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How to at least break even on my broken car?
August 29, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

How do I sell a non-working car and potentially purchase another as economically as possible?

Basically, I have a 2002 Grand Am which died on the highway and likely needs a timing belt. That, in combination with a few other little things it would need to be in great shape, leads me to think about trying to sell it.

I've looked at the instructions for trying to replace the timing belt, which seems somewhat outside my skillset and potentially dangerous. I might attempt it if I was the only driver, but it's actually my wife's car and I would rather not use it as a learning experience when I likely won't be driving it to see how the repair went.

I've seen sites that claim to purchase junkers, but what are my options for actually getting something worthwhile out of it? I'd prefer cash, but have thought about donating it as well. I'm not really ready to purchase a new car, but I suppose trading it in may be an option as well.

And of course if you would have asked me yesterday I would have said I had $0 to spend on a car, so I am looking for as cheap an option as possible. My wife and I can certainly ride-share for a bit, but our schedules aren't currently all that similar, so I'd like to at least think about keeping our 2 car habits.
posted by JackT to Work & Money (14 answers total)
 
Why not pay to have the timing belt fixed? That's a couple hundred bucks of work and if you don't have the money for a new car, could give you some time to save for it.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 1:56 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Junking it might not be the best option; the 'cash' for junk yard to take it away has been IME ~$100. A working car we got $400 for as "trade in" value.

Some cars are harder to replace the timing belts on - I've lost six in my 20 years of driving. Most of them on Fords. Never lost it on the Grand Am.

It probably will cost you between 500 and grand to do it. What about trying to sell it privately as a parts car, full disclosure? Of course you have to tow it home and then to the buyer ... who is telling you it's likely a timing belt?

FWIW, on all the cars I lost belts on, there was no damage to the engine. I started replacing them on all my cars before they broke after the fifth one (# six was just getting to the age of me thikning about it).

What other problems is the car having that causes you to think it's time to sell even with a working timing belt?
posted by tilde at 1:59 PM on August 29, 2012


I too am wondering why not replace the timing belt. Usually they do the water pump at the same time. Shop it around.

I'd rather have a 2002 car that I've owned outright, with a new timing belt, than trying to save up for a different car.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:04 PM on August 29, 2012


It has a couple small issues that all seemed to happen this summer, like: Otherwise, it's not a bad car. It just seems to have more random things wrong with it than mine so in my mind it's the one that we'll get rid of first some day.

When I was looking at replacing the timing belt myself, I was most concerned about damaging the engine and the cost of the tools needed to do it.

We do have AAA, so it did get towed home, at least.

Just based on quick casual inspection the highway helper and then the person sent by AAA told my wife that it could be a timing belt.

So this could cost up to $1000, with maybe the water pump included in that cost? What sort of tools would I be looking at if I were brave enough to try it?
posted by JackT at 2:25 PM on August 29, 2012


If it's a serious enough idea for you to justify spending a few dollars you might pay for access to alldatadiy for this car so you can get detailed instructions on the repair.
posted by phearlez at 2:29 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


When our car (2000 passat wagon) stopped running in March, we posted a Craigslist ad asking for about $1000 less than the blue-book value for the car, and sold it in about 12 hours. I think we got about $2200 for a non-running car. I don't know how the guy that bought it managed to move it from the mechanic's shop (where we'd had it towed to), but he didn't seem to have a problem.

The guy that bought it was just a guy that had some spare time and liked to work on cars.

So I say, try to sell it for a decent amount of money, but be up front about the issue, and maybe someone will buy it.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2012


When our car (2000 passat wagon) stopped running in March, we posted a Craigslist ad asking for about $1000 less than the blue-book value for the car, and sold it in about 12 hours. I think we got about $2200 for a non-running car. I don't know how the guy that bought it managed to move it from the mechanic's shop (where we'd had it towed to), but he didn't seem to have a problem.
That's the way to do it. Figure out the minimum amount of money you are willing to take for the car, and stick to that. But feel free to ask for a little more. The less you ask, the faster the car will go. Also, be as honest with the seller as possible.

I got rid of my car like this, and the buyer found that it was easier to fix than expected. He still emails me questions about the car from time to time ("did the power antenna ever work?!"), but he definitely thinks he got the better end of the deal. I'm totally happy too - I was far too busy to deal with the car, had no place to store it, and had already sunk a lot of money into prior repairs.

TL;DR: Getting a little bit of money for your dead car is way better than throwing a lot of money at your dead car.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:46 PM on August 29, 2012


So this could cost up to $1000, with maybe the water pump included in that cost? What sort of tools would I be looking at if I were brave enough to try it?
I wouldn't even attempt it unless I had a friend with plenty of experience changing timing belts that I could call.

The guy that bought my old car had a friend with a shop, so he got access to all the right tools and knowledge for free/beer. For him, my low price was a fantastic windfall. For me, getting rid of the damn thing was a fantastic windfall. And I'm a mechanically inclined guy, I just don't have access to the space, tools, or time necessary to fix cars.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:53 PM on August 29, 2012


Just so you don't get your hopes up, a non-running 2002 Grand Am is going to be more in the $500 range, vs. a Passat, which is a considerably more desirable car.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:54 PM on August 29, 2012


Wow, sounds like my GrandAm. Is it maroon and the headliner falling out, too? ;)

Yeah, I don't see you getting much of anything out it. With the AC dead, you are looking at an even higher outlay.

Alternatives - local vo-tech school? We had one of my Fords taken there and they fixed an issue as part of a lesson one day (the teacher was a friend of the family and knew what was wrong - used it as an exercise to teach the class troubleshooting).

When I had the AC go out in my 99 sedan recently, I paid $900 for it. Just over a year later, it was a different $900 part that also killed the replaced $900 part so we went for a new car (we'd been waiting a while and that was The Straw). I don't really like the car payment but we didn't have much other alternative. Borrowing a car (and paying the gas on it) cost as much as my new car payment anyway ....
posted by tilde at 3:04 PM on August 29, 2012


My daughter's Ford Contour is due for a timing belt. I bought the parts from Amazon [belt, gaskets, water pump, etc] for about $150, and found a fellow through craigslist [works at Franchise GarageCo during the week, fixes cars for cash on the weekends] who says he'll replace both for $250. So, $400 all told. Maybe you can find a similar fellow in your area.

I had him replace both control arms on that car [$150 labor, $100 parts from Amazon] a year ago and so far the wheels are still on the car.
posted by chazlarson at 5:21 PM on August 29, 2012


Just for reference from a MeFite thatactually sold just the car you're talking about: I sold my 1995 Grand Am in 2003 on craigslist. The car had not ran for a year -- basically the computer had gotten full of water and it just petered out. Front windshield was cracked (right through the field of vision), power windows no longer worked, and the tires had dry-rotted. The wheel well in the trunk was even full of water.

A family whose daughter had had one bought it from me for $1000 within 12 hours of me putting it up for sale. Hauled it off with a trailer, paid cash. I guess her's was still great but had been in a wreck and they basically just wanted the body of mine. No problems, done and done. FWIW...
posted by youandiandaflame at 6:09 PM on August 29, 2012


You may want to consider car sharing services like Hourcar and Zipcar to see whether they could fill enough of your needs that you could get by as a family with a single car.
posted by thatdawnperson at 8:12 AM on August 30, 2012


Awesome advice. I'm not sure what we'll do yet, but since it seems repairable I'm going to start shopping around for garages this week.
posted by JackT at 3:19 AM on September 3, 2012


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