Finding Your Dream Car on a Budget

Everybody wants a cool car. Who hasn’t passed a sweet set of wheels sitting in a parking lot or by the curbside and thought, “You know, I would look good in the driver’s seat of that.” But then you see the price, and inevitably that thought melts into a pool of disappointment. Barring an unlikely lottery win, you feel like that roadster will never be sitting in your driveway.

However, there is a saying: “When there is a will, there is a way,” and we know well that when there is a will to own a sports car, there is definitely a way. Many ways, in fact. If you want to buy a used sports car on a budget, you should look into auto auctions, and salvage titles.

Car auctions

If you have patience and an eye for autos, you should definitely look into auto auctions. Car auctions can happen in-person or online, and often include cars ranging from classic cuts to cutting-edge road monsters. Auto auctions range from public auctions (the format many people are familiar with) to government auctions, where a city, county, or state divests itself of a fleet of vehicles.

Both have their upsides and downsides, but if you enter the auction informed, with a strict budget in mind, they can be an easy way to snag a sweet car at a low price. But typically, as long as you set aside money for repairs and take time to learn a vehicle’s history, you can walk away with a car that you feel confident in. A little elbow grease can make a dollar stretch a long way.

But an unfortunate truth is that some people who sell at car auto auctions can be scammers. Ask any expert who works in the auction export business, and they’ll tell you that there are several practices to watch out for. Some sellers engage in “title washing,” where they buy a salvage car, fix it up, then title and re-title in several states. Because the car has been rescued from salvage, it has what’s known as a salvage title, which diminishes its value. Unscrupulous sellers re-title the car several times in the hopes that one state will lose track of the original title and issue a “clean” title. Then, that seller can sell the car for more money. The buyer, however, won’t be fully informed of the risk the vehicle carries with it.

Benefits of salvage titles

This isn’t to say you should never consider buying a car with a salvage title. If you work with a third-party dealer and have a trustworthy mechanic, they can protect you from the risks associated with such shady practices as those listed above. All a salvage title means is that repairs on a car will cost more than the value of the car. They do not necessarily mean that the car was destroyed and undrivable. Sometimes cosmetic repairs can be so expensive that they alone push the car into salvage territory.

Furthermore, there are steps you can take to remove the salvage title from a vehicle and replace it with a re-branded “rebuilt salvage” title. This involves several inspections and fees, but if you’re a gearhead, the process of rebuilding a car to its former glory can be a lot of fun. Rebuilt titles diminish a car’s resale value, but you shouldn’t look at any used sports car as a monetary investment. Instead, think of it as a way to treat yourself, as a reward for your hard work and love for the road.