How do I put a value on my “Mechanic’s Special”?


Whether your car needs major repairs or is completely ready to be junked – you can sell it for cash and get a fair price for it if you know what it’s worth. But first, in order to determine your car’s value, you need to know what’s wrong with it. That can seem challenging and expensive if you’re not a mechanic. But the truth is, it’s not hard, and you don’t have to be rich to do it.

Most Cars Have a Cash Value, Even Junkers. 

Most cars have some kind of cash value, even if it’s just for parts. That’s why junkyards are happy to collect multiples of the same cars. Often, parts for older cars are hard to find because they aren’t being manufactured anymore. But you can go to the junkyard and find those parts, usually for a set price, regardless of the make of the car.

And what doesn’t get parted out doesn’t get wasted because 98 percent of a car can be recycled, which is a huge benefit to you and the planet.

So, if you’re looking to get some cash for your junk car, here are some do’s and don’ts regarding how to establish the value of your car:

1. Get a used car inspection performed on your vehicle

Take your car to a trusted mechanic who can perform what’s called a “used car inspection” on your vehicle. These inspections can cost less than $100, and if you don’t know what’s wrong with your car, that $100 will tell you what needs to be fixed, giving you the upperhand when selling your car.

This inspection is especially helpful if your check engine light is on. While it’s true that the check engine light can be triggered by something as small as a $60 coil, or even a gas cap that isn’t screwed on tight enough, sometimes it can be something more expensive, like a catalytic converter. If you don’t know why the check engine light is on, when you sell your car, you’ll have a hard time getting a private buyer – even if it’s a junk car. A lot of people who buy junk cars fix them up and resell them, so not knowing why the check engine light is on can be a deal breaker.

If your car isn’t running, find out if your mechanic will come to you. And if that doesn’t work, you could use your AAA membership to have it towed to a mechanic who might allow you to keep the car on the property for 30 days with an agreement that you’ll have it removed or junked if you can’t find a buyer in that time.

You need to investigate to discover as much as you can about what needs to be fixed before selling your car. Also, you might discover the repairs cost less than you thought and you may end up hanging onto your car.

2. Don’t use Craigslist to determine your vehicle’s value

You may be tempted to use Craigslist or any other similar used car posting website in order to determine how much money you can get for your car, especially if you have no idea where to start. But that’s not a good idea for the following reasons:

People have a tendency to overprice their cars on Craigslist

You’ve seen the ads – “1987 Toyota Corolla in pristine condition, original owner, low mileage – $2500.”

If people are overpricing their cars in running condition, you can bet they’re overpricing their cars that need major work. This makes sense because everyone naturally wants to get as much cash as they can when they resell their car. That’s why it’s not a good barometer for determining your car’s value.

You can see the asking price on Craigslist, but what you can’t see is the final sale price of the car worked out between the parties. Most of the time, they get talked down to a more reasonable offer of 50 percent or less than what they originally asked for.

A good portion of cars posted on Craigslist are listed by pros

You’ve probably seen plenty of cars posted on Craigslist that are referred to as a “mechanic’s special.” And many of these cars are being sold for just a few hundred bucks. You might see something like, “1995 Ford Explorer $800 OBO – Mechanic’s Special.”

The description might say something like, “great vehicle, ran great until it started overheating last week,” or “great commuter car but has minor oil leak, should be easy to fix,” or “check engine light is on and I don’t have time to get it checked out.”

At first glance, you might think that if someone can sell an older model of your car for $1,000 with similar issues, you should be able to get a comparable amount of cash for your newer model. But you have to realize that the way people describe the vehicles almost never provides an accurate or complete picture of what’s wrong with the car. At the end of the transaction, the seller doesn’t get anywhere near the original asking price.

Many people misuse the term “mechanic’s special”

Sometimes people post the words “mechanic’s special” in their ad because they think it refers to a car that doesn’t run. But a mechanic’s special isn’t just a car that doesn’t run – it’s a car that requires more work (usually engine work) than the car is actually worth. And knowing if your car is truly a mechanic’s special requires knowing what’s wrong with it.

But a lot of people misuse the term, unaware what’s wrong with their car when they post it as a mechanic’s special. Like this person who purchased a car that wasn’t running, replaced the fuel pump fuse for 35 cents, and resold the car for three times what they paid.

So even if your car really is a true mechanic’s special, it’s not a good idea to use Craigslist to determine its value. It’s just not an accurate measurement.

At the end of the day, the only way to know the value of your car is to have it personally inspected by a certified mechanic. Otherwise, you’re just guessing at what needs to be fixed.

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to find a private buyer, you can always call a junk car buyer to find out what they’ll pay for your car. Considering all of the time and energy it takes to go back and forth with private buyers, selling your car to a junk buyer just might be your best option.

Sell your car to The Clunker Junker

Before you give up and donate your car to charity because you think it’s not worth anything, consider selling it to The Clunker Junker – you’ll get paid cash on the spot.

Just fill out the form and get an instant quote for your car. You could have cash in hand by the end of the day!

 


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