My fiancée recently got a job, but doesn’t have a car. She’s been having her friends and me drive her. Not a big deal for us, but it would be good for her to be have her own car. Despite a very limited budget, I started looking around at used cars. Obviously I started with the cheap car mecca, Facebook Marketplace. There was a couple good options, but they sold before we could look at them. Then I started thinking more unconventionally. What about a salvage auction? I had a great car totaled by hail damage and I know that a little damage is enough to total a good car. To Copart I went! I started putting in low bids on a slew of cars. I didn’t expect many people to be buying salvage cars during this situation, but I was very wrong. I expected to have a good chance of winning a 1994 Geo Metro with light front end damage, but somehow it got bid up to $950 before fees. I then realized that the salvage auctions weren’t missing a beat and that they’re still as popular as ever. After that auction ended, I placed a bid on a boring silver Pontiac sedan with hail damage. I knew it was being sold by an insurance company (always preferred) and that the back window had a few holes from the hail. Beyond that, I didn’t look too closely. It was a low bid, $525, on a 2007 with 167k miles. The auction was the next day, so I expected to get outbid once the live auction started.
Except I didn’t.
I took lunch break at my job and checked my phone. I saw a notification from Copart. I immediately knew what happened: I’d won the auction. With a winning bid of $525, Shelter Insurance wanted to sell me their salvage Pontiac. After fees, the total came out $920 for a car that Copart said runs, drives, and has keys. Aside from a few pictures and the VIN, that’s almost all I knew about this car. After personally saying I would never buy a car without test driving it, here I was buying a salvage car sight unseen. After ordering my break food, I sat down to look at what I’d just gotten myself into. Obviously it had hail damage, but what something else wrong with it? When Copart says it runs and drives, all they do is start the engine and see if the car goes forwards and backwards. No drive around the lot or anything, just to see if the engine and transmission work just enough to move a few feet forward and back. This means the engine could be knocking like a Jehovah’s Witness or the transmission won’t shift out of 1st or a whole slew of issues. Full of worry of the unknown about the car I’d accidentally bought, I called my fiancée to let her know that she has a new car. She was excited, but just like me, she had no idea what we’d gotten into. I paid for the car through the Copart app, and got back to work. Once I was off for good, I looked through the pictures again and I noticed something. I knew the Grand Prix had the 3800, but as I looked closer, I realized something didn’t look right. Then, on the small low quality picture of the dusty dirty engine bay, I saw a word written in small script to left of the intake: Supercharged.
Not only had I accidentally bought a 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix, I only found out after I’d paid for it that I’d got the GT model, equipped with the legendary supercharged 3800.
After a long night of restless sleep, my fiancée and I prepared to drive over 2 hours to Kansas City and drive this car that we’d never seen before all the way back. We made it there with no issues and went into the Copart offices. It was a super simple and easy process and they told me the forklift would bring the car out shortly. I was like a kid waiting to get up on Christmas morning: the minutes of waiting passed like hours. Would it be a good car? Would it be a dud? Would it break down somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the way back?
Finally, the loader arrived and set down our new purchase. A quick walk-around revealed a few things I already knew and expected: the back window was busted, but thankfully had plastic wrap over it to keep out most of the weather. Additionally, the front windshield was shattered, but nothing dangerous. There were some good size hail dents, but fewer than I expected. Opening up the car, the interior was dirty but very solid, with no rips or tears in the leather and no cracks in the dashboard. The first good sign was that the interior lights came on. I popped the hood and checked the fluids and everything looked really good. I gave my fiancée the go ahead to start it. It cranked over a few times and then started right up. I fully expected to have to jump it, as most cars from Copart are dead when you get them. I then checked for warning lights and there was nothing, not even a low tire pressure light. I’d say we’re off to a good start. I put it in gear to make sure the transmission was good and handed the keys over to let my fiancée drive it around the parking lot. It ran, drove, and stopped just fine! So far so good. We switched cars and headed to the gas station and it did just fine.
It doesn’t make for a good story, but the rest of the trip back home had no issues, other than wind noise and bits of glass falling over bumps. It pulls hard, shifts smooth, and rides comfortably. Overall, no complaints at all and I’m sure it’ll be a good car for us for a long time.
For those who asked, I will have a post about the Copart buying experience and what it’s like coming soon.
TL;DR I accidentally bought a 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix sight unseen from a salvage auction and found out that it was supercharged after I paid for it and it made it 150 miles home without any issues.