End of an Era (or Adventures in Selling a Car for Scrap)


Loaded With Film School Gear – July 13, 2006

On December 26, 2005 I purchased a 1989 Toyota Corolla DX wagon from my good friend and former San Diego roommate, Cami. I was attending film school at the time and I needed something a little roomier than my Mazda Miata to carry equipment for film school projects. I remember laughing inside a few times thinking about how I was loading $100,000+ worth of equipment into this little old car. It already had well over 200,000 miles on the clock and I honestly only needed and expected it to last me a year or so to get me through film school. In the end it completely surprised me by continuing to run and run and run and I just couldn’t justify getting rid of a perfectly good car. I ended up keeping it for 7 and a half years and in all that time the only time it had ever left me stranded was in 2010 when the original (!!) radiator finally sprang a leak.

That is until the morning of February 22, 2013 when the transmission suddenly failed while I was driving southbound on I-5 just before the Fourth Street exit. The old and faithful Corolla which had lasted me this long with a bare minimum of maintenance had finally had the catastrophic failure that would have me contemplating whether it had truly reached the end of the road.

After visiting a few shops and making a few phone calls it seemed it would cost me between $800 and $1000 to get it repaired and I was very seriously contemplating paying it to keep it on the road. The engine was still strong, the body was still in great shape. This car could last many more years on the road. On the other hand, for the last three years I’ve been living with two cars in a place with only street parking and getting rid of this car would mean saving money on insurance and ultimately, street sweeping tickets. (In 2011 I racked up close to a grand in parking tickets!)

It was a tough decision to make, considering the generally good condition it was in, and how long it had been in the “family”. Cami had owned this car since 1998 when her parents bought it used for her birthday with a big red bow and everything and it even outlived the Mustang she had gotten to replace it. So I reluctantly started calling around to see how much junk car haulers would give me to take the car away.

December 27, 2000

Me and Cami and the Corolla – December 27, 2000

I contacted a few national chains like Rusty’s Auto Salvage and Copart. They both offered only $300. The age and mileage of the car made them consider it only for its value as 3000 pounds of scrap metal. But I knew the car was still road worthy and worth more than that. When the guy at Copart offered $300 he asked how much I was hoping to get. I said $500. He laughed. When I told him that the car was still road worthy and that I was still considering fixing the car he proceeded to bully me into to selling my car to them, telling me what a waste of money it would be to fix it. What did he know? He’s not the one that’s been driving it around for the last 7 years. He proceeded to brag to me that he made $52,000 a year so obviously he knows what he’s talking about and therefore I should listen to his advice. What? Needless to say there was no way I’d be selling my car to douche bags like that even if nobody else would offer me more than $300.

So I started looking for some more local type places to see what they would offer and if they would at least provide some better customer service. I found this place with the brilliantly SEO’d domain name www.losangelesjunkcarsforcash.com, also known as Auto Magnum Junk Car & Salvage. They offered $400 and guaranteed someone would come within 2 hours to take it away. I said I’d take it. The guy said he’d call his tow truck driver to find out when he could come and call me right back. He didn’t.

I waited an hour without hearing anything so I called again. Nobody picked up. Like a stalker girlfriend I tried calling again every half hour or so. Still nobody picked up. I was still feeling lenient because it seemed like just one guy and I just wanted to get $400 instead of $300. Finally four hours later a different guy called me back and asked if I would take $300. Screw you, buddy. You guys wasted my whole afternoon and evening only to come back with the same offer as everyone else. I ain’t selling to you.

So if you are looking to get rid of a junk car and you want to deal with shady bait-and-switch scammers, go with Auto Magnum. If you want to deal with rude bullies, go with Copart.

The next day I filled out the form on the Ecology Auto Parts website. Their web form actually had a way for me to upload pictures of the car. This gave me hope that they might consider my car as being more than just a mere pile of scrap metal. When they called me a couple hours later they asked if the car was still available and noted that the car seemed to be in great condition. They initially offered $300 and then asked how much I was hoping to get. I said $500. They politely said they couldn’t give me that much but countered with $400. I said I’d take it. $400 plus knowing that the parts from my car would help some other people’s Corollas stay on the road a little longer instead of just going straight to the scrap heap was good enough for me. The fact that they were friendly and polite after what I had been dealing with before just made me appreciate them that much more.

They said their tow trucks were all booked up that day but they could come the next day between 9am and noon. The next morning they called right at 9am to let me know that they’d be coming between 11:30 and noon. And the guy showed up right at 11:30 with $400 in cash. What great customer service. The cable company could learn a lot from them. Everyone was very friendly and polite. Nobody pressured me to do anything I didn’t want, and nobody wasted my time trying to pull any bait and switch scams on me. If you’re looking for a pleasant experience in getting rid of a junk car in southern California, I highly recommend Ecology Auto Parts.

March 7, 2013

One Last Ride – March 7, 2013

And so came the end of the road for the trusty but tired old Corolla. You’ve had a long and good life and I’m sorry I couldn’t really afford to keep you going a little while longer even though I know you could have made it at least another 100,000 miles. But I’m glad that in the end you’ll be going on to extend the life of some other people’s Corollas, helping them to be able to keep getting to work, keep hauling their loved ones around, and keep making new memories. You will be missed.

3 thoughts on “End of an Era (or Adventures in Selling a Car for Scrap)

  1. My 2000 Corolla finally gave up on me at 433,000+Km… burned out a valve and running on three cylinders. The car is in fantastic shape, due to my relentless babying of it, and would have loved for it to hit half-a-million km, but it was close enough. The car will be missed, but my new WRX STi that I’ve been saving for while driving the beloved Rolla will be a exhilarating. Great post, bud, and I will negotiate a fair price at the scrapyard based on your story. Cheers.
    RIP Corolla….

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