Piston Slap: Recon for Your Soulmate?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap recon for your soulmate

TTAC commentator Blackcloud_9 writes:

I currently own a 2014 Kia Soul. I’m looking to use it as trade-in value for a new (or new to me) car. The Soul is an imminently practical car. Does most everything reasonably well, it’s very reliable but it definitely does not stir my “soul”. I’m usually a “keep it forever” guy but the time has come that I can finally afford to buy “my” car. The question for you (and the B&B) is that the car has a couple of cosmetic issues and I’m wondering if it’s worth reconditioning a car for sale.

The only reason I would do this is to raise the trade-in value of the car.

  1. The windshield has a quarter-sized star/web crack in the lower right corner. I’ve had it filled and I know it won’t get any worse. However, the repair person did a poor job and the top resin fill fell out so the crack is very noticeable. The best estimate I’ve been quoted for a windshield replacement is ~ $235 (US).
  2. The front bumper had an unfortunate meet-and-greet with a garage doorframe and stucco wall. It is not dented but the plastic cladding has some pretty good gouges and there is a 1” wide x 3” long ellipse of removed paint. So, it’s not going to be a buff and wax job to get it looking good. I haven’t gotten an estimate for this repair but I’ve had front ends repaired before (other cars & teenaged children) so my best guess would be about $900.

I’m thinking the windshield might be a good investment but I’m not sure if I would get a good ROI on the bumper repair. The Soul has 77k miles and very mechanically/cosmetically sound otherwise.

Please note: I am NOT a wrench-it-yourself kind of guy. I admire anybody who can but I have a long history of self car repair frustrations.

Sajeev answers:

Here’s a rule for reconditioning a car (i.e. recon) for trade in purposes: if you can’t do it for free, don’t bother.

You won’t make the numbers work, relative to what dealers put into your trade for recon before resale. While your Soul sounds nice enough to never meet a dealer auction (i.e. they want to re-sell it on their lot), keep in mind:

  1. Dealerships negotiate vendor discounts: you’re not getting a volume discount on glass work, but they might. If the Dealership has a built-in body shop, with staff hungry for work? Fuggedaboutit!
  2. Dealers might require factory approved parts (they get at cost) for top dollar valuations, especially in the world of CPO vehicles. Not relevant here, but still…
  3. Your profit margins are razor thin when the pay day pertains to the world of bottom dollar trade-in valuations. Even dealers can take a bath on recon, is it worth your time/money when you aren’t selling something at retail/market value?
  4. Time Value of Money is real: you’re better off spending those hours driving for Lyft or Uber, or selling a perfectly-reconditioned vehicle on Craigslist. (Good luck with that, BTW)

There are valid reasons why people trade-in: tax perks and the ability to not give a rat’s ass about your current car.

If it stops, steers and starts, you can trade that hooptie in! Just do the free things (i.e. take out yo’ nasty stuff so the appraiser doesn’t hate their job) to maximize your valuation without wasting your precious time.

[Image: Kia]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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4 of 49 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jun 27, 2019

    I used to sell my cars by publishing ads in local newspaper when I was young and relatively poor. The first time buyer was a cop and I sold him very problematic car with suspicious past (there was no Carfax back then) for the same amount of money I paid for it two years earlier. And the last time I sold my Toyota to local gangster - he totaled his Opel in some kind of chase and needed the car. He was impressed by my Toyota since it has well optioned. Later I learned that he totaled my Toyota also, life is always tough for gangsters and the as well as their cars - they do not live too long. Sooner or later bullet catches them. Last time I traded in my 12 y.o. car with 180K miles. It had malfunctioning ignition coils. I did not bother to fix it since I had to remove some engine parts like exhaust manifold. I told internet sales manager about problem and he told me that he does not care because the car will go straight to auction. I got a great deal on new car (since it sat for several months on dealership's lot) but he also looked happy when I told him how much I want for the trade-in. Win-win situation.

    • See 1 previous
    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jun 28, 2019

      @Lie2me I can imagine that gangster coming after me if he discovered something wrong with car but back then I was young and did not care.

  • NeilM NeilM on Jun 30, 2019

    I know that dealers aren't held in the highest esteem, but who knew you could actually sell your Soul to one?

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