I have been offered a free car.


After pricing insurance & DC titling information, I decided to pass on the car. All I’d use it for anyway would be runs to the suburbs for giant tubs of cat litter, right?


I have a dilemma.

I have been offered a car. Free.

I have been offered a free car.

Just, in case you missed it: FREE. CAR.

It doesn’t run because it needs a radiator (been sitting in a parking lot for six months). It’s also on its second clutch, and I’m not always easy on my clutches. It would have to pass DC inspection before I could register it in the District. I would also have to purchase insurance.

It’s a twenty year old Infinity G20. Stick shift. 250,000 miles. Basically, a perfect beater for city living. I mean, I’d probably only use it for picking up cat litter in Bethesda and running up to the burbs to visit my folks.

The guy making the offer works with me. He bought it specifically for a cross-country trip from California, and it passed an emissions test in Pennsylvania last year. The previous owner bought it new and used it to drive back and forth to and from work.

He’s been considering donating it for the tax benefit, but he’ll just be happy to be rid of it.

The pros: I could acquire a car for cheap. Even though it’s free, I’d still pay out $400 for the radiator and labor. Folks on Twitter are telling me registration, licensing, and permit ran them around $200 (but I think they had registration transferred from Maryland or Virginia), but I think somewhere there’s some ridiculous tax. Although, if the tax is based on purchase price, I’d be set – even 100% of zero is still zero, right?

The cons: Would I use it enough to justify however much I’d spend getting it running and legal? Would I be justifying the cost in insurance? Worse – would I use it as an excuse not to walk as much as I usually do?

Also: could I justify NAMING this car? Like, putting paint on it that would say HMS Beater? (I wouldn’t really name it “Beater”, though, and points to anyone who can figure out the HMS).

7 thoughts on “I have been offered a free car.

  1. I’d suggest getting a quote on insurance before you even buy it to see how much that will cost. It is really easy to get a quote now on any insurance companies website. Insurance in DC can be expensive but since the car is so old and you’d probably only get liability on it, it probably wouldn’t be too bad.

    There are going to be hidden maintenance costs though. I mean it may only need a Radiator now but it has 250,000 miles on it. Things are going to start going wrong with it. It might be worth it to see if your friend would allow you to get in inspected before you made the decision. Last time I took a car to a mechanic to get it inspected it cost me $50, that was many years ago though so it may have gone up. They should then be able to tell you if there is anything else wrong with it that you would need to get fixed for it to pass inspection.

  2. Provided you can get your own mechanic to check it out before you take title to it, it’d be a great convenience particularly on weekends just for errands. (UNless you already use Zipcar, in which case you’d just have to weigh the respective costs). But the other thing is once you own a car, you find yourself doing more car things than before, more trips around and out of town.

  3. I paid over $500 to register a car I paid $500 (thanks, mom!) for two years ago. Now, apparently, I’ve accumulated a couple of parking tickets, and then forgot to pay them, and my car is now booted and sitting in an impound lot. I have to pay another $200 to get it out of there. I hate cars. BUT GOOD LUCK!

    But for real, if you don’t have to deal with street parking in Logan Circle on a regular basis, it’s not a bad idea. The freedom is nice.

  4. 200 for registration? Where does that magic number exist??

    I paid over 1200 for tax and registration when I transfered the car I bought from my folks into my name and registered in DC. Not based on purchase price (I bought mine for a buck from my folks) – it might be kely blue book value? Regardless, it’s a rip off.

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