Planning the Loving Annihilation of a 1997 Nissan Sentra in Seattle
July 19, 2010 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Wanted: an extravagant (but responsible) way to get rid of my car in (or around) Seattle.

My green 1997 Nissan Sentra is nearing the end of its life. The mileage, accident history, and body damage make it near worthless on the used vehicle market. It will probably need a clutch and new exhaust plumbing in the next 20k miles, to say nothing of other decrepit parts. That said, it runs OK, has faithfully conducted me across North America, and will, fates willing, bring me to Seattle sometime in the middle of August.

My plan is to dispose of the car there and fly back home. As a default, I plan to donate it to public radio, the kidney foundation, or some other we-haul-it-away charity. That said, I wonder if there is a more exciting way to liquidate the Sentra. I'd send it out on a burning raft into the Pacific if I could, but I'd prefer to do something more environmentally responsible. Seattle has an art car movement but I doubt they want random cars. In the end, people may not want to receive "free" junk, and that's fine. But I hold out hope, and I have an open mind.

I'd also like to perform this final act without too much dependence on the whims of others, this mainly to save time. A Craigslist ad announcing a FREE CAR would probably create all kinds of headaches, for example.
posted by Chef Flamboyardee to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (21 answers total)
There are a lot of people who would love to have a car that runs, no matter how horrible a condition it's in.

While a Craigslist ad announcing a free car would probably create some headaches, quietly putting the word out to the people you know in Seattle--the word being that you have a car that runs which you want to sell, as is, for next to nothing--might work out okay.
posted by box at 3:46 PM on July 19, 2010

Look for vo-tech schools in the area with an auto mechanic program. See if they would like a donated vehicle to use as a teaching project.
posted by phunniemee at 4:01 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how it was arranged, but years ago my family donated my dead Datsun 510 to Jaws of Life training, i.e. emergency responders cutting open cars to remove trapped people. I didn't get to watch, but it would have been fun. Try contacting the Seattle Fire Dept and see if they accept cars, and if they let you watch.
posted by dr. fresh at 4:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Please donate it. That may not be dramatic, but it would sure be appreciated by the Seattle charitable community.
posted by bearwife at 4:19 PM on July 19, 2010

Bearwife: can you be more specfic? I guess part of the motivation for this exercise is that car donation seems awfully abstract. The wrecker comes and then... what? How much benefit, and for whom? Your public radio station? Any suggestions? I wouldn't rule out a donation, but somehow, ironically, it feels so impersonal.
posted by Chef Flamboyardee at 4:29 PM on July 19, 2010

Seattle Goodwill accepts car donations. Read up on it, then go volunteer with them for a day and teach someone how to use the internet, or go help clean up a shelter (plenty of events will let you volunteer for just a day without the usual application hassle). Trust me, it'll be about as far from impersonal as it gets.
posted by halogen at 4:41 PM on July 19, 2010

Car Talk has a vehicle donation program that benefits public radio. Bonus: if you donate, it's tax deductible!
posted by emilyd22222 at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2010

Volunteering for a day is nice, but it doesn't require me to give my car to the same place I donate my time---in other words, I can still help people at Goodwill and get rid of my car some other way.

Here's a different angle. I'm looking to send off the Sentra in a way I can tell hypothetical grandchildren about. (I don't have grandchildren---it's just a rule of thumb.) The Goodwill option, I suspect, is just like public radio: the car disappears on a truck.

I understand that this pursuit might seem a bit decadent---that's not necessarily an unfair characterization. I promise that most of the time I abide by the usual strictures of Civic Concern. My long car trip is carbon offset, at least as best as I can make it so. For example, for whatever that's worth.

But I feel like indulging this one whim. The jaws of life idea is more like what I have in mind. I'll look into it, and stop threadsitting here...
posted by Chef Flamboyardee at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2010

I know a friend of a friend in Seattle who wanted to buy my 1998 Sentra when I got rid of it 1.5 years ago, but he was out of town so couldn't buy it during the time I needed to get rid of it. I could get in touch with him and see if he still needs a car and could take it off your hands. Memail me if you're interested in trying that avenue.
posted by matildaben at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2010

I've donated my car before. How it works is simple: They come tow it, they send you a receipt, you write the Kelly Blue Book value off on your taxes based on a proper assumption of its condition. Meanwhile, they sell your car at auction and give the proceeds (minus expenses) to the charity in question. The expenses depend on the car, but I was told that my $500 car would probably net $400 for charity (I gave it to a place that gives the money to the United Way).

If you do want to go art car, though, put it on Craigslist, but at this point the local Burners I know are already well underway with their pieces for this year's festival.

Whatever you do, don't leave it in the street. It's a $34 fine for parking more than 72 hours in one spot in Seattle, and then they will tow if they think it's abandoned.
posted by dw at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2010

If you had only posted this a month or two earlier, you could have run it in the 24 Hours of LeMons. There's one in Norcal at the beginning of August, but the registration already ended. It'd require a bit of an initial investment, but what a way to say farewell.
posted by quickasfoxes at 5:46 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Demolition Derby?
posted by Ouisch at 6:10 PM on July 19, 2010

(Oh, sorry, you'll still have to dispose of the car after the derby. Plenty of auto wreckers in your area, though. They'll even pick it up and pay you something for it.
posted by Ouisch at 6:12 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it's like every one I've ever heard of, you can't enter a Nissan Sentra in a demolition derby. The rules generally specify full-size American cars only.
posted by box at 6:41 PM on July 19, 2010

I don't have any dramatic ideas, but if you're looking to donate, you can't go wrong with Charity Cars. It is an organization that will either fix your car and then give it to someone who needs it, or sell it at auction to fund fixing other cars. They will pick up the car at no cost to you, and unlike for profit car donation programs, all your money goes to charity. The donation process is hassle free and it's probably the easiest way to give your car directly to a charity.

(For profit car donation programs will donate your car to charity, but they will take a percentage of the profit. This also lessens the amount you can write off on your taxes).

And just an FYI: you CANNOT write off the Blue Book value of your car on your taxes. This is tax fraud, since the charity will not sell your car at Blue Book value. The IRS changed the law about 5 years ago because they were losing so much by people writing off the Blue Book value. Now when you donate your car, the charity will tell you how much money they get for it at auction (usually a very low number). If they auction it for less than $500, you can just write off $500 on your taxes. If it's MORE than $500, you can claim that amount.

I'm not sure what happens if they don't auction it, but I assume they give you a number that is more accurate than the Blue Book value.
posted by Ortho at 6:47 PM on July 19, 2010

The rules generally specify full-size American cars only.

Oh you're right. My bad. I read the rules but somehow missed that part.
posted by Ouisch at 7:09 PM on July 19, 2010

You could have people pay you $5 to take a whack or two at it with a sledgehammer. Then donate the proceeds to the cause of your choice.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:37 PM on July 19, 2010

Jeez, that's the same car I drive around Seattle. :(
posted by zvs at 11:10 PM on July 19, 2010

Like dr. fresh, I donated my car (coincidentally, a '94 Nissan Sentra with a cracked engine block) to a local fire station for them to practice destructive rescue techniques on. This was suggested by the mechanics at my normal repair shop (in Lemont IL), and they actually handled it for me, but I believe "handled" meant that they'd done this before, and just called up the fire department to come take it away. If that hadn't been a spectacularly busy time for me, I would have done the arranging myself, so that I could ask if I could come watch or film the destruction.

In short, call the fire department and ask if they use old clunkers for practicing on. I think this will be a pretty normal kind of question for them. If Seattle downtown doesn't do that for whatever reason, you can always ask if any of the suburbs do.

As an addendum, I didn't donate it to public radio because (hazy memory) there was something on their website saying undrivable cars were more trouble than they were worth, and didn't really help them at all.
posted by aimedwander at 7:29 AM on July 20, 2010

If it's like every one I've ever heard of, you can't enter a Nissan Sentra in a demolition derby. The rules generally specify full-size American cars only.

Kitsap Destruction Derby Rules:

"Section 11.02 Mini Cars
(a) Any year sedan, station wagon, coupe or truck is allowed to race, but trucks may not finale.
(b) The vehicle must have a 4-cylinder engine and originally been available with a 4 cylinder engine from the factory.
(c) The vehicle must have a curb weight that does not exceed 2800 lbs.
(d) No four-wheel drive vehicles or convertibles are allowed."
posted by de void at 8:52 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Chef Flamboyardee, here's more specifics.

Just take your pick of charity. Perhaps they can give you more of a story for grandkids by arranging bells and whistles for the car pickup.
posted by bearwife at 3:02 PM on July 20, 2010

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