The Salvation Army comes into possession of vehicles through donations. Sometimes these are vehicles that owners no longer need, for various reasons, and are in reasonably good condition. Sometimes they are damaged or mechanically defective vehicles and previous owners have chosen not to repair, sell or trade them. They have decided to donate the vehicle to get a charitable contribution tax deduction.
In the state I live in, a vehicle cannot be sold to the public if that vehicle does not meet pollution and safety standards. When the Salvation Army obtains a vehicle that does not pass smog, they sell it to a dealer who will either repair the vehicle to meet smog and safety standards or resell it to a wholesaler.
Tip No. 1 Most used car buyers are aware that when buying a used vehicle, they will have to make an investment in the car to keep it in excellent operating condition. Before buying a used car, you must first drive the vehicle, both on the street and on the highway. Make sure 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, sometimes telltale signs appear 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 you trust, ask them to 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 with the vehicle to keep it running in excellent condition and the approximate cost of repairs. You can also put the car on a roof rack and check for frame damage.
Tip No. 2 When you visit the lot for the first time, bring a notebook and a pen. Write down the mileage and VIN number (vehicle identification number). You will need the VIN number to run a Carfax report. There is a small charge for these, but the small fee is worth paying to make sure the vehicle has not been in a flood and has not suffered water damage.
High mileage cars are worthless to a dealer because they cannot finance the car. These are the cars you see listed “as is, all cash, no warranty” 2011-1998 = 13 years 13 / 100,000 = 7693 miles per year. Average mileage is 10,000-15,000 miles, so this vehicle should show less interior and mechanical wear. Note that vehicles are known to remain useful with good maintenance for 300,000 to 400,000 miles, but this is rare.
Tip No. 3 Cars sold by the Salvation Army will have a sale price. These prices are negotiable within reason. Many times the age of the vehicle will be older than what you will find in the Kelly Blue Book. Prices for cars over 20 years old can be found online at NADAguides.com with classic car prices. If you have followed my suggestions and feel confident that the car will serve you well, negotiate in good faith a price that is worth it to you. Remember that this will not have any marketable value, so your price is your best offer.
Following these tips will eliminate the uncertainty of buying a used Salvation Army vehicle. Good luck.