Hammer Time: Escaping The Crusher

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time escaping the crusher

There are vehicles at the auctions that are supposedly worth more dead than alive. Inop vehicles. Cars and trucks that are not running and a mere bid away from the crusher. It’s the hardest area of all to find a decent vehicle… and also the most fun.

The first question you always have to ask when looking at these vehicles is, “Who is selling it?” Independent used car dealers tend to only throw away the very worst of their problem children. A bad tranny, blown engine, electrical issues, and the scourge of tinworm will all result in a vehicle being ‘recycled’ to some other soul who can make use of it. As a rule, I tend to avoid these cars like the plague.

But then are there are those who sellers simply don’t have the time or interest to fix a car. Title pawn companies and banks are notorious for not getting keys or needed repairs for their vehicles if the cost of replacement is too high.

Newer model Saabs, Volvos, Cadillacs, Jaguars, and Land Rovers tend to have high key replacement costs. Throw in a two way tow to the dealer and the auction, and removing an employee from one of your businesses for half the day (only owners and lienholders can get copies of keys these days), and the cost for one key could hit surprisingly close to the four figures.

Title pawns in particular are noted for liquidating a vehicle ASAP so that they have access to working capital. Repairs, replacing a battery, even just putting gas in the car can be a non-starter for certain title lenders that simply have no one in charge of all their repossessions.

I’ll give you a recent example. Recently I bought the following vehicles at the inop sales.

2002 Saturn SL2, 104k, Automatic: $900

1998 Ford Explorer XLT, 140k, V6: $575

1993 Lexus LS400, 180k, Clean: $725

1997 Ford Ranger XLT, V6 Stick 119k: $675

1987 Volvo 240 Wagon, Stick, Mint: $525

The first three were bought a little less than 2 weeks ago. The Saturn just needed to have the ignition switch repaired and a radio. I sold it last weekend for $2300. The Explorer had a good engine but a crappy transmission. I had it running through the sale the following week and broke even. The Lexus only has an exhaust leak… but a bad body. I’ll be saving it for another Lexus with a good body.The Ranger was perhaps the best find. I purchased it last week and started up the engine this afternoon after charging the battery. It runs fine. Keys were $45, the tow to my repair place was $65, and the car wash after getting it started was $5. I’m going to put it online for $2500 for a quick sale.

As for the Volvo (soon to be pictured)… that was the most interesting purchase by far. Most vehicles at the inop sale I attend have a set bid of $475. The cost of steel scrap and other commodities within cars makes nearly every vehicle worth more than $500 these days.

However relationships do help in this world. I let the largest purchaser know that I was on the Volvo well ahead of the game. Due to it being the end of the sale, he had to wrap things up anyhow. So I flashed three fingers to the auctioneer who was busy trying to find a ‘new low’ to start the bidding. Someone else bid $350, I bid $400, and a few seconds later the old Volvo was mine.

Who needs an old Volvo? Well, I guess I’m about to find out. You can always crush em’ these days if you don’t like em’.

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2 of 23 comments
  • Obbop Obbop on Nov 16, 2011

    Peruse article then posts, ponder, replace "cat/truck/auto/etc" words/terms with female and a shocking amount of the useful info within is still applicable.

  • Brett_murphy Brett_murphy on Nov 16, 2011

    You're going to have no problem selling the Volvo if it runs. Though it does raise the eternal question: Why are all of the cheap, cool cars always located around Atlanta? I'd go with no rust being the answer, but in that case, why doesn't Arizona have the same amount of nice old iron floating around?

  • Chiefmonkey Honda just cuts too many corners. There's no reason why the base Accord should have a 4 speaker stereo lol. It's a $28,000 midsize sedan, not a Mitsubishi Mirage! Not to diss the Mirage it's a great car for what it is. And what's up with Honda's obsession with the dullest most spartan looking black cloth or leather interiors? Literally every other automaker I can think of offers two, three, four possibilities. If I order even the top trim accord in the blue paint, I am limited to a black interior...why???? Strangely, if I order the white paint, the possibilities expand overwhelmingly to two: black, or dentist's office gray (which clashes with white.) There's zero rhyme or reason to it. Just a cheap, corner cutting company.
  • Dartman It was all a scam just to gin up some free publicity. It worked. Tassos go back to sleep; no ones on your lawn. Real ‘murricans prefer hot dogs to gyros.
  • ToolGuy I plan to install a sink in the crawl space soon. After that I plan to put washer and dryer hookups on my roof.
  • ToolGuy "That power team adds an electric supercharger"YES!
  • Cardave5150 UAW is acting all butt-hurt that their employers didn't "share the wealth" when they had massive profits. They conveniently forget that they have a CONTRACT with their employers, which was negotiated in good faith, and which the Remaining 3 are honoring, paying them exactly what they negotiated last time.