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The automotive enthusiast community has a funny way of describing cars. One prime example is the term “clapped out.” You might see this term when perusing the classifieds on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You might even see it in certain car articles. But what does “clapped-out” mean?

The term “clapped-out” has been around for a while

An old and rusted Volkswagen Beetle
An old rusted Volksagen Beetle | Getty Images

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “clapped-out” means “worn-out” or “tired.” The dictionary also says it’s been around since 1946, so it looks like it’s reemerged in the car scene. That makes sense, considering plenty of worn-out cars are found in the local classifieds, and many enthusiasts start with beat-up cars for projects.

To be a little more specific, a clapped-out car is typically one that has a lot of rust and mismatched paint and is otherwise not cared for from years of use. We usually see enthusiasts online use the term when describing older cars that look like they have been sitting in junkyards or on the side of someone’s house for a while. These cars have likely been stolen, crashed, and/or have branded titles.

Is it a good idea to buy a clapped-out car?

Buying a clapped-out car is not a bad idea if you have the means to fix it in an efficient or cost-effective way. For example, if you find a clapped-out Honda Civic from the 90s and can find the replacement parts and labor cheaply, it could be worth buying. However, if you don’t have the resources to fix the car efficiently, the cost to do so could add up quickly. In that case, spending more money on a car that doesn’t need repairs would be a better idea.

Clapped-out cars aren’t only old Honda Civics and trucks

A clapped-out old car
A clapped-out old car | Getty Images

Although it’s common to find old Hondas, trucks, or SUVs in a clapped-out state, the term is used for all types of cars. One example is this 1964 Ferrari 330GT, which popped up at a UK auction. It sold for around $77,000 and could easily be worth double if restored to excellent condition.

In this specific case, buying a clapped-out car could be worth the investment. The same can be said for other cars in the market, like an old Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, or an older Ford Mustang – all of which are popular platforms that yield high returns when flipped properly.

How much are clapped-out cars worth?

A car with a clapped-out interior filled with a lot of little modifications.
A car with a clapped-out interior. | Getty Images

The value of clapped-out cars varies on the type of car and its condition. Some clapped-out old cars can sell for $2,000, while others sell for $20,000. We have even seen clapped-out Audi R8s on eBay posted for $50,000, which is a fraction of what the car costs when new. Either way, if you find a clapped-out car that fits your budget and you know you can fix it at a low cost, it could be worth it. If not, it’s probably best to leave it alone.


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