In my decades covering the auto industry, I’ve learned a few things: how to drink whiskey from a lady’s shoe at 3:48 in the morning, how to find water in a desert based on the shadow of a pelican, and just how poorly most people approach shopping for a used car. Your average customer gets so hung up on dumb things like engines, safety features, and interior details that they overlook the most important factor: lost goods! When you head to your favorite used Jeep dealer, don’t worry about the model or year of a vehicle, but think about the kinds of treasures you might find left behind by the idiots who owned it before you.
You should approach buying a used car like those vultures who buy storage rooms, sight unseen at auctions, hoping to find something good. The previous owner of a vehicle undoubtedly left behind all sorts of remarkable things for you to discover and profit from; you just have to know where to look. Most dealerships won’t let you search through their vehicles, so you might need to buy a used Jeep first and then discover what it has on offer. You can also sneak onto the lot with a crowbar and a flashlight, but I didn’t tell you that. Now, here’s how to find the goods…
Step One: Glove Compartment and Trunk
We’ll start with the most obvious thing because I’m worried your short-attention-span-brain will only let you read part of this, and I want to make sure you get the most from it. You’ll pretty much always want to start with two places: the glove compartment and the trunk. Glove compartments might be pretty small, but they can have a lot to offer if you know how to look. You’ll want to lie across the front seats with a flashlight in your mouth so you’ll have a good vantage point, and you can really get in there to find anything from discarded underwear to well-aged ketchup packets and scores of fast-food napkins.
The trunk is often called the “money-maker” among used-car-treasure aficionados and fans of excessive hyphens. People leave so many good things in the trunk; I’ve found seven loose socks, a pair of old swimming goggles, and a baby all left behind in the trunks of used vehicles. Be sure to check the spare tire compartment – usually, it’s just a tire, but every now and again, you’ll find a solid brick of cocaine. Sure, there’s a chance the cartel will find you and make you watch as they chop up your family and feed them to you, but who knows, maybe they won’t? In which case, you just need to learn how to sell drugs or develop a pretty respectable coke habit and become a hedge fund manager.
Step Two: Baby, You Got Yourself a Stew Going!
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: everyone who’s ever owned a car has always done this single thing: left food behind. You want to get down in there and have a good look under the seats because that’s where the most delicious morsels can be found. Forgotten french fries, lost trail mix, crackers of all shapes and sizes; I’ve even found whole cookies, as well as a full third of a rotisserie chicken under the seats of a used Jeep.
Now, those separate bits certainly make for a healthy meal or snack, but if you want to get the most from your used vehicle, you’ll want to remove the seats and peel off the upholstery. Take all that fabric and soak it in a big pot of boiling water, like a witch brewing a delicious potion. After six to eight hours of bubbling away, strain off the solids, and you’ll have a rich, savory base for soups and stews, or simply enjoy it as a warming bowl of seat broth.
Step Three: The Finest Finds
Finally, let’s talk about real treasure. I’ve got two words for you, my friend: forgotten toys. It’s easy to get distracted by french fries and cookies, but what you really want to find under the seats of a 2014 Jeep Wrangler is a dinosaur toy or a pair of finger puppets. These are treasures you simply cannot put a price on, and they more than justify spending too much money on a used Jeep. I once found a Garfield-as-a-vampire pencil topper under the seat of a 1987 Jeep Cherokee, and it’s one of my most prized possessions. A friend of mine discovered a Bugs Bunny Super Bugs Happy Meal toy in the crease beside the driver’s seat belt of a 1994 Buick Century Wagon, and he’s still riding high on that moment as the pinnacle of his existence.
Now it’s your turn. Get out there and find those treasures!
Editor’s Note: Although the writer of this article routinely mentions Jeep models, we assure you these steps for searching a used vehicle for treasure work well on any brand. Ed in accounting used these methods and found a small container of Gak under the rear seats of a 1993 Dodge Caravan, while Steph in publishing discovered a neon green sticky hand lodged deep within the glove compartment of her 2014 Toyota Camry. It was still stretchy, and she played with it for three days before it became covered in hair and lost its stick! Thank you.