The Blue Beast is dead. Our ’94 Chevy Suburban 1500 blew a radiator and maybe a head gasket. It had served us well, but we had poured enough money into it.

Dave Moore at Southwest Cash for Cars in El Cajon (619-328-2691; southwestcashforcars.com) was friendly, and he advised against going for the tax-write-off charity route. “I’d only go for the write-off if you’re self-employed, and even then, it won’t give you much. You’re better off going for cash.” But, otherwise, he kept his own counsel. “How much I offer depends on what I’m going to do with the car, and I pretty much know what I’m going to do with it when I see it. I may part it out or recycle it or fix it and sell it.”

He quizzed me on the make, model, year, and condition of my old Suburban. His interest was piqued when I mentioned the relatively low mileage. “Did it blow a head gasket?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I answered. “That’s why I’m calling you.” “If it’s got engine damage, I can give you $350 to $375,” he replied. “If the engine is okay, it’s still a big gas hog, so maybe $500 to $600.”

Like the sign says, Moore pays cash for cars. “You should always get cash. Don’t take a check.”

Allie at Ecology Auto Parts in Oceanside (760-757-7770; ecoparts.com) told me that they’d pick up my car anywhere in the county. “We take the basic information on the vehicle. Besides make, model, and year, we ask about the condition and whether it’s a complete car with four tires, engine, transmission, battery, and radiator, with all parts bolted into place. Then we ask about major body damage or fire damage. If the vehicle is complete, with no fire damage, then we will offer you money for it, whether it’s running or not. If there is fire damage, we’ll tow it away for you, but there’s a $25 fee.”

I gave Alley my info, and she offered $300 cash. “That’s if we tow it away. I can give you $325 if you bring it to our yard.” I paused. “I was hoping for more,” I admitted. “Okay,” she replied, “we can offer you $400 cash if we tow it or $425 if you bring it here. We pick up from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. When we meet you, you must have the registration or title, and you must have your driver’s license or state ID card. We have you fill out the second part of the title to let the DMV know that you’re no longer in possession.”

Tony at Cash for Cars in El Cajon (619-464-1717; cashforcarssandiego.com) asked me the usual questions and offered $350. “If your husband’s name is on the title also, he has to sign it on line 1A. Then you can sign and fill out the rest.”

My inner wheeler-dealer kicked into gear when I called SoCal Cash 4 Cars in El Cajon (619-749-5827; socalcash4cars.com). After the usual questions, Daphne asked, “When you put a key in the ignition, will it run and drive, start and not move, or not start?” I explained about the radiator but said that the car was otherwise in good shape. “Let me take this to my supervisor and call you back in 30 minutes,” she replied. When the company called back, they said they wanted to send out a buyer to look at the car before making an offer. That sounded promising.

Finally, I checked the charity route by calling Father Joe’s Village downtown (888-FATHER-JOE; my.neighbor.org), where I spoke with Karen in auto donations. “We’ll come pick up the car at a time that is convenient for you. We need the title. We will bring you a temporary tax receipt and a release of liability for the DMV. Your tax receipt is for $500, but if the car sells for more than that at auction, we send you a W-9 form with the amount of sale on it, so that you can claim a higher deduction on your taxes. Father Joe has sent our auctioneers to auctioneer school, and everything is done in-house.”

Other donation options: KPBS (1-877-KPBS-CAR); Make-A-Wish San Diego (1-855-664-WISH); Cars for Conservation (1-800-ZOO-CAR-9).

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