Sell, Donate, or Junk My Car?
February 15, 2013 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I've got a '98 Subaru Legacy Outback with 138k miles that I need to get rid of. It runs, but would need a fair amount of work done to continue running for long. It is safe to drive, but I wouldn't want to take it on a long trip. Trying to determine the best option: Selling, donating, or junking. In Philadelphia.

My beloved Subie has taken me through some wonderful times, but it is time to say goodbye. Per a mechanic I trust, the brakes are so bad that the pads, rotors, and calipers would likely all need to be replaced (pads and rotors for sure.) Assuming it would all need to be replaced, I'd be looking at $1000-$1500 right there. (They still work, for now. He said they probably have about a month left before they start becoming a serious safety hazard. They have started making a bunch of noise though, even when not braking.) A Subie-nut friend of mine who drove it recently also recommended getting the shocks and struts replaced sooner rather than later. Not sure what the cost of that would be, but some googling seems to suggest it could run another $1000 pretty easily.

All this, plus a move to a city where having a car really isn't needed, and borders on being a hassle, has brought me to the sad conclusion that it's time to let the old girl go.

But how?

I really don't think I've got the patience to sell it myself, so selling it would likely mean a chain. My first instinct was CarMax, but the nearest one is 1:30 away, which I wouldn't feel super comfortable driving. CarSense and are two alternatives with closer outposts, but I know nothing about them. Moreover, I wonder if I would actually get any money from them. Without the work that would need to be done, I have a hard time believing one of these places would give me anything more than $2000, and knowing that there's probably at least $2000 of work needed, would they give me anything?

So then my thoughts turn to donating. It's unlikely I would be itemizing my 2013 return, so I wouldn't be doing it for tax reasons, just hoping to help out a good cause. But it seems like most of the middle man services are largely frowned upon, and very little of the car's value ever makes it to charities. I really have no idea how to go about finding a worthy cause who would be interested in a car in this kind of shape otherwise.

So finally, the big parking lot in the sky: Junking. I haven't done much research here, but it seems like I could get it towed, and if so, this would seem to be the easiest option.


1. Worth selling? If so, any experience with CarSense or Any Philly-area places I should look into? Preferably no more than 10 miles or so from the city. Someone who would tow it would be a huge plus.

2. Worth donating even if I wouldn't be taking the deduction? Again, preferably no more than 10 miles or so from the city. Someone who would tow it would be a huge plus.

3. If all else fails, any recommendations on how to go about junking it? Once more, with feeling: preferably no more than 10 miles or so from the city. Someone who would tow it would be a huge plus.
posted by SpiffyRob to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it was me, I'd list it on Craigslist for cheap, and put very little effort into selling it. Let people come see it at times and places that are convenient for you. If nobody buys it in a week, donate it. Most places that take donated cars will tow them.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Keep in mind a lot of used (and new) cars were destroyed last year in the Northeast by Hurricane Sandy (link) so it's still a relatively good market for selling a used car, even a high mileage one like yours that needs some work.

I've heard good things about CarMax, but yeah, looks like the nearest one to you is in Lancaster.
posted by reptile at 9:26 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would list it for sale. That mileage on a Subaru is not that high, it's got another 100k on the engine if it's been maintained as it should be. Someone is going to snatch it up if you price it right.
posted by HuronBob at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is essentially the car I'm looking for IE: 10-15 years old, needs a little bit of mechanical work but not an engine or major body work and with not too many miles (your 138 is below average for a 98).

Your car with only the listed problems is going to be an easy sale; most of the money in pads and rotors is the labour so someone who does their own work can save 50-80% verses a shop doing it. Struts are more involved but shocks are a simple driveway job too.

So list it on Craiglist or a local equivalent; be honest about the condition. Do a search to see what people are asking for equivalents and then price it ~25% below that. It'll sell quickly. It it doesn't sell in a few days drop the price another 10%. Only accept cash.
posted by Mitheral at 9:38 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Keep in mind that all the repairs you named could be done much more cheaply by some guy who's got time on his hands. It might be $2K for parts and labor, but that's mostly labor. If that's all that's wrong, then your car would be quite attractive to a DIY type.
posted by jon1270 at 9:41 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

We donated an old Corolla a few years ago and the charity came out to the house and got it. They'll give you a receipt for the tax deduction. If you're not itemizing on your income taxes, the deduction might not matter a whole lot, but the paperwork is probably good to hang on to anyway.
posted by jquinby at 9:43 AM on February 15, 2013

To build on tylerkaraszewski's suggestion of listing it cheaply on CL, since you don't seem in dire need of the cash, you could offer to trade it for something you would likely find yourself purchasing after the move - perhaps a bike?

If you move some place with parking, it might be nice to just hold onto it for those occasions when it could really come in handy to have a car, though you will still be paying to keep it on the road. Maybe you could trade it for your first month or so's rent someplace to buy you time to seek out perfect accommodation?

Do you (or does somebody you know?) run a website or blog? Perhaps a giveaway could be fun and see your car into the hands of somebody who actually needs one, as well as helping out the site.

Can you get onto a local military base and park it in the 'lemon lot'? Most bases have a parking lot for people who are getting transferred to park their cars with prices and contact info listed on them (free), and if your local base has dormitories for people fresh out of tech school it is likely that you would find interest there, since new enlistee's purchasing power isn't very high yet (sans credit).

If you really want to donate it, look for a local charity that could use a vehicle themselves, rather than reselling it or passing it through a bureaucracy.
posted by Th!nk at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2013

Nthing listing it for sale somewhere, Craigslist or wherever. Even if you're not looking to make a lot of money off of it, you may be helping someone in dire need. Case in point: A few years ago Mr. Adams and I had a '92 Ford Tempo sitting in the upper part of our driveway with one flat tire. The car had seen better days; we'd bought it used fairly cheap during a downtime in our financial circumstances. We'd managed to get back on our feet and buy a nice newer van. We'd been discussing what to do with the Tempo once we got the ran, but barely. Needed lots of work. Should we donate it? We were basically looking to get rid of it before the plates expired and without having to pay for towing. While we were considering our options, a pizza delivery guy knocked on our door - he'd delivered to several homes nearby and had noticed our car "just sitting there." Was it for sale, he asked. I explained that it was in disrepair, and he said that he and his buddies worked on cars all the time, etc etc. A week later a neighbor of ours stopped by to ask about the car - her "handyman" needed a cheap vehicle and wondered if ours was for sale. So, yeah, there *is* a market for barely-running cars. Sell it to a needy person with mechanical skills and feel good that you helped someone out.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:45 AM on February 15, 2013

Oh, totally sell it on Craigslist. My mom had a '98 Outback we just sold in the NYC area on CL last week and it took two days to find a buyer. I also own one from the same year that's at 210k and going strong in Oregon. The mileage on yours is really low.
posted by treblemaker at 11:29 AM on February 15, 2013

If you do want to go the donation route, look for a vocational school that takes junk cars. I can't suggest one because I'm in a different state but the school we donated my old car that was in worse shape than yours came and towed it out of our driveway. Super easy.
posted by missriss89 at 11:31 AM on February 15, 2013

Please don't junk it! I have a young cousin in Pittsburgh who is looking for a used Subaru right now. She or someone like her would love to buy your car.
posted by Athene at 12:34 PM on February 15, 2013

Response by poster: Alright alright, I'll stop being so lazy and go the sell-it-myself route.

Thanks everyone. Really appreciate the reality check.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:36 PM on February 15, 2013

Looks like you've made up your mind. However, let me tell you about how I got rid of my motorcycle in the Chicago burbs. I couldn't get it to run, but knew the problem was probably relatively simple to deal with, just not for me. So I did some online research to find a group that would take the donation. I found one that would donate the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, and while I agree, they seemed a little on the shady side, they a) came to me and go the motorcycle, and b) habitat would be getting more money then they would otherwise on the proceeds of the sale. So I donated based on the ease of doing it, and knowing the worth wasn't high enough for me to deal with craigslist.
posted by garlic at 2:30 PM on February 19, 2013

« Older Compassionate but not boring fiction?   |   Recommend an iPhone App for Recording Ambient... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.