Huge price paid for our clunker... WHY?

We had a ten year old Lumina van that was rapidly dying. The last time we took it for inspection, they told us that it needed new ball joints, a major steering part, a new catalytic converter, and about a dozen other things. They estimated about five thousand dollars in repairs to make it pass inspection, so they recommended junking it.

We decided to first put it on eBay and see if we could at least get a little for it for parts. We were totally honest. We listed every fault that the inspection had found, and we even said that there were probably other things wrong with it that were not found. We emphasized that it was not safe to drive and would be prohibitively expensive to fix. Imagine our surprise when bids quickly rose to a hundred dollars… then two hundred, and up it went. The van finally sold for $950!

Here’s the kicker. We live in Pennsylvania. The buyer lived in Texas! He bought a one-way plane ticket to fly here, paid us in cash, and said he was planning to drive it back to Texas!!! Huh? What do you suppose happened here?


Perhaps the Texan that bought your car has a Lumina that either he wants to fix up with parts from your Lumina, or he has a wrecked Lumina and will use parts from it to fix your Lumina. At any rate, if he is happy, and you are happy, it sounds like it was a good deal.

The price you have to pay to get it fixed, and the price he has to pay to fix it himself may have made the van worth it to him.

Had a similar experience which agrees with “Triedag”. I was sitting on Ford Granada, trying to sell it for what I thought, was a great deal. Unfortunately, no one else did… Finally got a call from a gentleman whom over the phone insisted he wanted the car, sight unseen. He had to drive over 150 miles to pick up the car the next day, cash in hand. He drove to make the purchase in an Older Granada. So there are people out there you can match the sale to…or, it’s a great car to pass contraband over the border.

I’ll add another thought to it. Make sure that the title has been transferred right away and that you can prove the sale. Twice I have had to go back and do a forced title transfer months after the fact and on one had to spend a day with affidavits proving I wasn’t responsible for the tickets. They just wanted my license plates so they could drive without insurance for a while on my dime. It could be heading south of the border to be loaded up and back across the line again with someone else’s name attached. You gotta ask why a guy would not be able to find a Lumina in Texas or Oklahoma or someplace closer if that’s what he really wanted. Oh yeah and they look so normal and honest.

Viva la Mexico !

I HOPE you took your license plates off it…

Perhaps the laundry-list of defects listed by the state inspection were not as serious as you were led to believe…There are states (about half of them) with no safety or emissions inspections. As long as your Lumina drove okay, it will bring $2500-$3000. And yes, vast numbers of vehicles like yours are imported into Mexico and sold for far more than they would bring in the States. You assume it was going to be driven back to Texas. It could have road down there on the back of a transport truck along with 10 other similar vehicles…

I have never lived in Texas but I have lived in Arizona. The same thing happens there. I sold a few cars south of the border but only after transferring the vehicle titles. Arizona has these “title shops” all over the place. You can get a title and registration in the buyers name in as little as 10 minutes.

Buyers in Mexico flock over the border on weekends and buy out yard and garage sales and will pay premium money for most vehicles as long as they run.

PA has strict inspection criteria. Other states do not. So, a car deemed unsafe in PA has value elsewhere. Whether this car stays in TX or somehow ends up in Mexico or Central America isn’t your issue at this point. The buyer saw value in your car and acted accordingly.

Texas has stringent state inspections as does PA. I’m not sure they are as picky about emissions though.

My guess is that the buyer had a buyer lined up to take the van to Mexico. Vehicles that are exactly ten years old, like the OP’s, can cross the border for resale with the lowest duty. Anything newer or older pays much more. I don’t know why, but that’s how they have it set up.

Please tell me you didn’t sell it on an “open title” without having the buyer’s true name added to the transfer line. IF you did, anything that happens before he (or the third or fourth person who buys it after it left your sight) gets around to tagging it is on you. I know someone who made that mistake.

For some japanese cars the replacement used parts market is very tight. There are some parts that the manufacturer will not supply and the market is only in used parts.

Sometimes (always) the interiors of cars in sunny, hot states fade and the upholstery breaks and the foam sticks out and gets uglier by the minute. Sometimes people need body parts that are painted to match before they are removed. Combine that with the need for tires, lights and mirrors and somebody wins the crap shoot lottery if there is such a thing.

Why did they pay so much? It might not even be parts value that is at play.

Used minivans are ridiculously expensive. If the buyer needed a minivan and had the abilities to do the repairs himself, he could be getting a good deal. Ball joints? That might be $80 for parts. A full steering rack? $250. An aftermarket cat that would work for Texas laws? $400. He could easily be looking at this as a car that he could fix up for $1000 or so to get it reasonably serviceable, if he used aftermarket (or to save even more, junkyard) parts… Add in the plane ticket, and he still might end up with a used minivan in running condition for under $3000 total, which isn’t bad.

The key here may be that you were HONEST. I’ve always found strange things happen when you’re honest. I still remember a bidding war erupting on our driveway for our family’s 9 year old 1979 Pontiac LeMans with a bad transmission. We got nearly 3x asking price, ending up selling it at about KBB blue book for excellent condition. We told the bidders EVERYTHING that was wrong with that car. My only theory is that it increased their confidence in what they were buying - they could price out the fix and determine if it was needed, and were confident we weren’t hiding some huge potential defect.

Saw that car driving around town years later, too…