2004 Chevrolet Cavalier – The Drive‘s Daily Mileage Champion
70 repos, every single one of them from a financial bloodsucker that charges 25 percent monthly interest. This is the story of how one of those vehicles was used as a battering ram.
"Hello. Welcome to Titlemax! May I interest you in a title pawn today?"
Sal Maglie didn't have high expectations when it came to a career. First he cleaned dishes. Then he sold shoes. And then he found himself at Titlemax. The eight hundred pound gorilla of the title lending industry.
Most folks took about six to nine months to repay the loan which meant that Titlemax, about 80% of the time, was able to double or triple their money before expenses. As for the defaults, Titlemax had that covered too.
Most loans were for no more than 40% of the wholesale value of the vehicle. If a customer decided to not pay and not return their calls, Titlemax would assign a small repo operator to repossess the vehicle. Typically Titlemax paid $150 per vehicle and due to the fierce recession that was still in full swing during the spring of 2010, there was no shortage of repossessed vehicles in Titlemax's inventory.
There were usually three options with the reposessed vehicles. First, the owner could come to Titlemax, repay the entire loan amount off plus the cost of the repossession, and take back their vehicle. The only time that happened was when someone's mother or grandmother came to Titlemax with money in hand and for some reason, Sal would always get about one of these customers a week. The enabling mama or grandmama would act like she was the queen of the ghetto and the kid would act like a wanna-be thug.
Sal learned that the easiest way to flip somebody off was to simply say, "Have a nice day!"
The funny thing is Sal's daily driver, a pallid gray 1994 Mitsubishi Mirage, was far cheaper than nearly anything else that came to Titlemax. It was cheap in every respect you imagine. The tires were the cheapest you could buy. The dashboard was made of such cheap materials, that if you put your hand on it during a summer day, a blue residue would be on your fingers.
The tailpipe spewed out blue smoke after every stop light and the brakes let out screeches that made Sal think of fingernails on a chalkboard.
One morning, Sal's beater decided to blow a rod about a half mile away from Titlemax and without so much as blinking, Sal took off his license plate and let the car sit in the middle of traffic.
Hell, he hadn't even registered it the last three years. So Sal let the junkman have his way and went inside to ask the big question that every dirt poor employee or unrepentant cheapskate asks their manager in any business that has to do with cars.
"What do you have for a thousand bucks?"
Titlemax had about seventy vehicles to choose from that day. All the cars were stored in a fenced and gated space behind the main store called "The mud pit", since all the grass had quickly died within the first year of Titlemax opening up the store and filling that lot with repossessions.
Seventy cars were there to choose from, but only one came from the 21st century. A 2004 Chevy Cavalier that smelled like a warthog in heat from the inside, and had plenty of scuffs and dents from the outside.
It was as ugly as an old cockroach, muddied up, and looked about as wore out as an old mop. But the air worked, and a small army of oil change stickers on the upper left side of the windshield gave Sal a fleeting hope that this base model Cavalier would last a year or two.
"I'll take this cockroach." Sal told his manager, Leia, and the next day Sal brought in $1000 and signed the 17 pages of documents Titlemax makes people sign to make sure they realize it's being sold AS/IS with no warranty of any type.
To most of you, this car is a rolling turd. But to Sal, it was freedom. There was just one small problem with the car. The CD player.
Someone had stuck in Bruce Springsteen's greatest hits and, try as he might, Sal couldn't get that CD out of there. So off he would go to work with a series of old Bruce Springsteen songs keeping him company. Sometimes, it felt like Bruce was talking to him directly.
"It's a town full of losers and I'm pullin' outta here to win."
"I went out for a ride, and I never went back."
One afternoon, Sal saw his manager Leia giving a high-five to everyone in sight. When he asked what the commotion was about, Leia offered an ear-to-ear grin and told him, "We just repossessed a $10,000 Mercedes! THAT'S going to be my new daily driver!"
"No shit!", Sal said as he pulled out the key to his new car and walked to the front of the parking lot which was just three feet or so from the Titlemax window.
Sal started the car, hopped the curb, and smashed the rear of the Cavalier right into Titlemax's window. The glass shattered into a million pieces. Everyone was stone dead silent as Sal got out of his Cavalier and offered the briefest explanation for what he just did.
Sal jumped back in and took off. Five years later, Sal is a successful real estate agent and Titlemax is still suckering the suckers.
But hey! He did get a cheap car! The Cavalier was traded in with 295,632 miles and absolutely no issues. Not a bad showing for five years of service. '