There comes a time in every person’s life when he (or she) wonders what happened to his (or her) old cars. You’ll be sitting at the dinner table, eating away, and a thought will strike you: I wonder what happened to my (or thine) old cars. But you will have no way to get an answer, so you will just assume they are being used to commit violent felonies.
Well, ladies (or gentlemen), today I come to you with a way to figure out exactly what happened to your old cars. And all it requires is your old VIN numbers and forty-five bucks.
Here’s how it works: for forty-five bucks, you can sign up for an unlimited subscription to “AutoCheck,” which is one of those services that provides vehicle history reports to used car shoppers. What’s supposed to happen is, you type in the VIN of the car you’re considering, and then AutoCheck tells you that it was crashed, and stolen, and the odometer was rolled back, and oh by the way it was found upside down in a rural Mississippi field after Hurricane Katrina, and there were a bunch of raccoons living inside it. And then you don’t buy the car, and you save money, and stress, and aggravation, and your bald spot disappears, and you get a promotion at work, and your CD player finally ejects that Michael Buble album that’s been stuck in there for weeks, all thanks to AutoCheck.
But AutoCheck has a dual purpose: you can also use it to find out what happened to every old car you’ve ever owned, provided that it had a 17-digit VIN.
I wrote about this automotive phenomenon once before, about two years ago. Back then, I told you that if you saved your old VINs, and kept them somewhere safe, and ensured that nothing could possibly happen to them, like a mother bird with a nest made of the strongest twigs, that you, too, could be like me: a crazed automotive stalker who checks on his old cars every six months.
But I’ve decided to re-report on this excellent tool for two reasons. Number one: to enlighten a whole new generation of Jalopnik readers who may not have read my last column on the subject. And number two: so I could buy an unlimited AutoCheck subscription and write it off as a tax-deductible business expense.
So today I’m reporting on what happened to a few of my old cars, for those of you interested in seeing the kind of information you can find out. If anyone else decides to run AutoCheck reports on their old cars, please feel free to let me know in the comments, where I promise to un-gray you for all eternity, or at least until next week. Here goes.
2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon: Destroyed
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my Cadillac CTS-V Wagon was destroyed. Not just destroyed like you might destroy a cardboard box if you repeatedly smash it with a hockey stick. I mean destroyed. Like in that vice presidential debate where Dan Quayle said he had “as much experience as John Kennedy,” and Lloyd Bentsen looked at him and replied: “Son, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. And now I must pause this debate to take a Metamucil.”
For those of you who weren’t around during my first few months at Jalopnik, I bought this car to write about before any Ferraris, or Hummers, or Skylines. It was my very first “what car should I buy and write about,” and I really got my money’s worth. I drove it across the country, all the way to Pebble Beach, and then back. I took it on the Bonneville Salt Flats; to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon; up the Pacific Coast Highway. I took it to Aspen, Salt Lake City, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
And then I sold it to a guy who crashed it into a tree.
Here’s what happened: he fell asleep. He ran off the road, he hit the tree, and the car ended up looking like it does in the above photo, which he sent me a few days later. AutoCheck says my old CTS-V got a salvage title on March 5, 2014, less than 90 days after I sold it, and there hasn’t been a single update since. Probably because they’re still trying to extract bark from the combustion chambers.
2001 Toyota Prius: Un-Destroyed
When I first started writing for Jalopnik, I owned a 2001 Toyota Prius with fairly substantial rear end damage. Actually, “fairly substantial” is an understatement. The car looked like it had been rear-ended on the highway by a blue whale.
Why did you own this car? you might ask. Well, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a reason: I saw an opportunity. A friend of mine owned the car in Atlanta, and then he moved to New York City, where he had no need for any Prius, let alone one that looked like someone had attacked the rear end with an industrial forklift.
So I bought it from him, and I took the title, and I assured him I would keep it safe, and then a few days later I put it on Craigslist. And after a few weeks, I sold it to a nice young college student from Nashville, Tennessee, who promptly crashed it.
Or did he? Initially, the vehicle history reports showed an accident, but recently they’ve been amended to display no such thing. So what’s the truth? What really happened to the Prius? What’s the answer to this mystery? And more importantly, does anyone really care?
The Cross-Country Elise
As you know if you’ve read my book, and by God you should’ve, I once drove across the entire United States in a Lotus Elise. Sometimes, people ask me about this adventure, and I always tell them the same thing: in California, I realized it was a bad idea. In Nevada, I realized it was a terrible idea. And somewhere in Kansas, right about the time I got hit in the face with a piece of road debris, I realized it was the single worst idea I had ever had; worse even than the time I smashed into that tree four days after I picked up my brand-new Porsche 911 company car.
After I owned my Elise for six months, I sold it in December 2011 with about 30,000 miles on the odometer to a local guy in Atlanta. About a year later, I was driving to work one morning, and I saw it: my Elise, cruising down the highway next to me, in the middle lane. The owner had no idea it was me, but I gazed at the car longingly and recalled my trip, and recalled my memories with the car, and recalled my ownership experience, and recalled my excitement when I bought it, and I thought to myself: I am so fucking glad I’m not driving that thing anymore.
AutoCheck says my Elise eventually ended up in Abilene, Texas, where a reader sent me a photo of it parked at a hair salon. But that’s not the crazy part. The crazy part is that it has more than 66,000 miles. Sixty six thousand miles. In an Elise. I hope the owner wears butt padding.
So there you go, ladies and gentlemen: a sample of what you can learn about your old cars if you can just find your VIN numbers. And all it costs to satisfy your curiosity is forty-five bucks. Or a little less, if you plan to write it off.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.