Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

What's the "fully depreciated" value of a running car?

I was just wondering…at what point is a car fully depreciated? As in–regardless of age, milage, make or model–what’s the minimum value for “four wheels, runs, no obvious mechanical defects.”

As I think about this a bit, I imagine a car in any state with yearly inspections, the value would probably vary annually based on how many months of driving can be done before an inspection is needed (and any car that’s “out of inspection” probably takes a hit similar to a salvage title.)

Also, any candidates for the cheapest car to purchase and operate today? I’ll nominate the 3-door '85 Civic. Although it’s getting long in the tooth, SO many were made that I’d hope parts wouldn’t be too hard to find…

That’s a tough question to answer. Oklahoma does not have an inspection program (which was totally worthless anyway) but IMHO a half decent running vehicle that is not a total heap should be worth 4-500 dollars. At some point the transportation value has a minimum value attached to it so I would have no problems giving 500 bucks for a 25 year old car that even needs a few things; depending on car and “things” though.

One of my everyday drivers is a SAAB Turbo I bought about 2 years ago for 20 bucks. The car had a bad fuel pump, I had a pump in my parts stash, so 15 minutes of install time had me rolling.

I would think something like a Ford Taurus might be one of the cheaper vehicles to keep on the road. They were made in droves, new/rebuilt parts are very reasonable in price, and salvage yard stuff is generally cheap.
One can always buy a parts Taurus from an individual for a 100 bucks, gut a ton of useable stuff off of it, and then sell the remainder to a recycler to offset that original 100 dollars.

strange question. and difficult to answer. “fully depreciated”…“with no obvious mechanical defects”… honestly, I don’t know if that’s possible.

It all depends on supply and demand. What the buyer is willing to pay, and the seller will settle for.

Heck, I got a '76 Chevy Nova for free once from an old lady! She was actually going to PAY to have it towed away until I stepped in and saved it. It looked like crap, but ran for over a year with no issues whatsoever!

On the same token, I’ve seen people pay $300+ for what was essentially nothing more than a frame.

I have bought such a car, totalled but still running and derivable, from my insurance company for $50. I sold it for $100 a few years later. It was an 85 Buick Skyhawk. It had a bent frame and cometic damage. Barring a hard-to-find deal like that, I think $500 sounds like a normal amount for what you are looking for.

Fully depreciated is a specific accounting term and only applies to businesses. For you or me, the closest term is worthless. If you can still drive it, it has some value so it is not worthless to you.

Or call your insurance agent, give him/her year, make, model, etc., and ask what the collision value of the car is. Anything under that value might be worth taking a closer look at. Two of my “older” (REALLY older) have no collision/replacement cost values, so if I were to get rid of one or two of them, I’d see what the best offer is and sell it/them. My best advice: If it’s “fully depreciated”, what’s the vehicle worth to you? Get the asking price then make your bid.

After two years, you’ll get less than half of what you paid for it. Fully depreciated is something I don’t know about, but that is full enough.

To me, fully depreciated is the point in which a car is worth the same (or even more!) next year than it was last year. I think it typically happens in the 20-year range, but of course when cars get to that point, actually appraising their value them becomes a very subjective thing.

Oh accounting classes from college 20 years abo i have tried hard to forget. But answer is “0”= fully depreciated.
The residual value is more then zero. On the books the application of depreciation for taxes is offset by any proceeds from selling the salvage or totally sound fully depreciated item.
Yikes still makes me wish i would of majored in geography.

I’m not sure what you mean by “fully depreciated”, but I believe there is a floor price for a running vehicle that can pass a state inspection. That floor will vary from place to place, in my part of the world it’s about $1000. The used car ads in your area will give you a rough idea of the local floor.