Ask LH: Is It Worth Trying To Repair My Old Bomb Car?

Ask LH: Is It Worth Trying To Repair My Old Bomb Car?
Image: iStock

Dear Lifehacker, I have a pretty old car (14+ years) which I’m looking to sell. The problem is the car needs a bit of mechanical work, to the tune of $1100, which is about half what I think the car is worth. A buyer would definitely notice the strange noises the car makes. What options are available to sell the car without repairing it? Or, should I just repair the car and sell it? Thanks, Let My Lemon Loose

Old bomb picture from Shutterstock

Dear LMLL,

The reality is, you’re never going to make much money on a car that old. Your best bet is to trade it in when you buy your new car, but that assumes you want to spend a lot of money on its replacement. You could also sell it for scrap metal at the wreckers, but you’re not going to get much money that way, even if the car is in semi-working order.

As you note yourself, someone purchasing your car is unlikely to buy if the faults are evident, so a repair seems the best option even if the overall profit you make is minimal. One way to keep the costs down is to fix whatever problems you can with a little DIY tinkering — this in-depth guide explains some common car repairs that you can do yourself along with the tools you’ll need.

To be honest, the time and effort this takes renders the savings almost redundant, but on the plus side you’ll be learning some essential life skills and you could turn it into a fun weekend project with a mate in tow.

If you’d prefer to leave it to the experts, you might be able to bring the price down via a quote providing service like One Flare — this is a website that provides you with competitive quotes from different mechanics for the specific repairs you need done. You can then settle on the best offer. (Just be sure to check the online reviews of whichever business you go with.)

Once your car is in fighting shape, take the time to give it a spit-and-polish so it looks as showroom-fresh as possible — this includes vacuuming the interior, cleaning the seats, washing and waxing the exterior, shining up the tires and polishing chrome surfaces. While completely superficial, these little differences will increase your chances of getting the asking price on your used car. If you want to get crazy, you can also give your car an brand new finish using just 2-3 litres of paint.

You can check out aggregator sites like CarGrabber to see what you should be selling the car for. Once you’ve decided on a price, post it on free online classified sites such as Gumtree. Auction sites like eBay can also be a good way to drum up the selling price.

If any rev-head readers have some selling advice of their own, let LMLL know in the comments section below.

See also: Should I Repair My Old Car Or Just Replace It?


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  • If the car is nothing special (like a Camry or commodore) strip the good parts off it and sell on eBay. Easiest way to earn good money assuming mechanically there is not much wrong and cosmetically it’s ok, as good body panels and good motors / gearboxes can fetch decent money

  • Selling for parts is usually the most bang for your buck option. However you do need some back ground knowledge on what your doing. Namely what parts can be used on other makes/models of car and how much they are actually worth. Even if you put something up on eBay, it does not mean people are going to pay your price. The automotive community by on large will get the cheapest price humanely possible and if you don’t know what your talking about your going to get screwed.

    What is the model of car? Is there a car club with local members that would want these parts? Are you willing/have the skills and tools to part out the car? Parting out is a big time investment compared to just selling it as a whole.

    Car club forums and Facebook pages could work out more effective than eBay in getting rid of parts and as a plus doesn’t cost you anything.

    Just be aware it is a bit of mission, but worth it in the long run

  • options I can think of;
    Part out
    Does require time as you have to take parts off, photo, advertise, store, post

    Wreckers / steel scrappers
    Pick up the phone and call a place, they will pick up the car and give you a few hundred

    Sell as is
    Depending how much rego you have and how much repairs are going to be vs the sale estimate it may be worth just selling as is.

    Sell repaired
    Depending how much rego you have it could be worth spending a bit of money to maximize profits, I made an additional $500 on my old car from a $40 car cleaning kit

    Pro tip*
    Some things you shouldnt DIY unless your skilled, this includes painting your car, 2-3L of paint in the wrong hands will make the value of your car fall faster than the can of coke i just tipped off my desk

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