A friend of mine recently came home from the grocery store to find her husband had hauled the shell of boat onto their driveway. He had been given it for free from a neighbor who was about to scrap it and was just pleased for someone to take it away. It had some holes. It had 3 layers of old paint, all flaking. The benches were rotten, and the motor was dead. My friend did not look thrilled (her teenage daughter was horrified - sure, she wanted to invite her friends to come hang out on her boat, but this was far from what she had in mind). But my friend’s husband saw a project. He gave each kid a paint scraper and safely goggles, and a while his wife unloaded groceries from the car, they delved into discussing paint colors and boat names. Paint flakes chipped away. Rotten wood was ripped out. A plan was emerging for making it water-tight. One man’s junk had become another man’s gem.
I don’t know why you might have a junk car sitting on your driveway or in your garage. How old or broken things get places isn’t something we can cover in a quick blog. Maybe, like us, you bought a place with some land and your kids discovered an abandoned tractor behind some trees. It’s kind of weird and I have zero idea on the story behind it being left where it is, but it actually looks pretty cool, especially when it snows, and I’m learning to think of it as ‘Land Sculpture’ - it just sounds so much better than ‘Abandoned Junk in the Yard.’
But unless it really is Land Sculpture, having a junk car simply sit there leaves it as nothing more than a junk car. And since every car has at some time in its life been a powerful full-of-momentum machine, an abandoned shell of a car is a sad thing for motor-lover to see. Maybe it has the potential to be fixed up. Maybe it has the potential to become cash. Either way, it has potential.
Figuring out the cash value of that potential is not a simple mathematical calculation. You have to be honest and frank with yourself about your knowledge, ability, maybe most importantly your time, and also what you need. The amount of cash you might get and the amount I might get could vary vastly, but we can both come away happy.
How quickly do you need cash? How much do you really know about component parts? Do you have the ability to strip the car yourself? Can you carry out repairs to have everything in good working order ready for sale? Do you have a reputable sales outlet (while eBay and Craigslist can be easy ways to list things, without a strong write up and great photos for each item, things really don’t sell themselves)? Do you have the time to meet the many potential buyers? How will you end up disposing of any unsold components? You need to be familiar with insurance and title requirements. This goes beyond taking a car to pieces.
If you are one of the rare people who knows a lot, can do a lot, has time to dedicate, has a gift for sales, and can afford to wait for the weeks or months it takes to complete the sales process, then I admire you and encourage you to go for it. Because for you it isn’t just about dollars. For you this is clearly a passion project that will bring you satisfaction and joy. And we all need that.
But also, if you are that person, maybe you could also unlock the potential in that car by handing out paint scrapers and safely goggles to your kids or grandkids. Maybe you could think about paint finishes. Maybe when you pop the hood you can see past what is broken and can actually hear how the restored engine will sound.
If you are me you will know that the quick, easy, less creative, and less lucrative option is the one for you.
(And to finish out the story about the boat - by the end of summer it was floating, had a functioning motor and fit a whole family inside. No-one fell out, someone caught a fish, and even the teenage daughter was smiling in the photo. It was declared a big success).