Cars instead of cash: Cheap cars as flood relief in Germany

A couple of weeks ago the unimaginable happened in the Ahr valley region of Germany, not far at all from the Nürburgring race track we all know and love. The towns along the river experienced an unprecedented flood, one so severe that buildings from centuries ago were destroyed. Houses floated along on the now all-encompassing river, stone bridges crumbled, and people’s belongings drowned in muddy water that rose nearly ten meters high in some places.

It’s not clear how you rebuild after that. The affected towns such as Ahrweiler, Altenahr, and Bad Neuenahr are now in the clean-up phase, with people salvaging what they can, removing debris and now-dried mud, with ruined cars still sitting on the streets and parking lots before they get hauled away for scrap. But the devastation is so total, in an area that has not experienced flooding this severe, that there’s no automated process other than rolling up sleeves and seeing what’s worth anything anymore. For a lot of buildings, there’s no other option than to get torn down.

Here’s a short insight into the temporary resting place of flood-damaged cars from Bad Neuenahr:


The region is dear to me after a decade of summer trips that always ended at a campsite near the ‘Ring. We used to take crapcan cars, drive them all around Europe and finally park at the familiar camping ground in Altenahr, soon with a cold beer in hand and stories to tell. That campsite is now a mud pit, the ruined main building has just now been torn down, and my circle of friends I used to meet there every summer is now figuring out how they can help the people and towns affected by the flood. The nearby towns around the legendary Ring cherish the motorsport heritage of the region, and they rely heavily on Nürburgring related tourism. 2020 might have been horrendous, but 2021’s proving to be absolutely ruthless.

Giving cash is one thing, as is providing shelter, food, and clothes. There are donation programs in full swing currently, helping make sure people who have lost everything have at least something. But one thing that a lot of people have had swept away is their mode of transportation. Sometimes you’re just a hatchback short of even getting to begin the rebuilding phase, for getting supplies, getting to places, getting to work, even in old-town Central Europe where a lot of places are within walking distance. And insurance simply won’t help in all cases, if you just had basic insurance for your beater Golf.

A friend of mine, Thomas, started a YouTube channel a while ago, fixing a sketchy Volkswagen Eos roof in a surprisingly short time. Eventually Condition: Cheap changed focus into sourcing cheap cars for friends and fixing the most pressing issues. But after the flood hit, Thomas figured out he could use his buying & wrenching hobby for flood relief: give people working cars when they need one the most.

Like Thomas says in his GoFundMe description, it’s not about getting fancy cars. It’s about getting to 2022. If it takes a Clio, a Twingo, a Laguna (why are almost all cheap cars in Germany Renaults) to do that, he’ll do his best to find one, fix it and give it away. Germany’s one of those countries where you can still get a reasonable beater for just a couple hundred, do basic maintenance to get it to pass inspection, and get it on the road so it can be useful. “Give me your tired Corsas, your poor Astras”… And so on. The eventual donation of the cars will be done together with local contacts, and they will be inspected beforehand to make sure they are safe to give away. The strict German TÜV should rule out any car too far gone.

So far, the campaign has raised nearly 2700 euros, and the first cars are being bought and assessed. Naturally, the first thing Thomas could get was a really cheap Twingo, and he’ll be reporting the process of fixing the donation cars on his channel, as well as describing what he’s bought and what it cost. The Twingo purchase was soon followed by a Peugeot 106, an Astra, and a Renault Laguna wagon, which should prove handy in hauling things around. But more funds are needed. The first thing I did was give him 60 Euros and told him to use it on a Polo. Maybe there’s a Harlekin somewhere for a few hundred?


Check out the campaign here:

[Photo: Condition:Cheap/YouTube]

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4 responses to “Cars instead of cash: Cheap cars as flood relief in Germany”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    That’s a great way to apply a special set of skills for the greater good (and fantastic seeing you post here again). Germany still has a big market for beaters, and the Twingo is certainly a good fit. My mother had two (crashed both), with the fabric roof. One of them brought us to Spain and back, maxing out at 182 kph at one point in time. After she nirvana’d the second one, she bought a Kia Shuma. her partner a Daewoo Matiz. I have wondered a bit of if the seed to my devotion to Korean cars right now was planted there; in that case, those were two really bad seeds.

    1. Siabalajs Avatar

      (Yes, I do miss being able to edit out spelling mistakes…sighs)

  2. OA5599 Avatar

    That’s cash for clunkers done properly.

    When you have a car ruined by a natural disaster, sometimes it isn’t the cost that’s a concern it’s the availability. Many of the rental and used car fleets suffered the same wet (or fire, or whatever disaster) fates as the cars people are trying to replace. And that’s true even in years when chip shortages haven’t dried up supplies of used cars.

  3. Fuhrman16 Avatar

    Oh dang, that is a bit of carnage. Hopefully your friend will be able to help get a few folks back on the road.

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