If a transmission costs $1600, surely something on this car is worth $?
February 22, 2011 1:13 PM   Subscribe

My husband's car needs a new transmission. How do we get rid of this car and get some money for it? Also, advice on buying cheap car helpful, too.

My husband has a 2001 Saturn SL1. In addition to brake problems and cosmetic issues, the transmission is close to completely dead. We had a mechanic look at it and he said it would be $2400 to fix it. (Because it's a Saturn you have to find a rebuilt one and his cost for that is $1600. I looked online and that is about right.)

Since the car with a transmission that worked is only worth about $1200, we aren't going to put any money in it. We are currently living with one car and saving up money to buy something cheap that would mostly be for emergencies and occasional use, but not daily commute.

But we have my husband's car sitting in our driveway, collecting dust and rotting. It is drivable last we checked, but we only want to drive it one more time to its final destination, since it's obviously unreliable.

How can I get rid of this car and get at least some money out of it? At this point every hundred dollars in the car fund helps. We are in rural central Texas, sort of equidistant from Houston and Austin.

As I said above, advice about buying a car cheap is also welcome. I'm hoping to save up a couple thousand dollars and then start looking at privately owned cars for sale.
posted by threeturtles to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Craigslist, definitely. I was a little hesitant when I saw that you were located in the boonies, but car buyers will go just about anywhere for the right vehicle (including something low-priced and not in great shape).

I personally drove two hours into the Illinois countryside with a friend looking for a late-'80s Suburban. The one we found and eventually drove home had spent the past five years as a mouse cave.
posted by Madamina at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2011


Since it's driveable, offer it on Craigslist. It's not worth having a pro fix it, but there's a decent chance that someone with time on their hands will want it, either for parts or to fix it themselves. A junkyard is unlikely to give you much for it.
posted by jon1270 at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2011


Craigslist is your best bet for a quick and easy sale.

I did this recently. You'll get a lot of weirdos offering to trade you their computers and Nordic Tracks and CD boomboxes, but eventually you'll find a buyer with cash.

When you sell, make the buyer sign a "bill of sale" or something similar as way to help prove that you indeed sold the car and relinquished the title. You don't want the cops knocking on your door in a couple of weeks wondering why your car is crashed into the front of the 7-11.

Also make sure the car is insured in your name for at least a few weeks after the sale takes place to give the DMV enough time to transfer the title over. Otherwise, you could be opening yourself up to some serious legal headaches.
posted by sportbucket at 1:36 PM on February 22, 2011


I was recently in a car accident that caused way more damage than was worth fixing (broke the back axle on my 2000 Jetta). I was able to sell it to www.damagedcars.com for $800 which was pretty exciting. They're an auto salvage place out of Florida - did some paperwork, then they had a local place come tow it away and gave me a check. Worth a shot, and potentially less hassle than Craigslist.
posted by radioamy at 1:53 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


As for the second part of your question, about how to get a better deal on a used car: inspect the car as carefully as you can yourself. If the car doesn't have obvious mechanical defects, take it to a mechanic for an inspection. (Probably costs about $20-40.) Ask them to find all of the problems with the car that they possibly can, no matter how petty, and ask them if they'd buy it in this condition at the price offered.

I have been able to knock $1,000 or more off the price of used cars this way, sometimes from dealers. Also, you'll know what to expect to fix it after the purchase.
posted by Hylas at 2:29 PM on February 22, 2011


If nobody wants it on Craiglist, try a Saturn enthusiast/modification forum. People there probably need cars for parts.

Alternately, a junkyard might give you a few hundred for it, but that is a last resort.
posted by twblalock at 2:40 PM on February 22, 2011


I agree with the advice to have a mechanic look at the car, but it'll cost more than $20 - $40. Assume 1 hour for a good exam of the car - I don't know any competent mechanics that work for $40 an hour. If you have a good relationship with a mechanic, a place you've spent thousands at over the years, they may do it for free. Mine did a couple of years ago when I was buying a used Durango.
posted by COD at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2011


"A junkyard is unlikely to give you much for it"

scrap steel is 10 cents a pound here in SW Fla. call your local junk yard....you might be surprised
posted by patnok at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2011


I do have a good mechanic that I trust (finally! One of the most important things to have) so that shouldn't be a problem.

I'm concerned by this, though:

"Also make sure the car is insured in your name for at least a few weeks after the sale takes place to give the DMV enough time to transfer the title over. Otherwise, you could be opening yourself up to some serious legal headaches."

Can you elaborate? I actually took the car off the insurance to save $. I can add it back when I go to sell it, but why do I have to maintain insurance on a car if I don't drive it? I never considered needing to have insurance for a title transfer.
posted by threeturtles at 3:12 PM on February 22, 2011


I think the minute you sell the car your insurance company is going to consider it Somebody Else's Problem, if it was insured prior to the sale. I can't think of any reason why you would keep insurance on a car you don't own. Do get a bill of sale though, as if the car is used in a crime 7 days later you want to have very good proof that it is no longer yours!
posted by COD at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2011


Seconding patnok.

Scrappers are paying $250/ton in Portland, OR for cars. The SL-1 was listed at 2348 pounds, or $293.50. Consider $250 or so to be a base price for getting rid of it.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:21 PM on February 22, 2011


I drove my first car, a Chevrolet Citation, to the junkyard at age 17. By that point, after a year or so of teenage hoonage, it would only go into first gear (no reverse, drive, etc.). The high-revving drive to the junkyard was one of my most enjoyable ever. It was the late 80s and I got $75.

That said, If the engine is still in decent shape, you could get a used $500 transmission and probably have it installed for the same. I've owned quite a few sub-$2000 beaters and frankly, you're better off with the devil you know.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2011


Can you elaborate? I actually took the car off the insurance to save $. I can add it back when I go to sell it, but why do I have to maintain insurance on a car if I don't drive it?

I am not a lawyer, and I don't know about Texas, but it's my understanding that it is illegal in most states for an uninsured vehicle to be on a public road.

If your buyer is less than dilligent about filing his paperwork and transferring the title, it could still be in your name for some time after the sale.

Between the time it leaves your driveway and the day the DMV finally gets your name off the title, you are the person whose phone will ring when the police have a question about the vehicle, or a personal injury lawyer starts looking for a payday.

Will you actually be found liable for something that happens after you sell the car? I seriously doubt it. Your bill of sale should be enough to prove you're not responsible, but you may need to find a lawyer to help you defend yourself.

On the other hand, if you have both a bill of sale and an insurance company with their ass on the line, your insurance company can use its team of lawyers to shield you both. Without insurance, it's just you.

Also, you can tell your insurance company to cancel your policy retroactively, effective the day you sold the car. That way you don't end up paying for all those days you were waiting for the paperwork to go through.
posted by sportbucket at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2011


Another bit of information that might be useful to keep in mind when selling/buying a used car right now: Used car prices are at their yearly highest around the tax refund season.

According to this post: Compared to only three months ago, I would estimate these cars sold between $700 and $1500 higher than what was then the market price.

posted by thewildgreen at 9:01 AM on February 23, 2011


That said, If the engine is still in decent shape, you could get a used $500 transmission and probably have it installed for the same. I've owned quite a few sub-$2000 beaters and frankly, you're better off with the devil you know.

We considered it, but TBH the car needs more than just the transmission. The brakes need to be completely replaced, and I'm not convinced the engine is in very good shape. I'm actually hoping to save more than $2000, but it partly depends what we can get for this one.
posted by threeturtles at 10:03 AM on February 23, 2011


Ok, new question, if anyone is still hanging around. How much do you think I should ask for it on Craigslist? KBB value for fair condition is $1700.
posted by threeturtles at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2011


Based on your responses, the car needs at least $1000 worth of work to get it into "fair" condition. I'd start at $700 and hope to get between $500 - $600. Sounds like you can get at least $300 for it as scrap, so if you can find someone on Craigslist who wants the car to fix or as parts, you should get a little more than that.
posted by rglasmann at 3:55 AM on February 24, 2011


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