There’s a fee to Maine Public Auto Auction for dealers or private citizens to sell and additional seller and buyer fees, based on sales price, after a sale.
Doors will open at 7 a.m. and the auction will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Potential bidders will need to show ID and register for a bidder badge, a process that’s free.
A program will list the vehicles and stats such as year, mileage and the average price on Kelley Blue Book. Mendros said limited test-driving will be available: “Just a little bit, fire it up, check on it, not a big loop.”
After bidding ends on each vehicle, Mendros said sellers can decide whether to go ahead with the sale or whether the end price was too low and to walk.
“When you win, you have to pay $300 toward your fee, and then you go with the dealer,” he said. “We have another building where you go and do the paperwork and work everything out. We’re going to have some banks there, there’s a Walmart right up the road that has a financial center if people need to cash checks or get money. We have Square so that they can run a credit card.”
It’s best to come with cash or financing already in place, he said. He anticipates dealers will bring trade-ins, vehicles that haven’t moved or vehicles otherwise bound for dealer-to-dealer auctions, and that there will be deals to be had.
“The public is going to pay more than another dealer would; that’s one advantage for the dealer,” Mendros said. “If you buy them on Thursday at a dealer-to-dealer auction, you bring them up to us on Saturday and make $500 or $1,000 a car, it’s pretty easy on their end. They seem to be excited. We’re expecting a lot of people.”
Oxford County fairgrounds officials were interested in working with him, he said, and the space works with plenty of room and a central location. He anticipates being open year-round with a potential break around the holidays.
“In January it might slow down, then in February, that’s when people get their tax returns, that’s like peak car-buying season,” Mendros said. “We’ll definitely be plowing and up and running in February.”
William Lund, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, said he wasn’t familiar with this particular auction, but generally speaking, he encouraged potential buyers to get any warranties or guarantees in writing or “assume the vehicles are being sold as-is, where is.”
Consumers should also research vehicle identification numbers to find out the vehicle’s history and whether it’s been in an accident, flood or has a salvage title.
“While some issues relating to the condition of an automobile may be evident by a quick visual inspection, other components – for example, engine, transmission and electronics – are not readily apparent,” Lund said.