What to do with my well-loved (but clunktastic) car?
February 8, 2017 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Sadly, it's past time for me to upgrade from my beloved 1997 Civic hatchback. I think I have the used car buying process down thanks to previous posters' questions, but what's the best way to get rid of the car you have, when that car has issues?

Dudley the Civic's problems are considerable at this point: he's got issues with the paint and upholstery, we spent much of last summer getting repair after repair done to the coolant system, and now the automatic transmission is slipping when you go from stop to first gear after you've been driving for ~15 minutes. Right now I drive to the grocery store and back here in Pittsburgh, and that's about it.

Kelly's Blue Book suggests that a '97 Civic in fair condition (let alone poor!) with 185,000 miles would fetch about $315 as a trade-in, making me think I shouldn't even bother trying to trade it in (since driving it out to the dealership would trigger the transmission slipping issue and if I didn't buy/trade-in that day I'd have to drive back ... doable but not fun) - would you agree, or am I overlooking something here? What other options should I consider - could I donate a car in such condition? Is it even worth the stress of trying to sell on Craigslist with plenty of warnings about the condition? How the heck do people offload 20-year-old cars in need of a transmission rebuild?

As always, thank you for any insight you can provide!
posted by DingoMutt to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I got $400 in cash giving my old non-starting car to a scrapper who showed up with a tow truck. That was the going price for a salvage in any condition - did not matter how old or what condition. Just google for car salvage in your area. Remember to advise your DMV/Secretary of State that you don't own the car anymore - I had to send in a form.
posted by Mid at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2017

Best answer: Yes, sell it private party, there are tons of people who will buy half-dead civics for more than 500 dollars. Throw it on Craigslist for 1k with an honest description, or donate it to one of the donate your car things if you don't want to bother with selling it.
posted by rockindata at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2017

I agree with rockindata. People buy old Civics to strip them apart for amateur racing hobbies. If you're not in a huge hurry for the money, and you have a place to park it, post it and give it a month.
posted by AFABulous at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2017

Cars have scrap value as well as resalable parts. If it would help for taxes you can also donate it to some local charity. Sometimes (depending) they will come with a tow truck and get it. Civics have a lot of parts that people value. You could also just do an AS IS on Craigslist and tell people to bring a trailer and that might be a decent proposition for you. Like "First $300/40/500 takes it away, bring a trailer. Here is what is good, here is what is not so good..."

The big deal is, as Mid says, if you give/sell it to a scrapper you MUST let the DMV know so they can still appropriately remove you from the title.
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2017

I got rid of a car that I thought was worthless (not even something cool like a Honda Civic) by putting it on eBay with a starting price of 99p (and being very up front about all the problems). Sold for £560, about 10x more than I thought it would.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:00 AM on February 8, 2017

Best answer: My brother, who used to be an auto/diesel instructor at a vocational school, swears that any car with a running engine can get $1000 on Craigslist. I doubt that, but a Civic is a no-brainer. They're super cheap and easy to repair. That's part of why they're so popular with amateur racing types. If you can work on it yourself, you can fix just about anything other than the engine for a couple hundred bucks, and then it'll run (well) another 100k miles. And that's not even talking about parts, which could also be lucrative (relatively speaking).

I glanced at my local Craigslist, and I found a 97 with some repairs needed with 220k miles going for $1800. Hell, there's one with 325k and an engine leaking oil for $750; you should be able to get significantly more than that.

If there's a vocational or technical school near you, post it on the message board there. It's worth more than you think.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:27 AM on February 8, 2017

You could also donate it; most states allow you to deduct the Blue Book value from your taxes. Vocational schools, charities, lots of places will take it.
posted by easily confused at 9:33 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I sold a barely-drivable Ford Ranger to CarMax for a *very* good price. I recommend them all the time because they're just easy to deal with. You could sell it yourself, but that's more hassle than I'm ever willing to put up with.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:34 AM on February 8, 2017

I would always suggest CarMax. they have been really helpful the last few times we have wanted to get rid of a car, no matter how old or in what shape. They will give you an estimate that is good for a week, so if you're not sure, you can always get their estimate and then see who else might offer more. But, yeah, low hassle FTW.
posted by blurker at 10:21 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is really encouraging - thank you, everybody! Here I was thinking I was going to end up with a really big planter. One follow-up question: this car has driven dogs around for the entire time I've had it, and the hair is pretty much part of the upholstery now. A gas station vacuum won't get it all out no matter how many times I try; do you think it'd be worth getting it detailed?

I'm guessing no but would love thoughts on the matter. Thanks again!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:30 AM on February 8, 2017

Best answer: Not for a 20-year-old clunker, no. You won't increase the value enough to justify the cost. A couple bucks at the gas station, yeah, but not a detailing.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Vacuum is fine, detailing would be going overboard --- anybody who buys a 20-year-old clunker in a private sale won't be expecting a showroom-new interior, and if you sell to something like Carfax they have better cleaning tools than you do.
posted by easily confused at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2017

Yeah., no. I'd send it through a car wash and maybe vacuum it out and clean the floor mats a little but that would be it.
posted by jessamyn at 1:25 PM on February 8, 2017

Anyone who buys it for racing is going to rip out a good chunk of the interior anyway.
posted by AFABulous at 1:52 PM on February 8, 2017

Civics have a relatively high resale value. Modders love them. Caigslist is your friend.

Another option is to decide on the car you like and a price you want to pay. Then drive the car to the dealership, prepared to buy the same day. I did this with an old Acura Integra when I decided to buy a new car. Smoke started pouring out of the hood on the way to the dealership and I only got $200 for it but I drove off the lot with the car I wanted at the price I wanted.

On rereading your question, this may not work for a used car - unless you're at a dealership that you trust.

I've had good luck with CarMax too - I think I got $1200 in 2002 for a 1986 Mazda 626 with about 100K miles. You'll still need a ride home though.
posted by bendy at 7:31 PM on February 8, 2017

Response by poster: Holy cow you guys - I finally put my car on Craigslist this week, got several inquiries right away, and just this morning sold him with no haggling, for my full asking price ($1000, as suggested by rockindata and kevinbelt) - and best yet, the guy who bought him is a "car project" guy who plans to take him apart and restore him to his 1997 glory! The buyer wasn't at all fazed by the dog hair or slipping transmission - he was mostly interested in a clean / mostly rust- and dent-free body.

My wife and I got up early this morning to take the car to a nearby park for one last sentimental picnic, then headed over to meet the buyer, did the title transfer at a nearby AAA and it was all done. That's $1000 I never expected - all for the price of an AskMe question.

Thanks, everyone, for convincing me that donation wasn't my only route!
posted by DingoMutt at 12:52 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

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