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Squeezing money from a dead car

Kate of LokysKate of Lokys Registered User
edited May 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
So last fall, my old 2001 Ford Focus started having some significant problems that were well beyond my meagre ability to fix. The car still ran well enough, but the EGR was totally rusted-out, and the engine misfired occasionally despite new spark plugs, and it was just at a point at which I would have needed to start sinking a fair bit of money into it to keep it running (especially since I couldn't do the repairs myself, and would have been shipping it off to the dealership or another mechanic every couple of weeks, paying for labour on top of parts).

My parents bought me a new car (well, a used one) as my early graduation gift. Yay! The new car works beautifully, my car-savvy boyfriend is helping me keep on top of the maintenance, and I'll be driving it for long years to come.

But, the problem of what to do with the old car remains. In the fall, my parents said that they wanted the money from its sale, which I was absolutely fine with because they paid for the new one. The dealership they bought the new car from offered us $700 to trade it in, but we thought we could get quite a bit more for it from a private sale.

And we could have, if we had been able to sell it then. The problem was, I couldn't sell it because I live in student residence in London and only have one parking spot, so I had absolutely no way to store the car while it was being sold. So, I drove it up to my parents' place an hour north of Toronto. My Dad took out an ad in the paper, got a couple of nibbles, then nothing. Two things are worth noting: the old car was completely in his name, so I had nothing to do with the paperwork; and he was trying to price out repairs so he could sell it as certified and emissions-tested, despite me telling him in no uncertain terms that there was no chance we could get back even half of whatever extra we put into the car, and that it should be sold as-is as a project/parts car for someone to work on themselves.

Once he got a couple of estimates on repairing the car enough for it to be certified ($1500, $1400, $2000), he realized that putting more money into it would be unwise, so he just kind of... did nothing about it. For five months. He left a car that had been in at least rough working order in the fall outside, uncovered, through an entire Ontario winter, in a 6' snowdrift, and he didn't start it once during that time.

Earlier this week, I went back to my parents' place because my father was demanding that I be the one to pick up all the paperwork necessary to sell the car, and sign off on it. (He was labouring under the mistaken assumption that the car was in my name, which it isn't, but try telling that to him). So, I got the tags renewed, I picked up the necessary Used Vehicle Information Package, then I called CAA for a boost because the battery was dead. (Shock, gasp).

CAA came an hour later, the guy tested the battery to make sure it could still hold a charge (it could, amazingly), then he gave me a boost and took off. I let it idle for a couple of minutes - it was rough at first, but it evened out - then I tried backing up so I could go for a little 5 minute drive to juice it up. The car wouldn't move. When I pressed down on the accelerator, it started creeping backwards very slowly, kind of lurching from side to side. It was obviously too sick to go anywhere, so I quickly turned it around so it wasn't blocking the driveway, and just when I got it clear, the battery died again.

So, my old car is dead. I strongly suspect that being left outside all winter in a snowbank caused some pretty permanent damage and rusting, and at the very least, I'm betting that pretty much every hose and line in the engine is cracked and leaking, and every fluid reservoir is empty. It's can't be driven, and it sure as hell can't be sold in this condition, and at this point, even getting it running again will cost thousands.

I explained this to my father last night, and he got mad at me for not "taking care of it" back in the fall. Nevermind that the car isn't in my name, I had no way to sell it myself, and I was living, working, and attending full-time classes in a city three hours away; I should have been writing newspaper ads for him, and getting the paperwork for him. Nevermind that we had an insulated two-car garage that would have kept the car safe and stable over the winter - when I pointed that out, he started chewing me out for "retroactively trying to shift the responsibility" to him.

So what I'm left with at this point is a dead car three hours away, and a father who thinks that a) it was originally worth $3500 (no chance, we would have been lucky to get $1500 for it when it was in running order), and b) it's my fault the car is dead because I should have miraculously sold it last fall through long-distance telekinesis or something.

Now I'm stuck with the problem of how to get my father any value whatsoever out of this car, and I'm not sure what my options are. As a car, it is worthless - nobody's going to pay good money for something they can't drive. It's absolutely not worth putting more money into it to fix it up. I've come up with three options, but I don't know the merits of each one, so I was hoping you fine folks could educate me a bit.

1. Charitable donation for tax write-off: how much could I expect to get (my Dad) for doing this? I did some preliminary reading online, and saw everything ranging from $500 to "full fair market value for your car!" Note that I'm in Ontario.

2. Towing it to a scrapyard, letting them strip it down and give me whatever the rusted-out bits are worth.

3. Trying to sell it privately to someone to use for parts? I really doing think anyone would buy it, because any engine-related parts are probably pretty much totally from the deep freeze.

Which of those will be my best option?

I'm here to tell you about voting. Imagine you're locked in a huge underground nightclub filled with sinners, whores, freaks and unnameable things that rape pit bulls for fun. And you ain't allowed out until you all vote on what you're going to do tonight [. . .] So you vote for television, and everyone else, as far as your eye can see, votes to fuck you with switchblades. That's voting. You're welcome.
Kate of Lokys on


  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    I'm not going to touch the parental part of this with a ten-foot-pole, since I don't want to speak ill of someone's parents. (Unless they start the ball rolling first.)

    I'd go with the donate/writeoff approach, just because towing it to a scrapyard costs money, and trying to sell it privately would probably cause your father to scream/rant/yell about how you're only taking $500 for this "$3500 car."

    CarHeaven might take it even if it's not a 1995 or older:

    PeregrineFalcon on
    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tat Tvam Asi Pais Vasco to San FranciscoRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    When I got rid of my old ass BMW (broken seats, holes in the floorboards, leaked in the rain) I donated it to PBS and took a $500 tax write off. I would suggest that route, inserting your desired charity/organization, but it's worth contacting some scrap yards to see if anyone will give you a few hundred for it.

    Most places will come and pick the beast up for no charge, assuming it's not too far away.

    You could try selling it privately for parts, but honestly it's probably not worth the effort, and depending on your tax situation, may not be as good a deal as donation.

    Good luck with it!

    firewaterword on
    Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
  • wallabeeXwallabeeX Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Just from experience:

    Scrap yard will net you $200-300 depending on your haggle ability. Might even be able to get $350 if you use a one of your catchy analogies with the scrapyard owner.

    Parting it will net you $800-1000, but you need to spend a weekend pulling every valuable part off the car, taking a picture, and posting it on the internet. Everything from the MAF to the hood to the seats in the car are worth something to somebody. It's a great way to learn about how cars are put together and how to take them apart, but in my experience, it's only worth it if you think that'll be fun. It's really not worth your time.

    The last one is posting it on Craigslist as a complete car, non-running, be light on the details, and sell it for just slightly more than the junkyard will give you. I'd imagine a 2001 Ford Focus can probably get you $650 at the bare minimum, but then again, it's not the best economy for it. So maybe not.

    wallabeeX on
  • cyphrcyphr Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Wait wait wait

    Are you and wasted pixels engaged?


    cyphr on
  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    I thought that it was common knowledge that Kate and Pixels are an eCouple. :P

    PeregrineFalcon on
    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
  • cyphrcyphr Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Hmm yeah I guess that does sound sort of familiar.

    Uh, anyways, I've heard that the tax write-offs from donating a car to charity can be very decent, you may want to research that option further.

    cyphr on
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