Franken-Caddy: The Car That Keeps Making Money!

As some of y’all might remember, two weeks ago someone slammed into my (parked) car causing some pretty nasty damage and rendering my Caddy non-street legal for the 2nd time in 12 months. It was a pretty whacky story to say the least, but in a nutshell it came out of nowhere and I was scared I would finally lose my beloved car once and for all :(

I shed a few tears, met the inspector to assess the damage (luckily their insurance was legit!), and then shed some more as she told me it was certainly “totaled.” At least in the sense that it would cost more to fix than it’s worth – which is not hard to do since it’s only worth $1,500 – damage-free, haha…

I get on the phone w/ the insurance rep, and he gives me those dreaded two options I’m now so used to hearing:

  1. Keep the car, and receive a check for $1,100
  2. Give them the car, and receive a check for $1,400

The Insurance rep tells me to take the cash and move on. My mechanic tells me to take the cash and move on. And most of YOU told me it’s finally time to take the cash and move on.

So what did I do? I decided to take the cash and NOT move on ;) And here’s why:

  • The car is in excellent mechanical shape
  • It’s completely 100% paid off
  • I feel like a baller in it
  • I could care less about how it looks
  • My family feels safer with having a back up car

My Car, the Side Hustle

Rick left a comment on my last post about the car best:

“Seriously Dude, this is now taking on the life of a “Side Hustle”.

After all was said and done last year I came away with a cool $1,100 in my pockets, and this time I’m set to walk away with approximately $950. That’s over $2,000 for not doing a thing :) And doesn’t take in account all the usage I’ve gotten out of it over the past 12 months either – something I greatly appreciate and enjoy considering I haven’t owed anything on the car since at least 2009.

To get the car drivable again, however, and to pass the state’s safety inspection to be legal, I had to figure out a way to get it fixed – and cheaper. I found out fast that $1,100 wasn’t going to do the trick.

This is how the convo went with my mechanic:

  • “Good morning, Mr. Money. I’m almost done running the estimates for your car, but wanted to check in with you first before continuing. Right now we’re looking at around $3,000-$4,000 to get that whole back end fixed, and I’m not even done yet. I think it’s time to let her go.”
  • “Hmmm… well that sucks – it’s a great car! Can’t you just pop out the old light and put in a new one and just hammer it around a bit? I don’t care how it looks.”
  • “Unfortunately no. We pretty much have to replace the whole section as it’s too damaged to work with. And with the cars age and limited access to parts, it’ll just become a nightmare to fix.”
  • “Hmm… Okay…. Oooh what about putting a DIFFERENT light in there? Like, any ol’ light you can find? Would that pass inspection and get me off the hook? How much would that cost.”
  • *Awkward pause*
  • “Uhh… you just want us to bolt a light back there? Like Frankenstein? I mean… I guess we could do that. It would technically pass the safety inspection, and in which case only cost you about $100 bucks. But you might want to check with the state troopers first to make sure you’re not going to get pulled over every other drive. We’d feel bad having you waste the money and time.”
  • *Hangs up and calls state trooper*
  • *Explains situation 3 different times, finally get an answer “As long as the light is SAE or DOT certified, and it blinks properly and located in the general vicinity of the old light, then yes sir. You will be following the law”*
  • *Calls mechanic back up*
  • “Let’s do this!”

Seven days and $141 later (I also slipped in an oil change), my car’s back on the road… With new fancy tail light and everything – straight off a used trailer! HAH!

frankencaddy - tail light

It’s unfortunately not as ugly as I was hoping for :) I kinda wanted full on bolts and wires and everything, haha… But it does the trick for now. They even went ahead and cleaned out the bad light and fixed my trunk lid so it could close properly too, awwww….

(Btw, with last year’s crash my car went it without air conditioning, and magically came out WITH working air conditioning? How cool is that? (Get it? GET IT?))

And that’s the story behind Franken-Caddy. Only time will tell what’s next, but for now I’ve got my baby back with a whole lotta Benjamins in my pockets…

And that’s the real point of today’s post, though it is fun to ramble on about this nonsense. Just because someone says something costs $X, it often pays (quite literally) to suggest alternatives and *get creative*. There was no way in hell my mechanic was going to offer up this suggestion – as good as he is – so if you want things bad enough you’ve gotta conjure up some out-of-the-box thinking or settle for the “usual.” And “usual” usually sucks.

So don’t be afraid to find workarounds. Especially when everyone else is doing the same damn thing out there – it’s good to be *different!* And it’s YOUR money – no one else case as much for it as you do, so do whatever it takes to keep more of it…

If you pass my car over the weekend, be sure to give me a honk :) I don’t know where I’m going to park it going forward, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t tempted to plop it back in its usual spot in hopes of yielding more cash flow, haha… Would that make me a bad person?

franken-caddy before after

PS: You can read about all three of this year’s crashes here, here, and here. Jeez…

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  1. Dee @ Color Me Frugal June 27, 2014 at 5:56 AM

    That’s pretty awesome that you came away with $950 from the deal! Pretty sweet that your car is your side hustle-and you don’t even have to deal with the hassle of renting it out!

  2. debt debs June 27, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    I’m glad you went with the Franken-caddy option. I hope you get many more years of use out of it. Did the air start working again after it wash crashed? That alone is reason to keep it! Maybe it’s time to get a bumper sticker.

  3. jestjack June 27, 2014 at 7:13 AM

    Forget MPG….Miles Per Gallon…you have created a new category …DPA…Dollars Per Accident…LOL…At the risk of sounding like a “Friday Morning QB”…I might have held out with the the insurance company. Remember the theory of insurance is to “make you whole”. To that end either fix the car or find a replacement of like model, vintage and year….and provide a rental car until this replacement is located. For insurance companies this known as “death by a thousand cuts”… BUT something can be said for the “no-hassle approach”. If this keeps up the car may need it’s own blog….

    1. nodaclu June 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      At a minimum, that car needs its own Twitter account for sure.

      @frankencaddy appears to be available. ;-)

    2. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      I tried to get more the last time around and failed so didn’t even waste my time this round… the car itself is worth $1500, if that, so I get why they wouldn’t pay more even though it blows. I’m happy with the outcome :)

      (And yes – it DOES need its own blog or twitter – hah! That is too f’ing awesome.)

    3. Jason July 1, 2014 at 1:25 AM

      I prefer CPM (Cents per Mile). To me that is the most important factor when selecting a vehicle. I did pretty good with my 2003 VW TDI Jetta Wagon: 10 years, 239K miles, $0.17 per mile.

  4. MapleSpaceHamster June 27, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    There’s a YouTube channel idea in this, it’s called Franken’ My Ride. You rescue perfectly drivable write-offs and turn them in to awesome Franken-Rides. Some barbwire bling here and a few nuts and bolts there. It could go viral and make you a thousandare! All I ask is a measly 1% of any potential profits for giving you the idea. ;)

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      That’s not that bad of an idea actually :) if only I could duplicate myself to free up time!

  5. Brian @ Debt Discipline June 27, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    Maybe you can start renting it? The you can seriously kick up the side hustle money.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      “As seen on Budgets Are Sexy! $20/day”


  6. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel June 27, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Haha love it! I rear-ended someone in high school with my red Geo Metro. My dad thought it would “teach me a lesson” to just go grab a sky blue hood from a pick n’ pull yard and get that installed instead of finding a matching color. It quickly got the name Blue Dart and I loved it! When I graduated and was planning on getting a car of my own, my dad wanted me to help him pay for a red hood. I just laughed and walked away.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      Hahahhahahah…… dads.

  7. John @ Wise Dollar June 27, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    Franken-Caddy, lol. I love it! Well, aside from the accidents of course. :) Kudos to you for finding that work around so you can keep the Caddy AND the cash!

  8. Kassandra June 27, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    And the hits just keep coming :) That’s sweet that you were able to get the light fixed for cheap and pocket $950 of the insurance money! As long as every time your Fraken-Caddy gets hit, you or anyone else doesn’t get injured then it’s all good.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      That’s what I’m saying!

  9. Cat@BusgetBlonde June 27, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    Ah it’s like your car is some magical money making being or something. Pretty sure it will live until J Penny is driving it.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      J Penny better appreciate it, that’s alI I’m saying! It’ll be a legend by then :)

  10. Brit June 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Take one for the team! This car sure has. Every time it gets hits is $$ for you. I love the new name Franken-Caddy. haha. Have a great weekend.

  11. Cash Cow Couple June 27, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    I (Vanessa) used to work in auto insurance. So as soon as I started reading this article, I thought, oh boy, he’s gonna have to give it up. But by the end I was laughing and thinking just how awesome it is that your franken-caddy keeps making you money. Nice idea! It pays to get creative for sure.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      They keep trying to hold me down, I tell you! ;)

  12. Free To Pursue June 27, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Aside from the last reason to keep the car, most of your reasons for keeping the car were non-monetary. They were more about what would make you happy. I think those are the best reasons for you to keep the car (I especially like the “I feel like a baller in it”).

    We also have a car with some damage, but the damage has a great story attached to it, so we never want to get it repaired :).

    Our car is not as cool as yours though…it’s kind of turning into a superhero sidekick! Your version of a “bat mobile”? Hmmm, maybe she’s J$’s “Cruisin’ Cash Caddy”?

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      We could ride together one day :) but I get the better positioned-for-crashes parking spot.

      1. Free To Pursue June 30, 2014 at 9:37 PM

        Works for me. I don’t want to mess up the damage that is proving to be a constant reminder of such great memories ;).

  13. Had It All Along June 27, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    This is awesome! I really like the look of the new light and would be tempted to find out how much it would cost to replace the other one even though it works perfectly fine (but I love things that match).

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      haha yeah – it’s starting to grow on me more too :) would only take $100 again!

  14. Kate Horrell June 27, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    I can not even explain how much I love this story, especially as it continues to progress. I’m not sure my husband would appreciate it if I started parking in spots that seem more likely to be hit, though :) Our “big car,” (the only one that holds all six of us,) already has a custom paint job after two years of being driven through southern Italy. I think a little more personalization is just what it needs!

    Thanks for always making money fun to read about.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      awwww, thx Kate! So glad you still enjoy the site after all these years. always nice when you stop by – especially when you spew kind words like that ;)

      reunion at USAA sometime soon?

  15. Yana June 27, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    I love this awesome story. That is the way I like things to work in my life – but there is no way I would want a mechanic to know me as Ms. Money. ;)

  16. Michelle June 27, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Haha I love this. It’s like a new side hustle! :)

  17. Hannah June 27, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Love it! Although I think your next net worth statement might have to show the Pimp Daddy Caddy as less than $1500 bucks (or should it be an upgrade since its an income producing asset?)

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Hmm… that’s an interesting conundrum. Perhaps I shall lower it to $1,400 since that was the insurance company’s estimate? I’ll only feel good inflating the numbers after crash-money #3 :)

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      HAH! I’ll owe you a beer (or 10) if they post it :)

  18. Joe June 27, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Great hustle for the Caddy! It’s a crash magnet. It’s worth keeping around just for the insurance payout!

  19. KM June 27, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    This is amazing! I love how you’re doing everything possible to keep your car. I’d like to think I would do the same thing.

    Also, not sure if you’ve had this experience (and blogged about it), but I recently got a “star” crack in my windshield, about the size of a nickel and I called my insurance and if it can be repaired, which the lady said it should, then it’s completely covered! Definitely helps to at least ask about it.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      Interestingly enough Franken-Caddy has a star crack in its windshield too :) But as long as it passes inspection I’m not touching it… not worth insurance pay out after deductibles/etc if it can be avoided (at least in my opinion). But I agree it’s better if the other route is forking over high hundreds or thousands! no idea how much those boogers cost…

  20. Jacob June 27, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    My used Hondas have brought in about $2,000 over the past 2 years as well. Accidents that weren’t my fault, and just cash out and kept driving. I’m not trying to get in accidents, people are just bad drivers :)

    Nice work on keepin’ it gangsta

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      (started from the bottom now we here!)

  21. Shannon @ Financially Blonde June 27, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    I am glad that you came out ahead money-wise on this last fender bender with the car, but I am still of the mindset that the car is trying to tell you something and I would beware of taking it for long drives or many places with Nickel and Penny on board. I really do believe that some things just have bad karma.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      I’d like to think it actually has good karma, considering the free money it continues to ooze, but no way in hell my kids are getting close to the inside of that car – so don’t you worry about that. it’s for daddy and mommy baller only ;)

  22. Brad @ June 27, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    I’m sitting here in my office laughing out loud at this post! I just seriously cannot stop laughing — this is too great :)

    The best part is that it isn’t ugly enough for you!

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      Well look how pretty that thing is!!! They screwed me! :)

  23. Melanie@Dear Debt June 27, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    BOOM! That’s so awesome. The car that keeps on giving. LOL

  24. Even Steven June 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    That’s awesome the way the light looks, I’m impressed. It’s crazy you are running some sort of vehicle crash arbitrage, like you have a sign on your car that says hit my car please I want extra cash!

  25. Will June 27, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Congrats on the $300 car! Heck, you could get that in scrap price (at least where I’m from) so each and every mile you drive is free!

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      It’s felt like a free car ever since getting hit the first time and taking the check :) So this is a double whammy! And then once it is time to lay her to rest once and for all? I’m sure there will be some $$$ there too – even if it goes to the junk/scrap yard.

  26. Dividend Mantra June 27, 2014 at 4:30 PM


    Man, that’s so awesome!! If you could only rent out your backseat to a drifter or something on Airbnb you’d really be set!! :)

    Best wishes.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM

      It’s actually not that bad of an idea… the trunk IS pretty big ;)

  27. Justin @ Root of Good June 27, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    I’m going to start parking my POS 14 year old civic on the street to collect on this side hustle too! ;)

    So are you still carrying comprehensive on this old car? I would suggest you can save a few bucks (maybe 50-100 bucks) by dropping comprehensive, but you’re doing pretty well as-is if you can keep getting a thousand or so every year.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      You know, that’s a great question. I can’t recall *what* coverage I have anymore on my car – it’s been forever since I got it… But insurance is on my list for July to check as part of my new Challenge Everything mantra – so I’m about to find out! :)

  28. Teffany @ Grad Money Matters June 28, 2014 at 4:59 AM

    That was awesome! Your so lucky with your car. It has the power of making money for you. Cool :)

  29. Michelle June 28, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Ha ha ha! I can’t believe the Franken Caddy is still moving! Surprised it doesn’t shimmy down the road after all the accidents. You’re going to have to come up with a Mad Max inspired name for yourself and wear a jacket made of leather and car tires to complete the look. I’m surprised your mechanic didn’t try to get a rear quarter panel from a wreckers…that’s how I used to fix all my cars. Hit up the auto wrecker and for a few bucks and elbow grease (cheaper if you remove the part from the car in the lot yourself) car is fixed! Or maybe just steal a guard rail off the highway and there’s your new rear quarter panel. LOL!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Hah! I think my mechanic assumed I’d just dump the cash and take the car, so didn’t bother coming up with other alternatives. I came close to agreeing, but as soon as I found out all I technically needed was a working light the race was on! And literally just got the check this morning, so feeling pretty good about this decision :)

  30. Dave @ The New York Budget June 28, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    This may be the greatest thing you have ever done in my mind. I LOVE this – there is something so basic about bucking conventional wisdom and going with a solution that works and makes you happy.

    This is kind of a metaphor for how I try to live my financial life overall!

    Congrats and it actually looks good!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Thanks man – hope you and your money is well up there in the NYC :)

  31. Pam June 28, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    I think I’d give my mechanic a case of beer too. Just so he’ll remember the next time this happens.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      That’s a damn good idea actually.

  32. Amy June 29, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    This truly made me laugh out loud! (Not that your car looks funny or anything…) Talk about making lemonade out of lemons – nice work!!

  33. Alaska 49 June 29, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    “Crash Flow” Love that!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      HAH! Clever :)

  34. RunDebtFree Pete July 8, 2015 at 7:06 PM

    I absolutely love it! I find the best places to get my junkers fixed is in the ‘less desirable’ neighborhoods too. They all understand pinching pennies and just wanting it to continue running. The guys at the shop in the area of town with Lexus & BMW dealerships just don’t understand sometimes.

    1. J. Money July 9, 2015 at 3:40 PM

      Hah – great idea actually!

  35. Will February 3, 2016 at 7:15 PM

    But will you still wash or wax the caddy?

    1. J. Money February 4, 2016 at 7:35 AM

      That’s a no, sir. Haven’t washed it in over 3 years – hah! figured no point anymore as the paint continues to chip all over and it’s literally smashed in a dozen of places ;)

  36. Derek June 3, 2016 at 9:31 PM

    Does your car still have the rigged-up brake light?

    1. J. Money June 6, 2016 at 1:07 PM

      It has to! Or else it’s not street legal! ;) (and you can bet your sweet ass I’m not getting it fixed up for $2,000+ haha…)