Would you buy a car from a salvage auction?

Photography Credit: Sean Stratton

We see them all the time on the Copart website: cars that look like they still have some life left in them. Can they be put back together so they can deliver more years of enjoyment?

First, let’s back up. What is Copart? It’s a nationwide auction house featuring cars that have had a bit of bad luck: crashed, flooded, abandoned, repossessed or maybe even worse. Some auctions are open to the public–nearly 73,000 lots the last time we looked.

Some cars look like they’ve been set on fire and put out with rust. Others show promise, though.

Some recent finds that caught our eye:

A 1973 Datsun 240Z said to have just normal wear.

A 1967 BMW 1600 also said to have only normal wear and tear.

And a 2010 Aston Martin V8 Vantage–with a stick–listed with unspecified undercarriage damage.

We have written about the Copart process before over at Grassroots Motorsports. In fact, Norman Garrett, one of the original engineers on the original Miata, once walked us through the process: how to turn a totaled car into your next ride.

We also once put a Scion FR-S, a Copart find, back on the road.

We understand that many of these cars listed on Copart have all seen things. But it gets us thinking: Would you roll the dice here with the gamble worth the potential payoff?

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sir_mike Reader
12/26/23 11:21 a.m.

Just depending what it is.But here on the east coast most are rust buckets.

914Driver MegaDork
12/26/23 6:45 p.m.

I've been thinking about a Ridgeline.  eBay has a lot with Salvage Titles, but when questioned no one seems to know WHY it has a salvage title.  

I would consider a repaired vehicle long before a flood victim.  It could be perfect for months, then the mask falls off and you have an unpredictable brainless Demon living in your garage.

If anyone has experience with Salvage cars, I'd love to hear them.

sfisher71 New Reader
12/26/23 10:33 p.m.

I wrote an article about this a couple years ago for BidGarage. (CW: wrecked and rusted photos of special cars, including a crashed 1964 250 GTO.) The editor added a few SEO_centric phrases here and there, but the information is pretty well sorted, with input from Hagerty and a few other reliable sources.

From personal experience, my current daily is a 2006 Miata which I bought from a friend, who bought it from a salvage auction. He did the hard stuff to get it repaired, autocrossed it for a couple years, and then got a passion for a Honda S2000 project, which is how the MX-5 came to me.

Because he and I both have the same insurer, I knew I could get it insured, which is the main issue for a salvaged daily driver. It's been great for that, taking us from the northern Oregon Coast to Monterey Car Week for the past few years. In other words, typical Miata.

One important attribution: the "double it and add thirty" rule was coined by my first wife, rest her soul, when I was building my E Prod MGB in 1990. I told her I was going to need to get some more parts for it, probably $1000 worth; she looked into the distance, did something with her fingers, and said, "Okay, that should work."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I've noticed that whenever you give an estimate on the cost of something for your cars, I use the old Doug and Bob McKenzie routine about converting from Celsius to Fahrenheit: double it and add thirty. So I figure this batch should run about $2600."

I blinked hard, but in my heart I knew she was right. 

BidGarage article for those who want to look a little deeper:


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