In a landfill, abandoned cars and lives that ‘kind of crashed’ |

In a landfill, abandoned cars and lives that ‘kind of crashed’

Steve Benson

Every year, for a variety of reasons, dozens of cars are abandoned in Aspen and taken to the county landfill, where they sit lifeless inside a chain-link fence.When the holding pin gets full, usually around the beginning of summer, the Aspen Police Department holds an auction. Saturday at the city dump, 25 cars and trucks were auctioned off, a few for as little as $25 (the minimum bidding price). And while some of the cars are probably not even worth a buck, being more of burden than a blessing, most are in decent shape and are purchased for obscenely low prices. One of those cars was a 1994 Ford Explorer, which had about 40,000 miles on it, no body damage and a pair of skis, poles and boots in the back of its impeccableinterior. The car was purchased for less than $2,000. When you buy the car, you also get its contents, a factor many of the bidders consider. A car with 175,000 miles on it, broken windows, flat tires, a rotted-out body and a dead engine may have a $400 stereo in it. “Some of the stuff inside has more value than the cars,” said Eric Hansen of Old Snowmass. Which begs the questions: Why are these cars abandoned? And why didn’t their previous owners remove items like skis or expensive stereos before abandoning them?Hansen, who has been attending the auctions for four years and has purchased two cars in the past, said he often investigates the identity of the previous owner. “A lot of these people just left town,” Hansen said. “Their lives just kind of crashed, and they left town and abandoned their cars.”Other cars have mounds of unpaid parking tickets stacked under their windshield wipers, suggesting that the owner would rather abandon the car than pay the fine. One car at Saturday’s auction had tinted windows and a ripped-up interior, leading Hansen to believe “it could have been a drug thing.” While each car is different, so are the individual bidders. Some consider the auction a hobby, some are auto mechanics who buy the cars cheap, fix them up and sell them – making a decent profit – while others are simply looking for a good deal, and nothing will get in their way. One man was so determined to purchase a pickup he was eyeing that when a potential competitor told him he had $1,000 for the truck, the man replied, “Well, I’ve got a place for you to be buried over here – it’s a big landfill.” He was likely kidding. But as varied as the bidders were, most had one thing in common: They didn’t want their names in the newspaper.Steve Benson’s e-mail address is

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