RED WING -- During his seven years as an over-the-road truck driver, Brandon Cook hauled hundreds of lower-priced used cars from California and Colorado to small dealers across the country.

“I saw the need in a lot of communities all over the United States,” Cook said. “All of these communities need this same type of car, and there are little car lots all over having a lot of success.”

He had seen this same need earlier when he worked as a car salesman for Red Wing Chevrolet and Riverfront Ford.

“We had a lot of people that came onto the lot and were looking for cars that were in the $5,000 price range, and we never had them,” Cook said. “Bigger dealerships don’t ever sell those. There is just not enough profit in them. There was a need for cars at this price point.”

Understanding the need for cars in the $3,000 to $8,000 range inspired Cook to open Auction Auto Group last July. Located at 485 Guernsey Lane, the business has a used car lot and a full-service garage.

“I really want to focus on the first-time driver,” he explained. “The cars are more affordable. Not everybody can afford to buy a $15,000 or $30,000 car.”

Every Wednesday, Cook drives to Rochester for the car auction at Midwest Vehicle Exchange. He and his mechanic spend two hours inspecting cars they are interested in before the auction. During the auction, they buy the cars they think are best suited for Red Wing customers.

“These are vehicles that were traded in at bigger dealerships,” he said, “and the dealerships decided there is not enough profit in them to sell them. They send those cars to people like me.”

Auction Auto then runs a 50-point inspection on each car, changes the oil, makes sure there are no problems, and puts the car on the lot.

Auction Auto Group is located at 485 Guernsey Lane. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Auction Auto Group is located at 485 Guernsey Lane. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

“When you get the car, it should be a good car,” Cook said. “I am a very honest guy, and if I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my family in the vehicle, and I have five kids, I am not going to sell the vehicle on my lot. I don’t want to pass off a bad car to a customer.”

Cook is proud of the prices of the cars he sells on his lot, often below the value of the vehicle.

“Most of the cars here I sell at average private party price,” he said. “Private party price is not the same as retail. Retail is usually quite a bit more. I get a pretty good deal on most of these cars. If I can pass those savings on, maybe that person has a better buying experience and will come back or recommend me to a friend.”

Cook hopes to expand the size and offerings of Auction Auto Group in the future. He would like to add a tow truck and driver, and would like to sell used campers, motor homes, motorcycles, ATVs and boats.

He has recently started working with auto body shops in Red Wing to supply rental cars when their customers have long-term repairs and need a car to use during that time.

“There is a need for this type of business,” Cook said. “I have worked really hard to have a good reputation. My family is from town here. The family name is known in Red Wing.”