Saturday, December 6, 2008

This is what a free Miata looks like

It's not very pretty, but it sure is easy on the wallet. I've put quite a bit of time into stripping the car and selling off parts in the last two months. In the process, I've learned quite a bit of how Mazda builds cars. I had some friends offer to help strip the whole car in an afternoon, but I wanted to go slow and learn as much as I could. I'm glad I did.

Aside from the advantage of labeling everything, stripping the car by myself has given me the opportunity to ponder how I'm going to address each of the hundreds of things a car needs to go down the road. This is especially true for the little things, like keeping the OBD-II and Mazda diagnostic connectors or ditching the switch for dimming the dash lights.

I've updated my project cost excel spreadsheet (see the "Donor Vehicle" tab) to reflect the parts sell off, in case you want more information.

So for all those that are tackling the same task, a few thoughts about my experience:
  • Screw Ebay/PayPal - Their fees have gotten so high and their feedback system so crummy that it's not worth selling anything but the most desirable components online. For a $15 item, Ebay/PayPal took over $3. That's more than 20%, kids. And now that sellers can't post negative feedback on buyers I'm sure scammers will run the place into the ground. I guess I'm not the only one who thinks so.
  • Tough it out and sell on CraigsList - Sure you'll have the occasional doofus, money-order scammer or time-sucking tire-kicker, but you won't pay any fees and you'll always get (mostly) scam-free cash. It's not all bad, as I've found that most Miata folks are pretty nice people. And I had a cool conversation with the guy who was going to use the roll hoops from my donor to trick out his vintage-racer MGA.
  • Flat rate shipping is your friend - The USPS offers three sizes of flat rate boxes that allow you to ship stuff up to 70 lbs. to anywhere in the US. You can make a little more by boxing and shipping Ebay parts the traditional way, but it makes things so much simpler that I just couldn't justify the extra time. The postal service will also allow you to order the boxes online and will ship them to your door for free. Easy-peasy, Japanesey.
  • Take good pictures - People will pay more for items when they're sure what they're getting. Pictures that are well-lit, clear and that focus on important details are worth the effort. Which would you rather buy?
  • Be honest - It's easier to let it all out and just wait for a buyer than to go into used-car-salesman mode. Besides, I sold a lot of parts to "repeat" buyers who bought multiple items after inquiring about a single item for sale.
  • Sell low - There's enough value in even a wrecked Miata to get back your investment in all but the most overpriced donor. It's taken me quite a while to get past the "I must get every last cent for every part" mentality. In the end, I decided this project was about building a car and not selling parts.
Even though I'm at the break-even point, I plan on selling off as much as I can. I'm really curious to see how much of the project Winky will fund. Still, I'm anxious to get the stripped hulk out of my garage so I can park my daily driver in a warmer spot for the winter. My goal is to start my build table project sometime in the Spring. I plan on spending the winter measuring parts, modeling in CAD and designing the suspension.

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