Some items naturally make better investments than others—it’s practically natural law. Gold, fine art, and houses (if you’re careful) often increase in value over time, whereas other items including clothes and furniture usually lose most or all their value in a few years. Here’s another object you’ve probably put a lot of money into over the years: your car. Are you wondering how something like that holds up as an investment?
Unfortunately, cars don’t always make very good investments in the long run. They don’t tend to go up in value the longer they’ve been owned unless you’re talking about a classic collector’s item. For those of you looking to unload a beater, you might be struggling to think of ways in which you can make some money—or any at all—from getting rid of it. The good news is that you do have some solid options. You just need to exercise some common sense and good judgment when weighing them.
Let’s look at a couple of the ways in which people commonly try to make some money back on the cars they’ve been driving for years. One common strategy that you may have heard about is the idea that you can take your car apart by yourself and sell each part that still works separately. In theory, it sounds great, but does it work in practice?
Every case is different, but the short answer is: no. Unless you’re a skilled and experienced mechanic with a supply of sophisticated equipment, you will have difficulty trying to disassemble a vehicle by yourself and get the parts ready for resale. Anybody who tells you that selling a car for parts means easy money is peddling a myth more likely to frustrate you than it is to offer tangible rewards. Besides, if you had that level of skill with vehicles, you probably wouldn’t be wondering how to unload a beater in the first place—you’d be keeping that thing in great shape for decades.
You don’t have to go through such a labor-intensive process to make some money off an older car, though. There’s still a decently long list of people out there who are willing to give you something for your rust bucket, although it’s important to note that that list is shrinking. It may be harder, mainly due to government efforts to clear the roads of beaters by tightening regulations on what’s considered safe to drive, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have any luck finding buyers. The trick is to think differently about why you’re selling your car.
The truth is this: you won’t have much luck selling a car that barely runs to somebody who intends to drive it. That leaves two obvious options: dealerships or scrap. Each of these options has its own pros and cons, though, which you’ll need to weigh carefully.
Take dealerships, for example. There are two kinds of dealerships—used and new—and both may be interested in your vehicle. Used dealerships, however, will probably have even higher standards than individual buyers, since they’ll probably flag things that private individuals might not notice. Since they’re out to run a business, they probably also won’t give you as much money. That leaves new dealerships—but what would a new dealership want with a used car?
Many new car dealerships offer promotional events called push, pull or drag sales, where they let you trade in any car for a discount on a new model—regardless of the condition of your old car. The advantage? You could get several thousand dollars for a vehicle that’s worthless anywhere else. The bad news is that you’d have to spend that money on a brand new car, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The other option is to sell your car for its salvage value—the amount left over when you deduct the cost of necessary repairs from the vehicle’s current market value. There are a few services out there willing to buy salvage cars, even if the cost of repairing them would be more than they’re worth. For people whose old vehicles aren’t drivable anymore, this is probably the quickest and most lucrative way to get some money for it.
Be smart about the way you choose to liquidate your old vehicle, and keep the essentials in mind: how old is it, how well does it run, what repairs does it need, and what would it be worth today if you were purchasing it new? These considerations will help you figure out the smartest way to get rid of your old vehicle while lining your pockets.