The Truth About Cars » Sell or Keep The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sell or Keep Rent, Lease, Sell Or Keep: 2001 Toyota Prius Thu, 08 Nov 2012 16:23:50 +0000


Six years ago I managed to make a $2000 profit on a car without it ever leaving the auction.

A few winks to the auctioneer. A few clicks on a digital camera. A few paragraphs on Ebay. Done. I had managed to purchase and remarket a 2001 Toyota Prius in mint condition with 113k miles. It was near factory clean inside and out. A spanking new hybrid battery. Brand new Michelin low resistance tires, and a maintenance history that showed it had been dealer maintained since day one.

In the car business we refer to these opportunities as an automatic slam dunk.

I bought that Prius $6650 and sold it for $8950 to a nice family from Alabama who met me at the auction two weeks later to pick it up. Back then, I was one of the very few who did his homework when it came to researching older vehicles. These days not a lot has changed… at the public auctions.

Condition (6.5/10):

Whenever anyone sees a hybrid with a check engine light at the auto auctions, they discount the price accordingly. A lot of folks who end up having bad battery packs will dump these vehicles to a new car dealer who will then invariably attempt to recycle their trade-in at a variety of nearby auto auctions.

Rarely do you ever see one that doesn’t have this problem. Although this was only one of three 1st gen Priuses I have ever seen at the sales.

This one was a little ugly on the surface. Two doors had dents. The check engine light was illuminated at the time it was bought, and there was even a rust spot on one of the lower rocker panels.

However when I dug below the surface. I found the true beauty of it.

Dealer records. A recent battery pack replacement. Reasonably low miles at 109k, and the rust spot was little more than residue from a scuff that was never fully tended to. The rest of the vehicle was fine except for that check engine light which was  code P1436. That turned out to be nothing more than a bypass valve (non-advert clicky) near the catalytic converter that usually required some PB Blaster.

A few good sprays. A check for $2860… and a far tougher decision than in the past.

Should I…


I can’t think of anything that would be more popular to rent than a Toyota hybrid. If I took this route, I would likely charge $25 a day and have it only offered with a seven day minimum rental period. Plenty of customers who have vehicles in need of major engine or transmission work wouldn’t mind driving a car that gets two to three times their usual fuel economy.

Out here in the ex-urbs of Atlanta, people drive a lot. If anything this would be a heck of an attraction for the rest of the business.


$1000 down. $65 a week for 24 months. I have no doubt that this will make the note so long as I can find a good owner.

Except in this time of the year, that’s hard to do. The last three months of the year are pretty close to a no-man’s land in terms of finance customers. October and November offer no spending holidays. While December tends to be a good month for smaller ticket items, and dumber than a bag of hammers new car leasing options.

The folks who have bad credit and/or unproven income are usually stretching to make ends meet at this time. I do get customers. But they are either referrals from the current customer base, or folks whose cars just broke down for the last time and don’t have the means to meet the down payment or monthly payment.

More than I likely I would have to hold it until next year.


On a retail sale I would be looking at around $5000. This is a popular car. But I would also have to spend a few hundred dollars to get it to look right.

There is a part of me that would consider putting the Prius on Ebay during the next couple of weeks. Large hurricanes like Sandy usually result in spikes for models that are popular. But usually it takes several weeks for the insurance companies to write checks for all the scrapped units.

I just got a 1983 Mercedes 300D that had been a Southern car for its entire life, which means no rust and minimal suspension wear. The Prius may be a better fit in the online world where folks in the northeast could bid it up.



This is a weird car. The door panels and hood are as about as thin as a wore out brush on an old broom. Frugality is nice. But the side impact safety strikes me as troubling for a young family of four.

Would it be good for me alone? Nope. The Insight likely has far better structural rigidity and side impact safety standards. You may not assume this. But the 1st gen Insight is a surprisingly strong car for the time period. Plus it’s about 67 times more fun to drive than ye olde Y2K+1 Prius.

I’m not keeping it. But would you? Which one of these four choices would offer a monetary economy that would match the outstanding fuel economy?

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Rebuild, Part Out, Export, or Race Out: 2002 Toyota Camry Sun, 21 Oct 2012 18:34:36 +0000

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.

Should I…

Rebuild: The rebuilding business is a huge enterprise in this country. Thousands of vehicles in this country are purchased with the sole goal of rebuilding the body and putting it back on the road.

This particular Solara has three very strong pluses going for it:

1) The engine and transmission are still in good shape.

2) The title was not changed to salvage or rebuilt since the owner only had liability insurance at the time of the accident. Instead of reporting it to the insurance company, she simply had it towed to a storage facility. Probably right after she got cited for having a junk car on her driveway.

3) Toyotas are pretty much the gold standard of automobiles in most of the developing world. If you take our used car market for Toyotas in the United States, which already carry a strong premium and multiply it by anywhere between 2 to 3, that’s the price of a high-content used Toyota overseas.

This route is a non-starter for me since I don’t own a body shop.

However if you have friends or family members that wreck a late model vehicle and have inadequate insurance, they may likely get more money from a body man than they will from a junkyard. A nearby one offered me $1500 instead of the $1000 from the low-ball subsisting salvage yard.

But there is a better avenue…

Part Out: In order to do this right you need three things.

1) Space

2) Patience

3) Time to post online

A surprising number of vehicles can be picked to a vulture like level of skeletal remains thanks to a long list of factors. The popularity of the model in the used car market. Uniqueness of body parts. The price dealers/manufacturers charge for the same part. Interchangeability. The wear out factor of certain used parts. Not to mention the demand from those who export.

I would expect this vehicle to provide a return somewhere in the $3500 range if I had it picked clean. But that would take a few years.

Is it worth the wait?

Export: Forget about going to the guys down the street who have a used tire store and a treasure trove of old junkers behind their building. If you want to get the best immediate return for your vehicle, take it to a salvage auction.

The competition is fierce. In-state buyers compete with out-of-state buyers, who compete with buyers from outside the United States. Mexico, Central America, Bolivia, Colombia, the UAE, Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia… the help centers for the two largest salvage auctions offer over a dozen languages for conversation and even go so far as to advertise their services on local radio stations, online publications, and wherever else they can get an audience.

I happen to have one nearby that offers a special low rate for towing and selling a wreck. I have to wait for a court order title. But once that goes through, I can bring it there and have a feeding frenzy of bidding from all the folks mentioned above.

One thing you do have to be careful of is making sure that the vehicle is listed accurately online. Make sure the buyers know that the vehicle runs and that the requisite six to ten pictures actually belong to your vehicle. I have pulled and relisted vehicles due to these errors.

The return for the 2002 Solara would likely be right around the low $2000 range. A clean title and a powertrain that runs fine will certainly help build a wider audience for this model than usual. But the fact that I’m selling as a dealer instead of an insurance company will hurt it a bit. Since dealers wind up getting numbers at the waning moments of the auction and the competition is sometimes not as strong.

If worse comes to worse, I can always say no to the final bid price.

So what should I do?

Find someone to rebuild the vehicle? Part it out and become ever more familiar with Solaras? Bring it it to a salvage auction and watch it begin a new life outside our borders? Or maybe use it for the 24 hours of LeMons?  Who knows? Maybe I can call it Eiji’s Ennui?

What says you?



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