The Salvation Army comes into possession of vehicles through donations. Sometimes these are vehicle that the owners no longer have any need, for any number of reasons and are in reasonably good condition. Sometimes they are vehicles that are damaged or mechanically unsound and the previous owners have elected not to repair them, sell or trade them. They have decided to donate the vehicle to get a tax deduction for charitable contribution.
In the state in which I live a vehicle cannot be sold to the public if that vehicle does not pass smog and safety standards. When the Salvation Army gets a vehicle that does not pass smog, they sell that vehicle to a dealer who will either repair the vehicle to meet smog and safety standards or will resell the car to a wholesaler.
Tip#1 Most used car buyers are aware that when buying a used vehicle they are going to have to make an investment into the car to get it into excellent operating condition. Before buying a used car you should first drive the vehicle, both on the street and on the freeway. Make sure that you like the way the car drives, that it accelerates well and stops well. Check the car for any visible damage. Check both under the hood and inside the trunk. If the car has been in an accident, telltale signs sometimes show up in those places. Look for mismatched paint on the exterior of the vehicle. If a car has been repaired with Bondo, leave it on the lot.
If you have a mechanic that you trust, have them inspect the vehicle before your purchase. They will usually charge you a small fee to do this, but it will be worth it. You will know what needs to be done to the vehicle to get it into excellent running condition and the approximate cost of the repairs. He can also put the car on a rack and check it for frame damage.
Tip#2 When you visit the lot for the first time take a pad and pen with you. Make a note of the mileage and the VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number). You will need the VIN number to run a Carfax report. There is a small charge for these, but it is worth the small fee to make sure the vehicle has not been in a flood and water damaged.
High mileage cars are worthless to a dealer because they cannot get the car financed. These are the cars that you see advertised “As Is, All Cash, No Warranty” If you are looking at a car that has a lot of miles,subtract the model year from the current year and divide that number into the miles, IE. 2011-1998= 13 years 13/100,000=7693 miles per year. The average mileage is between 10,000 and 15,000 miles so,this vehicle should show less wear and tear mechanically and in the interior. Keep in mind that vehicles have been known to remain useful with good maintenance for 300,000 to 400,000 miles, but this is not usual.
Tip#3 The cars sold by the Salvation Army will have an asking price. These prices are negotiable within reason. Many times the vehicle age will be older than what you will find in Kelly Blue Book. Pricing for cars older than 20 years can be found online at NADAguides.com priced as classic cars. If you’ve followed my suggestions and feel comfortable that the car will serve you well, negotiate in good faith for a price that is worth it to you. Remember this will not have any commercially marketable value, so its price is your best offer.
Following these tips will take some of the uncertainty out of buying a used vehicle from the Salvation Army. Good Luck.