The Many Ways Car Talk Sells Your Car
Last week, Car Talk talked with Joe Hearn, the CEO of Advanced Remarketing Services, the company that handles the sale of each donated vehicle that comes in through our vehicle donation program. Joe pointed out that not everything in the vehicle donation world is as it seems: Some companies that handle donations also run used-vehicle auctions, and may not have the donor’s or charity's interest first in every case. (You can read that discussion, here.)
But, what happens when a car is donated through Car Talk? Here's the scoop!
Car Talk: So, how does ARS sell a donated car?
Joe: Well, after working for these other companies, I wanted to make sure our sales were focused on the station, not on making the most for the company handling the processing. So, I think of us as being totally oriented toward the donor, not the transaction. It’s a different mindset.
Because we’re not owned by an auction company, we’re totally liberated to take full advantage of every resale opportunity. We sell through over 500 different auctions nationally and about 1,500 direct buyers—these are dealers and dismantlers. In most markets we can get competing bids for our cars – not just a price from one auction house. That's really important when it comes to getting the most for each vehicle.
Auctions take place anywhere from twice a week to twice a month, depending on the location, our direct sales take place all day, every day.
When a high-value car comes in, we’ll sometimes sell it directly on eBay or through another channel. Because we can’t be at every location at every moment, we use a variety of vehicle inspection services. They’ll check out the car, and take photos for us, as a first step.
All of these advantages make a big difference. In some markets, we are getting 15 percent to 20 percent more for vehicles than the larger “captured” auction houses.

Advanced Remarketing Services' sales efforts are focused on the charities they're working with.
Car Talk: How do you set a price?
Joe: I could talk for hours about the analytics! It’s one of my favorite topics.
Car Talk: Um, some other time?
Joe: Okay, I won’t bore you. Our entire system is very focused on the market and resale prices. We’re constantly evaluating trends and recent sales from all points of sale, to get the best value for our charities. Before the tow truck even arrives, we already know which channel we’re going to sell the vehicle.

General Manager Kelly Furtado and associate Kim Smith use an in-house database that tracks both previous sale prices and current sales to determine the best sale option for a car that's just been donated.
Car Talk: And when the tow truck does arrive?
Joe: When the driver arrives, we’ll get photographs, and a condition report. We get that immediately. We’ll then double-check our anticipated sale price, and often set a minimum sale price. We may even approve repairs to the car, or special handling like cosmetic fixes and detailing, if it’s going to an auction. We can also designate it for a “drive through.”
Car Talk: Stop right there. What's a "Drive Through"? Are we ordering burgers and fries?
Joe: Not exactly. A “Drive Through” happens at a vehicle auction. Most cars sit on the lot, and buyers walk around and inspect the vehicles. You can pay extra to have the car driven past the buyers during the auction, so they can see that it’s running well, and in great condition. In the right circumstances, it’s definitely worth it.
Car Talk: Who are the more common buyers for a donated vehicle?
Joe: There are three groups: the direct buyers at an auction, the dismantlers, and eBay shoppers. The very best vehicles, we sell via eBay. The next best go to auction, and the bottom tier are sold to dismantlers.
Car Talk: Dismantlers. These are the guys named Bruno who rip the cars apart with their bare hands?
Joe: Maybe when Tom and Ray were kids, but not anymore! They’ll first pull any parts they can resell, which go into a database of available parts. Then, hazardous materials like oil and antifreeze are safely drained. Finally, the car is crushed and shredded.
Here’s a neat fact about cars a lot of folks don’t know: They’re the single most heavily recycled consumer product. The amount of steel recycled from retired vehicles in the United State is just about exactly the same as the amount of steel that goes into all of the new cars made here.

Auto Recycling in action! Don't try this at home, please.
Car Talk: What's the most common question you get from donors?
Joe: Our most common question is about the title transfer of a donated vehicle. Because of varying state rules, it’s easy to get confused about how the title is handled.
Car Talk: So, how does it work?
Joe: In our case, vehicle donors sign the title over to ARS as agent for Car Talk Vehicle Donation Services. 
Car Talk: So, who’s responsible if the car slips off the tow truck and rolls though the McDonald’s on the corner?
Joe: Us! With thousands of cars being towed, Murphy’s Law says that someone will dent a fender sooner or later. This is another reason why the title is signed over to ARS. It is our responsibility, and the station has one less headache. 
Car Talk: What's the most memorable donation ever?
Joe: We recently had a rare 1965 Mercedes two-seater convertible that was donated. We sold it on eBay, and New Mexico Public Radio made over $9,500 from that single gift! 
Car Talk: What do you do in your free time?
Joe: I love to surf. I ski a lot, and I spend a lot of time working on my 160-year-old home in Newport, Rhode Island. And, I like doing projects and giving back. I’ve volunteered on projects in Southeast Asia, South America, Africa and Haiti for Habitat for Humanity and NPH Orphanages.
A generous donor, a great gift -- and $9,500 to New Mexico Public Radio!