Auction Finds

A 2004 BMW 530i with my name on it (not)

The beautiful stout car was sitting silently in the corner of a room at the auction house, calling my name without speaking a word, but I ignored it. I already had a car around its age – but with a few more miles – that was paid for years ago and was mine.

Now this car with a brand name that I had always wanted kept taunting me. I continued to ignore it, not even bothering to go over to it, give it a walk-around look-over, and drool over its clean amethyst gray exterior and cool beige leather interior. I could not find a scratch on the exterior – and only minor smudges on the interior carpet, likely from auction-goers trying out the fit of the driver’s seat.

This 2004 BMW 530i was obviously loved, and likely wasn’t given up easily. The owner’s tears were not visible, but I’m sure if I looked close enough I could see them spotting up the roof as he/she clung helplessly to it. But you have no choice but to relinquish your baby when creditors expect you to pay your bills, money is scarce and you are forced to file for bankruptcy. That’s how the car ended up on the auction-room floor – the result of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which involves canceling a person’s debts and selling most assets to pay off creditors.

BMW 530i car

An up-close front view of the BMW 530i.

This wasn’t the first time a luxury car had found itself up for bids at this auction house as the subject of a court order. More than two years ago after federal agents scooped up several luxury cars in what they described as a Ponzi scheme, a 2007 BMW 530i with 38,000 miles turned up here, along with some high-end Mercedes. The BMW sold for $26,000, and a 2010 Mercedes GL350 with 4,513 miles sold for $46,500.

The BMW at this auction was the last item listed in a special sale that included nearly 200 musical instruments, U.S. and foreign stamps, and coins and paper money. This is how it was described on the bid sheet:

2004 BMW – 117K miles.

2004 BMW 530i M5, 6 cyl, 22hp. Automatic trans, leather interior with wood accents, onboard computer monitoring system with display screen, hands-free calling capabilities, sunroof, dual front and rear climate controls, tinted windows, 18″ alloy wheels with like-new tires, fog lights, PA inspected until 10/13.

BMW 530i car

Potential buyers got a chance to take a look under the hood of the BMW 530i.

To demonstrate the car’s prowess, an auction staffer slid into the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition and revved up the motor. It sounded good to me.

I really had no intention or interest in the car but I was curious about what it was worth. The 2004 530i was a new generation of the BMW 5 series cars. At the time, an Edmunds reviewer wondered how BMW could top the previous 5 series, which he said were considered the “quintessential” mid-sized sport sedans and the best-looking of its cars. This new car was an attempt by BMW to fine-tune the series, according to the article. It had a base price of $45,000, with extras pushing it up to $56,000.

Here’s a photo gallery offering several close-up views of a 2004 530i.

The Edmunds site offered a formula to determine the market value of the car based on the mileage, color and condition. The market value was $7,018 as a trade-in, $8,201 for a private sale and $9,708 on a car dealership lot.

BMW 530i car

A view of the BMW 530i on the passenger's side.

I found cars with comparable mileage selling for around $8,000, and those with a little more than half that for nearly $15,000.

As the auction got underway for the BMW, the auctioneer asked buyers to throw out a bid, any bid. $5,000, someone said, and the action got started, but it didn’t take off. The auctioneer had to coax and prod to hike it up past $8,000 and then $9,000 where it lingered. It finally topped off at $9,500 (plus a 15 percent buyer’s premium). Since the sale was subject to approval by a court trustee, he said, he could not yet accept the bid. A few minutes later, he announced that the bid had been OK’d.

Afterward, a few people crowded around the car. “They overpaid. It doesn’t sound good,” I overheard one man say to another. Fortunately, the two had walked away when the new owner of the car came over with a couple friends. He didn’t seem outwardly excited – I would’ve been – but I’m sure that he considered himself a lucky man.

BMW 530i car

The interior of the BMW 530i was clean and comfortable.


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