I am interested in saving a few grand on a car by fishing parts out of a junkyard, whipping them together, duct-taping a fancy car decal onto it to make it look safe, adding golf-ball shaped holes to increase fuel efficiency, and hoping to high heavens that it stays together each time I drive to work.

What are the minimum requirements I have to meet for said homemade 'car' to be legally driveable on the road in America? (optionally In Britain? In China?) And, what would I say to a cop shaking his head as he peers into my 'car'?

Also, what about the matinence of the car, as in what are unusual (but still important) things I should consider when I fish things out of the junkyard?

  • 2
    It depends on where you live in the world ... then knowing that, I still don't think this is a good fit for this site. I'll see what others think. This is due to it being a legal question about cars, not about maintenance issues with the car itself. May 5 '17 at 1:08
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I agree it's not a good fit. In UK a vehicle has to be tested to meet the Construction & Use regulations amongst others. Even kit cars on sale have to meet standards.
    – Solar Mike
    May 5 '17 at 5:10
  • 1
    You don't have the tools, garage space, or knowledge to make this happen.
    – cory
    May 5 '17 at 12:26

There's 2 things to consider when attempting what you are considering to do:

  1. Make it road legal: that means 3 things.

    a) First, it must conform to the minimum equipment list of your jurisdiction which is likely to include (but not limited to): honk, headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals and wheels.

    b) Second, you must get it insured, meaning your contraption needs a "manufacturer" and serial number.

    c) Third, you must get a licence plate on it, for which you also need a "manufacturer" and serial number. You will likely need to pass either a "salvage" or "out of state" inspection, and most jurisdictions have emission tests as well. Those can get strict to the point where absolutely no modifications can be made to the vehicle from when it was new.

2.Is it a good idea: A car isn't like a couch or a dishwasher and driving isn't like a video game. It is a machine moving at high speed and people die from this every single day. In the US alone, 35,000 people died in car crashes in 2015. So, if your home-made contraption suffers a catastrophic failure while at speed, like the steering column snapping in 2 or an entire wheel sheering off, you will not only likely kill or severely injure yourself, you will likely take others out with you.

I believe, like you, that most new cars aren't worth the asking price, so here's what I do, and invite you to do as well:

  1. Go to your local car auction
  2. Find something you like for under $1000
  3. Bring a mechanic friend over to look the car over
  4. Budget about $1000-2000 for immediate repairs
  5. Enjoy your $2000-3000 car for the next 10 years.

I have owned 4 vehicles so far in my life:

  1. all have been bought for $3000 or less (including immediate repairs)
  2. all 4 are still running and in my possession
  3. one I've had for 10 years already (it was already 14 years old when I bought it, it had 169,000 km on the clock and just went over 309,000 km recently, still going strong)
  • Excellent point on #2. Not only is buying a complete car cheaper than the sum of its parts, making it road legal and insuring it should be foolproof. The less foolproof that process, the more time and money it will cost. Just make sure that cheap car is a simple car. The more complicated a car is, the more likely it is to break and more likely it is to cost more to fix (specifically, luxury cars).
    – atraudes
    May 5 '17 at 21:23
  • Very good idea, and very good points.
    – Jack G
    May 5 '17 at 23:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.