John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/23/17 10:30 p.m.

EDIT: this car I originally bought in late 2017 is now again for sale in early 2019


If you have been following along, I have recently been buying some lightly damaged cars out of the local Salvage Auction.  These have all been car that have been "financially totaled" meaning that the insurance company would rather just pay off the customer than fix the car.  


Montero and Avalon which were both "totals" and I put each back on the road with zero dollars spent.   I kept both these cars putting the Avalon into the business and the Montero as a personal car.

2 Subaru Legacy. One needed nothing to be approved and just a few dollars in general maint.  The other, dark green, needed a headlight.  Both of these Subarus were sold to GRM'ers at super bargains.  

The most recent acquisition is a 2007 Ford Focus ZX5.  Moderately equipped with auto trans, power windows and locks with clicker.  Cruise control and AC.  Height adjustable cloth seat.  128k miles.  

State Farm said the car was worth $3,774 before the accident.  The accident is that the car was rear ended.  This seems to have left a plastic rear bumper that is scratched.  Also in the accident the rear-most muffler hanger was broken.  In the auction pictures you can see that the previous owner had wired the tailpipe up to keep it in place.  Should be noted that everything from the cat back is non-factory mufflers but this is a good sign or in other words, the muffler system does not have 128k miles on it.  I have since replaced the rear muffler hanger.  The bumper is scratched and will remain scratched.  

The insurance company estimated that a new bumper with paint matched exterior and replaced structural bar underneath, along with muffler work was needed.  Add to this the probability of price over runs and rental car for the owner while it is in the shop and State Farm was just happier to pay the customer the $3,774 rather than fix it.  

Here is what I have in the car:

  • $803 total purchase price from auction
  • $48 for tow dolly rental
  • $18.50 for temp tag
  • $53.50 State inspection
  • $46 for oil change and muffler fab
  • $18 for new hatch support struts (just maint, not accident damage)
  • $100 more in sales tax and title fees since I am not a dealer

$1087 in the whole car.

If I put the car up on CL I'll ask $2,500 with $2k being my bottom number.



The car has what appear to be recent floor mats from Auto Nation Ford in Westlake, OH.  The oil change sticker was still within the mile range and was also from this dealership.  The title gives me both State Farm who I bought it from but also the previous owner's name.  This was a sort of unique name from North Ridgeville, OH and FB takes me to...  

I then called Auto Nation Ford, asked for service dept and then explained I just bought a car that I know was serviced there and if I gave them the VIN could they tell me the services performed.  

Came into the dealership in Aug of 2016 with 121k miles.  At that time they put on:

  • 4 tires (Nice Goodyears with build dates of 11th week of '16 {1116})
  • New battery which I can clearly see the sticker of 8-16
  • New right top engine mount which are known to be prone to failure on these and this one has a sticker on it that says Genuine Ford Replacement Part
  • New Front pads and rotors

Car was sold in Sept of 2016 to this previous owner with 121k miles.  Since the sale, it had an oil change back at the dealership.  The auction website pictures are date stamped 11-14-17 and these pictures are usually taken right when the car arrives.  Before arriving at auction the car was likely still being driven by the PO while estimates were done and payout checks were exchanged, etc.  That was probably a couple of weeks so my guess is that the accident happened in late Oct '17.

Bought in Sept '16 and hit in Oct '17 or 13 months later.  In this 13 months the recent highschool grad who is attending Community College put a whopping 7k miles on the car.  I'll bet this nice suburban family paid about $5k-$7k to put their princess in a safe car.  I'll also bet the dealership gave oil change coupons in an attempt to keep the customer coming back and to keep the ability to gain more dollars out of them for future work.    Now the car gets some scratches and I'll bet the $3,774 they got paid was just enough (or not enough) to pay off the remainder of their outstanding loan.   


New tires, new brakes, new battery, more recent muffler and generally neat and clean car (with a scratched bumper.)  What I like most about the "salvage" cars is that these are not cars like you find on CL.  On CL a cheap car is usually someone trying to unload a car with a ton of problems.  These "salvage" cars have an easily defined problem that took them off the road (in this cas some rear bumper damage) but they seem to be regular, well running cars otherwise.  I am also seeking out cars that seem to have been tended to or cared for.  

Here's a photo dump with lots attention given to the rear bumper where you will notice that it is cosmetic only and only slightly cosmetic at that.  


Screenshots from auction website:


From when I brought the car home.  Notice muffler is "wired-up".   Scratches seems extreme in this pic but some of that is just dirt.


Current muffler with hanger replaced.  Scratches remain but now clean.  The bumper is sort of 3-ribbed.  The top rib has no scratches.  The middle rib most notably has two vertical scratches.  The 3rd rib which curves to really be somewhat under the car has the most scratches.   My guess is that the recently replaced front pads and rotors did a good job of stopping quickly but as the nose dove down and the rear end lifted up, the car from behind didn't have as good of brakes and slid right under the Focus giving those scratches to that lowest rib of the bumper which was the elevated pretty high.  

Battery sticker of 8-16


Top engine mount with fresh Ford Sticker.  






According to this tripometer, I had driven the car 69 miles so far as of yesterday.  The car totally drives exactly like a well maintained Ford Focus.  Everything works as should.  No lights, no shakes, no shutters.  


Don't count on PM to work.  I can be reached directly at

Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/23/17 11:47 p.m.

Sending this to a friend. I may be messaging on it. This is right up his alley sadly. A 45 minute trip between Tampa and Orlando on I-4 in my modded Miata had him grabbing for the dash a few times, so spirited does not describe his driving style. cheeky

eastsideTim UltraDork
12/24/17 7:09 a.m.

I'm guessing it shows as a rebuilt title?  Probably not a problem, but curious.  Also, if you get the chance, any underbody pics? 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/24/17 7:53 a.m.

It will show as a rebuilt title. That state recertification happens on Jan 29th at 10:45am. 

By local standards, it has "normal rust". Sure that is more than 4 hrs south in Cincinnati but not horrible and no where near   dangerous. 

However, to Mr Lee, spend a $1k more and find a rust free Orlando version and you'll be much happier. 

russ_mill New Reader
12/24/17 8:07 a.m.

Are you going to keep doing this when you have time? I ask because you’re close to me, and you seem to have a great eye for saving reliable cars that are going to be sent to the junk heap. And my plan this winter/fall is to actually get some garage space, and then move my car order around so I’ll have a fast(ish) summer car and a regular beater DD.  So while I’m not ready for my DD yet, I should be in a few months. 

So yes, that was a novel to ask if I can expect to see more bargains from you lol. 

Patrick MegaDork
12/24/17 8:28 a.m.

Yes.  I may too when there are too many for john to deal with 

Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/24/17 8:58 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

He's got to pass right now anyway. 4 kids and Christmas or something. laugh

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/24/17 10:08 a.m.

In reply to russ_mill :

There'll be more. On the week I won this car there were two others I had bid on also.  

eastsideTim UltraDork
12/26/17 10:39 a.m.
John Welsh said:

It will show as a rebuilt title. That state recertification happens on Jan 29th at 10:45am. 

By local standards, it has "normal rust". Sure that is more than 4 hrs south in Cincinnati but not horrible and no where near   dangerous. 

However, to Mr Lee, spend a $1k more and find a rust free Orlando version and you'll be much happier. 

Does that mean it can’t be retitled until the end of Jan?

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/26/17 4:21 p.m.

Oops. Dec 29. This Friday. Will be titled for the road in less than 3 days from now. 

eastsideTim UltraDork
12/27/17 2:34 p.m.

Lots of ifs here, but if you don’t have it sold locally, and can get a few underbody photos, and maybe underhood  of the strut tower area, and if you are still picking up a car in Middletown, and can meet there on Saturday morning or so, let me know.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/28/17 4:54 p.m.

In reply to eastsideTim :

I hate to be that guy, but for now, I have decided to keep the Focus.  

This past Saturday I lent the car to my SIL and her two 20-something daughters who flew in from various places for the holiday.  I just got the car back today, about 5 days later, and it has over 200 more miles on it.  These 3 ladies have all driven it and none of them have complained at all about the car.  (It should be noted that this is a crowd who would be quick to complain if there was a reason.)  I know the Focus made at least one 1hr there and 1hr back run to the airport.  

The car is not perfect for my business needs of medical transport since it is a little small but I am heading into the busy season and a spare car would be wise.  Especially a car that is completely solid and ready to go.  This is one of the nicer $800 cars I have bought this year.  Mostly nice because it does not need another $800 to be spent after buying it.    I'll keep buying other bargains that I find at the insurance auction so if I find something more appropriate for the business then I'll sell the Focus then.  

At this time, my plan still is to head to Middletown on Saturday Noon to buy a secret running, driving 300+ hp, rwd, 5 speed manual car complete with coilovers and a nitrous kit for Challenge dollars.  It could be a spectical if you are in the area.  I will not have the Focus with me.   

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/28/17 5:47 p.m.

What I like most about this grey Focus is it's very good overall condition.  However, cheap Focuses are not uncommon.  

Upcoming this week at the local auction is another Focus, this time a red '06 Focus ZX5 which also appears to just have cosmetic bumper damage.  

Lots of scratches on the top side of the bumper.  Also, what looks like a gouge in the plastic just above the tail pipe.  A slight bumper droop creating a larger gap where the plastic meets the metal in the area just under the ZX5 badge.   The vertical seam/gap between the hatch and the side panel looks a little altered also but probably doesn't affect the functionality.  

Has a buy-it-now price of $450 which is $710 with fees.  State Farm valued the vehicle at $3,728 in pre-accident condition but also said it has $3,776 in damage if all the repairs were done and all were done at body shop rates.  

This Friday, tomorrow is Inspection day for this Tuesday Auction since Monday is a holiday.  If I can find the time tomorrow, I'm gonna look at this one too.  

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/28/17 6:19 p.m.

Here are other items of light damage on my watchlist for this week:  


4dr and 4x4  with rear bumper hit

Jobsite utility with rear bumper hit

Leather extended cab shows super light hit on pass side but claims to not start?  

I don't see roof or front damage that they claim. State Farm says $6k value with over $3k damage???

Wrinkle in the hood and gouge/scrap in the plastic bumper. Maybe an englarged gap between hood and pass fender though hard to tell with hood not closed.  Claiming over $5k damage to would have been $7k valued car

eastsideTim UltraDork
12/28/17 8:07 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

No worries.  I’m not too worried about getting something decent for him, but he’s getting antsy, so I’m going to try to have something bought this weekend or next week, so I can get it transferred to him on a week from Saturday (work schedules keep us from getting to the bmw during the week).  

Biggest problem I’m running into is filtering out the curbstoners on the “owners” section of CL who are floating titles on cars they buy and jack up the price on.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/29/17 4:20 p.m.

I went today on a super cold day. Here are my thoughts... 

4dr and 4x4  with rear bumper hit

Not for me. A good looking exterior but a pretty trashed interior.  The hit means it won't tow and tow ratings on these are low like 4k. Super small bed. 

Jobsite utility with rear bumper hit

Remove the rusted bumper and I think this could still tow. Personally, I get more use out of an extended cab but it would be cool to have a SD!  Former AT&T truck.  If this stays under $2k, I might bid on it. I could get some personal use and still sell later w/o loosing money

Leather extended cab shows super light hit on pass side but claims to not start?  

I did not see this one. It was at the other lot and I was short on time.  I'm concerned about the statement of not running and missing parts. 

I don't see roof or front damage that they claim. State Farm says $6k value with over $3k damage???

This is ultra nice. The roof has a dent on either side near the rain rail. It looks like damage you would get from over tightening a Thule type rack that hugs the drip rail. The reality is that something round like a pipe fell on the roof. I found the owners registration information in the glove box. One owner since '07 from the Brooklyn area of Cleveland. Google leads me to a phone number. I'll call them before bidding but other than a roof dent the car is exceptional.  

Wrinkle in the hood and gouge/scrap in the plastic bumper. Maybe an englarged gap between hood and pass fender though hard to tell with hood not closed.  Claiming over $5k damage to would have been $7k valued car. 

Hood won't open. More damage than initially thought. Both fenders are pushed outward


The red Focus looked like slight rear damage but the trunk pan is pushed in to where the spare tire does not sit flat in the well and the result is the carpeted cargo floor does not sit flat either. Seems to have been a fatty who owned it based on the overly bent drivers seat and busted center console/arm rest also. Pass. 


Edit: I later bought that Jobsite Utility, F250 Super Duty

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/19/19 5:10 p.m.

14 months and 25,000 miles later I have decided to sell this Focus, again.  

Asking about the same as before ($200 less.)  

Significant GRM discount available! 

Listed on CL today


P3PPY Reader
2/19/19 6:53 p.m.

HAHA this thread was so confusing at first. Is there a way to edit the top post to say the gist of the most recent post; "car for sale again in 2019"

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/19/19 7:21 p.m.

In reply to P3PPY :

Easy enough.  

This posting is a little odd because it was intended to be a flipped vehicle so the original posting was sort of a classified but then it grew to be sort of a build thread as well.  

I make these kind of threads mostly for myself as a place to cronical my adventures with the cars.  Reviewing this thread was also good for me when writting the new CL ad because it gives me an easy place to see how many miles were on the car when I bought it and how long ago.  Also to see what has been done to the car since.  

dculberson UltimaDork
2/19/19 9:37 p.m.

Dang, man, 25,000 miles and you're likely still going to make some money on the car. Well bought, and put to good use.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/23/19 11:14 a.m.

In reply to dculberson :

I put the Focus up on CL Tues. By Friday, I had my pick of two people wanting to give me $2k from the $2,300 asking price.

Meanwhile  I had a very busy Friday so it wasn't until this morning (Saturday ) that we finished up the cash and title swap.

All in, even with new tires, an alternator and some other small repairs over the course of 14 months, I had about $1,500 into the car (purchase price and repairs). That means 25k miles and still a $500 profit. 

Cha ching! 

This Focus really hasn't been driven much since the purchase of this Mercury Milan

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