If you are like us, you probably don’t have a lot of extra cash to dump into a Jeep nowadays. We feel your pain. However, with dwindling funds and ever increasing debt loads, opportunity still knocks. Despite an upside-down economy and high unemployment rates, the crafty Jeeper can still score big on a used ride. In times like these, a little cash in hand goes a long way. The secret to getting a good deal is patience—and a good knack for negotiation. Many Jeeps are secondary vehicles, and when times get tough, these unessential rigs are first to go.
Stover paid just $600 for this ’87 YJ in running condition. It was hiding out amongst several other unclaimed vehicles at a Watsonville, California, tow yard. The previous owner couldn’t afford the tow bill and storage fees were racking up. Stover happened by and noticed it sitting neglected under a thick layer of dust. The owner of the tow truck company had completed a lien sale on the rig and was simply looking to recoup his investment. So, using Stover’s newly acquired ’87 YJ pile as a guide, here are some examples to help you identify and negotiate a good deal on a beater that’s actually worth your time.
Where To Find a Beater
Local Law Enforcement: Virtually every city has a channel to liquidate vehicles that were abandoned, seized during crime investigations, or were involved in hit and runs. This is typically where you can find a Jeep that belonged to some poor sap who couldn’t afford auto insurance or got nailed for DUI, or some other type of criminal activity. This venue can also render vehicles that get retired from municipal service pools such as parking enforcement.
Public Auctions: A simple Google search will expose multiple auction companies that sell off unwanted fleets of vehicles each month. Typically, these are well attended by people who know about them or businesses that specialize in reselling such used vehicles. However, deals are out there and the whole auction experience can be quite entertaining. It’s a fun way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
Tow Companies: Every city has a tow truck company that is responsible for removing broken down, abandoned, or crashed vehicles from public areas. Simply dropping in to see what is available can net impressive results.
Copart, Craigslist, eBay, and Others: To those of you with computers, the web is literally filled with unbelievable deals on vehicles that others need to sell. The key is consistent searching and prompt follow-up. We have friends who regularly scour such websites for Jeeps, and typically they are the folks who score the best deals.
Negotiation Tips From a Pro
We spoke with friend who is a current car salesman to learn how to play the negotiation game. These tips only apply to situations where the price is actually negotiable. Here is what he had to say.
Act Nonchalant: Above all, conduct yourself as if you could care less about owning the vehicle in question. Showing excitement about finding a pristine Jeep free of rust, or with a particular option will clue the seller in that he has the upper hand.
Appear Uninterested: Maintain a neutral facial expression at all times. A good salesman will watch for facial expressions to see how badly you want the vehicle. A stone-cold face tells the seller that you have other options and that he better drop the price or you will move on.
Silence Is Golden: Once you’ve given the vehicle a good look-over, keep your thoughts to yourself. Look the seller in the eye and say nothing. Awkward silence usually prompts the seller to divulge additional information about the condition of the vehicle or how low he can drop the price. You’ll be amazed what sixty seconds of silence can do.
Maintain Your Out: If you don’t think you are getting the best deal possible, don’t let an anxious seller bully you into the deal. Remember, you are the guy with the money. If the deal isn’t sweet enough for you, simply tell the buyer “This isn’t going to work for me.” This statement leaves no room for argument and gently tells the seller to come back to the table with a better offer.
Purchase Complete, Now What?
Once you get the vehicle home, take a day or two to clean it up. Remove discarded items from between the seats and under the carpet. Drain and change any fluids that you feel might be compromised. Check the distributor cap and spark plugs for obvious signs of neglect. Replace only the essential items that might inhibit the vehicle’s ability to get you home. Take it out for a weekend off-road adventure in stock form. Wheeling a stocker allows you to understand the vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses quickly. It also helps you identify where to invest money and time first. Keep a list in the glovebox documenting what issues need to be addressed and in what order. Spend your energy on the items that net functional results. Don’t bother with making it look cool by adding bolt-on accessories. Until the rig’s reliability is well known, concentrate on making it mechanically sound. We see so many guys blow hard-earned cash on billet-aluminum doo-dads rather than the important stuff like the suspension and steering, charging system, differentials, and brakes. Keep some extra cash around for any unforeseen issues that may come up. Beater vehicles have a tendency of surprising you with costs above and beyond what you plan for. Hold off on modifications that are not essential and feel out the rig’s reliability.