Selling an un-certified car, on short notice
January 24, 2017 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I’ve learned that my 13 year old car, with 160,000km on it requires roughly $1,500 in repairs to fix a variety of mechanical things including new brakes as well as major problems with the ECM.

For the sake of argument, assume that quote is accurate and fair. The car is worth maybe $2,000. It has failed it’s e-certification test twice, and will likely fail again when I try later this week after putting some more miles on it (mechanics advice after they ran diagnostics etc.) I need the certification to get my license plates renewed next week.

So, I’m faced with buying a used vehicle on short notice, when my trade in is not certified and not worth much when you consider needed repairs. What are my options?

I can liquidate some assets to cover the cost of a used vehicle (looking to spend maybe $12-$14k on an SUV or minivan), but that will take a while to get sorted. I need to get the new vehicle this weekend. Should I just take whatever financing is offered by the used car dealer, and then pay that off once I free up the funds? I’m not sure if there would be penalty’s for doing that?

Any tips on how to navigate this scenario appreciated.
posted by walkinginsunshine to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have the funds to rent a car for a week or two before you make any decisions/before you liquidate any assets/while you sell your car? That solves the "I need a car this weekend" problem, and buys you a smidge of time.
posted by larthegreat at 10:29 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

$1500 is less than $12000-$14000. I would fix the car and drive it for another couple years rather than buy something out of my budget with a figurative gun to my head.
posted by rodlymight at 10:32 AM on January 24, 2017

You don't state where you live, and it's a bit unclear from the km/dollars units... but I know the CA state government has a program to help people pay for repairs that improve air quality, for example. Check to see if you have access to something like that before anything else.
posted by danny the boy at 11:03 AM on January 24, 2017

How's your credit? Do you belong to a credit union? Do you have a Carmax nearby or are you a Costco member? Even if you don't, if your credit score is good or excellent, you have better leverage when dealing with car dealerships. Heck, even if you credit is average or poor, the end of the month is the best time to buy a car so they're going to work with you -- most dealerships tend to be more flexible at the end of the month because they want to get their numbers up.

Don't panic. You're gonna be ok. Test drive vehicles during the week -- on your lunch break, after work, etc. -- and decide which one you best fits your needs. Assume the price is negotiable plus or minus a couple of thousand. Once you decide, negotiate the cash price of the car out the door (without your trade in) until you're satisfied -- don't look at the monthly payments -- cash price, out the door only. If you like the price, ask them what kind of financing options are available and take the best deal. Read the fine print! Don't agree to anything you're not comfortable with; go home and research more if you have to... the dealership isn't going anywhere.

Agree to buy the car if they'll take your trade in AFTER the cash out the door price is agreed upon. Say, "Oh, btw, I guess I won't need my old car now. I guess I'll trade that in..." Don't give them the Kelly Blue Book, always go a bit over because they'll try to get your price down anyway. I you reach an agreement, great! If not, go to your second choice dealership or sell your old car yourself to a private party.

If you want to skip all of the negotiating baloney, buy a Costco executive membership if you don't already have one and let them do all of the work for you.

If your credit union has better financing, take it, then pay off the dealer or Costco. Or liquidate some assets if you want, but most dealerships have pretty good financing options available; you might want to leave your assets alone. The most important thing to remember is DO NOT PANIC BUY. Panic buyers always overpay. Even if you have to rent a car for a week or two, that's better than getting into a bad long term contract. Good luck!

(Oh yeah! Before you sign anything, read the fine print and make sure there's no pre-payment penalty.)
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:07 AM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I find this is a useful exercise to think about whether or not to buy another car. Assume your car's value is zero. Now consider its cost versus the cost of a replacement. Let's say your current car will cost $750 a year to maintain, because stuff breaks in old cars, maybe with the odd year like this one where the cost is higher.

Now if someone told you you could have a car for $750/year, or pay $12000 (plus maintenance), which would you choose?
posted by zippy at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2017

Some states have a Cash for Clunkers program where they buy cars that have failed their emissions tests or they give you money to have them repaired. Each state's program is different. To find out more, here's one webpage about it. Good luck.
posted by RoseMadderly at 11:48 AM on January 24, 2017

A few years ago I bought a vehicle in California that did not have the proper emission controls in its exhaust system. I found this out after I had paid for it, and had taken it to the state's emission testing center. They listed precisely what I needed done to get it to pass, and told me that the seller was obligated to pay for it.

LSS: after unsuccessfully negotiating with the owner I had the modifications done by my own mechanic, who billed the seller for it. Complicating my issue was that, when the previous owner had the exhaust modified, the mechanic had somehow marked it off as passing the state's emission control regs. Needless to say the state found that interesting. I'm not sure what all ensued, but the mechanic who'd falsified the test lost his certification to do emission stuff.

I mention this to point out that you may junk the car, but maybe selling it would otherwise be complicated if the emission controls are not in order. Anyhow, California is touchy about this sort of thing. They don't even like a person to bring an out of state vehicle with them when they move to their state, and will charge you a couple of toes for the privilege.

You can draw up a cost-benefit analysis showing whether to invest in the proper repairs, or just get rid of the car and buy another one. In an older car, either way you won't be getting your money back in resale, but fixing your car may turn out to be a more cost-effective thing to do.
posted by mule98J at 12:08 PM on January 24, 2017

This appears to be in Canada fwiw.

Don't be sure $1500 fixes the current car. Get a full assessment.
posted by spitbull at 1:57 PM on January 24, 2017

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