The prospect of buying a salvage titled car for almost half the price of one of its clean titled counterparts is tempting for many potential car buyers, but increasingly it’s becoming a losing proposition. I have bought and reconditioned a few dozen salvage cars (I currently own three). As I am getting ready to embark on a new car buying adventure, I sat back to look at the math for my current daily driver.
I purchased my 2005 Cadillac STS from an insurance auction a few years ago for about $3,400. After it arrived, I spent another $2,300 to repair it and get it back on the road. I went through the receipts a few months ago and wrote up a summary of the costs. It worked out to be a great deal for me at the time but now that I am getting ready to replace it, I decided to take a look back and see if I actually saved any money in the long run.
When I peruse the websites of some of my local yards, it seems like some of these cars have very little damage but some insurance adjuster has written them off based on whatever metric the company uses.
I’m an experienced shadetree mechanic and it seems like getting a 3-4 year old car for 30% of its original MSRP would be a screaming deal, and since warranty coverage is no longer an issue, it comes down to diminished value on the salvage title. I tend to keep my cars for 8-10 years so who cares.
Here’s where my doubts creep in.
If it was such a great idea, I would have surely read more about it. In the case of this one nearby yard, they have a huge collision repair facility. So why aren’t they repairing and flipping these cars? Googling doesn’t provide a whole lot on the pros and cons, just on the procedural aspects.
How’d you like to buy a new Chevrolet? A real Chevrolet. Not a Daewoo. Not a New GM assemblage of lowest-bidder Chinese electronics and focus-grouped inoffensiveness. A brand-new Chevrolet from the time when Chevrolet ruled the world with a cast-iron fist. A brand-new 1958 Chevrolet. With four miles on the odometer.
Every once in a very blue moon, I’ll go to a mini-warehouse auction.
The realities of this low-down clearance process is completely unlike the miracles and glories that come with episodes of Storage Wars. You want junky third world quality furniture? Or memoirs of the 1980’s and 1990’s left behind by your neighbors from their very last estate sale before they finally moved to a condominium? The local storage auctions are the place to go. 80% to 90% pure junk.
This is where I recently found this wrecked 2002 Toyota Solara SE with 140k miles. For $375, it was all mine.