In today's used car market, does it make sense to do a "fix and flip"?

I see a lot of non-working used cars for sale relatively cheap on Craigslist here, with the body in excellent condition. Mostly Hyundai and Kia models from the early 2000’s, some Chevrolet Aveos, etc.

Most of these are being sold as “mechanic specials” because the timing belt failed, and now the engine has nicked pistons and bent valves, or because the coolant crossover pipe broke and the engine overheated.

I am trying to decide if today’s used car pricing would allow for someone such as me to buy such a car, repair the mechanical problem(s), and resell it for enough money to cover the cost of my time and materials. If I spend months of time working on a car, I need to make at least $1000 profit after paying for parts and materials, title transfer costs, etc.

Here in Arizona, you are allowed to sell up to 4 cars in a year without being a licensed dealer. I am looking to sell one car per year, so that would not be a problem.

Also, once repaired, I would drive the car for 5-6 months to make sure it’s reliable, and to be able to tell a prospective buyer that I personally owned this car, and am selling it to buy something else.

Your thoughts?

1 Like

It depends on the car

That’s how I bought all of my Honda’s for cheap.

Broken timing belts.



That’s a lot of trouble for $1000, to me. Only you know if you have the skills, tools, etc. Are you assuming you’ll replace the engine?


Engine work is picky. All new 4 cyl motors are ohc it seems. Removing a timing cover can really be a pain.

That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. The other way of looking at it is that in addition to making a modest profit, I will also gain experience, etc. And no, I do not plan to replace the engine, although that may actually be cheaper than buying a reman. cyl. head, gasket set, bolts, etc. It’s physically difficult to pull a motor at a junkyard, transport it home, pull the motor and transmission from the car I am repairing, etc.

Sounds pretty low risk if you accept that some of the engines might need more than their head(s) pulled. Some may have other problems or bigger damage.

I guess the only way to know if this a good move is to do it and see what happens . A year from now how the vehicle market will be is anyone’s guess.

1 Like

Given what we’ve seen posted here… I’d bet the Kia and Hyundai cars have sludged engines that are seized. That means a crank grind, bearings, a thorough clean of the oil passages and maybe some cam and cam bearing work… Not sure if those can be re-machined as they do not have bearing inserts, the cams ride on machined head surfaces itself. An engine swap might be the only option here. It would be in your best interest to surf some YouTube vids on teardowns of these engines and talk to a machine shop about what CAN be done at what cost.

That would give you an idea of what you’d have to pay for the car to make-out on the repair with some cushion for the risk. Assume worst case, you made nothing but lost nothing except your labor. Best case, you make $2 or $3000. If you average $1000 a car and get a driver for 4 months maybe that satisfies you.

The Aveos, in my opinion, are not even worth considering. The rest of the car is a throw-away and not worth spending ANY money on engine repair at all. Like replacing the foil wrapper and paper wrapping on a 10 year old stick of gum for re-sale. It is a loser all day long.

20 year old Hyundai and Kias have low resale value even for a working car.I sold my perfectly kept low milage 99 Corolla for $1200 last year.

If you enjoy the work this could be a low risk way to get started. You either need to make a reasonably accurate assessment of the car or assume the worst and buy it based on your pessimistic evaluation. If it works out after four cars, you might consider getting a dealer’s license. That’s down the road though.

The father of one of my daughter’s friends did I this and he was able to supplement income enough to buy a new house. His personal car about 25 years ago was a salvage title Cavalier that he rebuilt. It crabbed down the road, but he got it titled and it worked for him. The one I saw was a hot rod he built from a nonrunner, and I’m sure he made way more than $1000 on the conversion.

Maybe for a hobby. Put it in perspective, UPS is paying $23 an hour so that is less than 45 hours to make the $1000. Of course deducting for taxes, etc. Maybe if you could line up engines and just swap them out or maybe a different brand would carry a higher retail cost. They look nice but appear to have a lot of problems reducing their retail value. Sure I’ve done lots of work for less than $1000 but was low risk and mainly labor as well as quick turn-around.