When you have an older, unreliable car, the thought of your car breaking down is always in the back of your head. Interestingly enough, there’s a right time to save money by selling your junk car.
If you’re looking for money saving tips on buying a new car, I don’t think this is the right place. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to come up with the right reasons to sell your clunker, read on.
Did I really save money by selling my car for $100 while on vacation in the nation’s capitol?
In 2010, my wife and I were on vacation in Washington D.C. for the weekend. We drove more than eight hours and planned to spend a few days exploring museums and the rich history of the surrounding area.
We were having a ton of fun until one night we thought we could leave the hotel and spend the evening at a restaurant.To save money, I sold my car for $100 while stranded 600 miles from home. Click To Tweet
Not knowing what was coming, we jump in the car and turn the key. Nothing. No cranking – simply a barely audible click.
I tried turning the key again. Same thing.
To give you some backstory, my car at the time had a history of this. My piece of junk car had been in the shop a few times for the same reason. Each time, the mechanic found a reason why the car wasn’t starting. Each time, the reason was something new.
I don’t know much about cars, but I never believed my car had suffered a showstopping fatal error multiple times in the same year. Instead, I was fairly sure the mechanics in question never figured out the root cause.
Back in the nation’s capitol, my car still wasn’t starting. We gave up, returned to the hotel, and ordered a pizza. I’m sure many of you would have done the same thing. Don’t lie.
After filling our bellies, we had a decision to make. There were so many questions floating around my head and there didn’t seem to be a right answer. If you’re on vacation eight hours away from home, decisions are complicated. The answer isn’t made any easier when you factor in returning to work the following Monday.
If you were stranded eight hours from home with your car failing to start, what would you do?
Looking at your disabled car in a parking garage in an unfamiliar city isn’t easy. It’s even worse when car mechanics typically don’t work on weekends.
So what did we do? Did we wait until Monday and take the broken car to the shop? Did I call into work and tell them I’d be taking the next week off while I figure things out?
Answers like these are never easy, but you can ask yourself a few questions to help come up with a good one.
Questions you should ask yourself when deciding to sell your broken car
- What’s the current monetary value of the car? Personal value?
- How much money have you spent in repair costs over the past 12 months?
- Is the car completely disabled? Does it need a tow to the shop?
- How far are you from home?
- Do you have the means to buy a new or used car?
As I was mulling the decision, I tried to answer the above questions before even thinking about what to do with the car itself.
What’s the current monetary value of the car? I remember estimating my car was only worth $1,000-$2,000. That’s not nothing, but it’s not a ton of money either. When I purchased the car used, I spent around $6,000. I had already realized almost five years of value by the time it broke down in Washington D.C.
How much money have you spent in repair costs over the past 12 months? I estimated between my father and I, we had spent at least $3,000 in the past year or two.
Is the car completely disabled? Yes. Does it need a tow to the shop? Yes.
How far are you from home? 600 miles. Detroit to Washington D.C.
Do you have the means to buy a new or used car? Yes. I was lucky enough to be employed at a good company. I also had good credit. Armed with those two things, I figured I could easily purchase new or used when I returned to Detroit.
Once I answered those questions, the answer seemed clear to me.
I didn’t want to pay to tow the car back to Detroit. The price of a 600 mile tow didn’t seem feasible. I didn’t even know where to start.
I had to get back to work on Monday, so I couldn’t wait around to get the car fixed. Since I didn’t want to risk my job for a car under $2,000, I couldn’t look around for a mechanic in the D.C. area. Once again, even if I wanted to, it would’ve required significant effort to find a reliable mechanic.
On top of all that, I was sick of repairing the car. I had been frustrated with the frequent showstopping repairs. As an added bonus, I didn’t want to pay another mechanic to find something that didn’t solve the root issue. I realize fixing cars is sometimes difficult, but I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
Related Reading: Learn to pay off your debt on your car by reading stories written by people like you.
After deciding to sell or scrap the car, I had to find a buyer.
I didn’t enter the selling process with high expectations. My car was stranded in a D.C. parking garage on a weekend. The buyer would have to tow the car out of the parking garage and to the nearest mechanic.
At first, I posted an ad on Craigslist and had a few bites. I had at least one call from a local mechanic or car guy. None of the callers offered too much given the circumstances, but I think I had at least 1 offer for $300.
On top of Craigslist, I also considered donating the stranded vehicle to a cash for kids program and taking the tax write off. I didn’t know anything about cash for kids at the time, but it seemed like a decent option. Again, I likely would’ve had to tow the car to a different location, so I didn’t want to pay for that.
When I had exhausted all my options, I finally realized I was staying at a hotel. Hotels typically have many different people of all walks of life staying there. Given that genius knowledge, I started asking around the hotel and telling people I was willing to sell my disabled car.
I’m almost positive everyone at the hotel knew my car had broken down and my wife and I were stranded 600 miles from home.
Luckily, one of the hotel employees showed some interest in the car. I showed him the car and made the situation clear: this car was not going to start without major work.
He made his decision in what felt like only a few minutes and we wrote up a purchase agreement together. I sold the car as-is for $100 and promised to send him the title in the mail. Yes, that was another problem – the title of the car was still in Detroit.
It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. To ultimately save money, I sold my completely disabled car for $100 while on vacation 600 miles from home.
I don’t recommend this decision to everyone. While it seemed like the right decision at the time, I have no idea if I would make the same decision twice. I’ve never been more frustrated with a car in my life, so I’m positive that was a major factor in my decision.
Generally, I’m a person that likes for things to just work and my car at the time was not one of those things. In the future, I hope to make better decisions when going on vacation – like not driving a car with a severe breakdown potential for 600 miles.
My story could be another lesson on building wealth and it’s not even directly related to growing your portfolio.
I hope you can learn from my situation and ask yourself similar questions when making tough vehicle decisions. In the long run, I think I saved money or at least avoided wasting even more money in costly tows, extra repairs, and lost salary.
Who knows? If I would’ve stayed in Washington D.C. to fix my car, I could’ve lost my job and altered my career path. We’ll never know.