NOVEMBER 2008

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Buddy’s Crushed Cars, Inc.
Buddy Cogburn • 800-799-2750

Buddy's Crushed Cars

A lot of people say that they “grew up in the business” and will talk about going to work with dad and being given tasks to do, but Buddy Cogburn’s story is a little bit different.

“I was seven years old,” he said, “running an old manual crusher.”

Cogburn went on to explain that one summer day, his father had taken him along to a jobsite to check on the progress. When they got there, his father realized that a few of the employees were not in any condition to be working, so he fired the whole crew on the spot.

With all the workers gone, someone was needed to run the crusher. “This machine was a MAC stationary unit that they made mobile,” Cogburn explained. The operator had to stand up to run the machine, and at seven years old, Cogburn was a little undersized for the task. “They tied a rope around me, so I wouldn’t fall out,” he said. His father gave him instructions on how to run the machine, and apparently he did a good job, since his father kept him on the job for about a month.

After that, Cogburn really fell in love with the business, and worked for his father after school and during the summers. After high school, he spent a year in college, but came right back to car crushing.

Cogburn’s father, who started the business in the late ‘70s, passed away in 2000, and Buddy, his sister, and their mother took over. While the three are partners, he noted that he and his sister tend to make the decisions, while his mother stands behind whatever they agree on. That’s not all of the family, however. Cogburn’s wife “handles the books,” and his sister’s fiancé is the company dispatcher.

Since 2000, the business has grown. “We kinda pushed it a little,” Cogburn said. “We wanted it to get bigger.” The company now owns 22 trucks, has 82 employees, and runs three yards in Oklahoma, including the original location in Medill. A fourth location has been purchased in Kiowa, Oklahoma, and is expected to be in operation by the first of the year.

Cogburn attributes much of the company’s success to their customer relations, making it a point to clean up the yards before they leave. “We have a lot of steady customers,” he said.

One thing that has changed recently is the frequency that they return to customer’s sites. When scrap prices were lower, many salvage yards would accumulate cars until they had 500 ready to go, but now they are ready to sell when they have 100 cars on hand. “It made a dramatic change in the market,” Cogburn said. “Every yard is not full like it was.”

Cogburn expects the market to stay strong, but that brings a downside as well. With prices as high as they are, more people are getting into the crushing business, so “it will be hard to stay busy,” he said. “There’s still plenty of loose scrap, but you have to hustle it a little bit more to get the material.”

He also said that some of the newcomers in the car crushing business don’t always understand their own processing costs, and will pay too much for material. Cogburn laughed at that and said, “My father used to say, ‘The public will educate you if you can afford it.’”

Cogburn said that one of the things he most enjoys about the business is the public, and his relationships with other business owners. He said that some of the owners of the salvage yards, as well as some competitors, are his good friends.

Also, “I enjoy equipment,” he said. “I’m pretty fascinated with equipment.” Besides doing car crushing, his company has expanded into other types of tear-downs, and has worked at an oil field tank farm and a rock quarry. “To see something that massive come down is fascinating,” he said.

The tear-down crew has only been working for about four months, but already Cogburn sees it as a positive step in the ongoing growth of the company. “We took a really small company, and with some luck and success, we built it into something on a larger scale,” he said. “We were part of that – we were the ones that made the decisions.”

While Cogburn hopes that his children, now aged 4, 2 and 1, might follow in his footsteps, he’s pretty sure he won’t be tying them onto pieces of machinery. “It’s different now than it was when I was a kid,” he said.