The Salvage Car Silk Road

30 minutes

A few months ago, a friend of mine named Oraz who runs an autobody repair shop in Turkmenistan came across a kind of puzzle. A new vehicle had just arrived on his lot. A white Lexus SUV. He could see by the registration sticker that it came from my home state of New Jersey, but the even stranger thing was the shape it was in. It was practically brand new, unlike like the dented and mangled cars that usually come to him for repairs.

Oraz wondered: how did this car get here, to his shop? And what kind of place, what kind of person, casts off such a nice new car? Those questions led me on a journey through the international used car underground... all the way back to a pleasant, two-story home in suburban New Jersey. To find the answers, I team up with reporter Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi of NPR’s Planet Money podcast, which features fun and surprising stories about the global economy.

To hear the complete story of my road trip from the UK to Mongolia — when I broke down in the middle of the desert and first met Oraz — scroll back to the beginning of my feed and check out the first season of my podcast.


On Far From Home, award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian documents fascinating stories from far-flung places like Iran, Chernobyl, and Mongolia. For more info, visit

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