The time has come. The car that was just barely getting you around will no longer do its job. It may have a LOT of miles on it, be many years old, and is not worth much – and it sure isn’t worth fixing.
If your car is in this type of near-terminal condition, you shouldn’t try to sell it to a car dealer or an individual. That would be unethical, and it could also open you up to liability issues.
The best outcome for this vehicle, one that has literally given you its all, is to be sold for its scrap value. The good news? You’ll get some ready cash, and your car will not be the source of any future problems. In fact, some of it will be recycled, giving new life to other vehicles!
It can be a time-consuming and sometimes confusing process to get the best scrap car price for your car.
BUT it doesn't have to be! We've put together a list for anyone wondering how to scrap a car for up to $500 cash.
How to Scrap a Car - 17 Things to Do Before Junking a Car
- Remove personal belongings
- Get your title in order
- Look for valuable components to sell yourself
- Have all of the relevant information about your car handy
- Find out where to scrap a car near you
- Get familiar with the process of scrapping your car
- Have realistic expectations about the price you will get
- Get quotes from auto salvage yards or Junk Car Medics
- Be sure that the buyer of your junk car is licensed
- Cancel your car's insurance
- Remove the license plates
- Use up or remove your gasoline
- Remove non-metal components (optional)
- Be alert to common scams
- Verify that the scale used to weigh your car is certified
- Arrange for transportation to get your vehicle there
- Consider another way to junk a car
1. Remove Personal Belongings
Most of us spend a lot of time in our cars. We drive them to work, to school, to go shopping, and to the movies. We take our cars on road trips, vacations, and visits to friends and relatives. We like to have some of our favorite and useful things with us, like recorded music, beverages, snacks, sunglasses, hats, and rain gear. If we have kids or pets along for the ride, there is even more stuff that needs to be taken along. It can really add up over the years.
When you sell your car to the salvage yard, it’s your responsibility to take out all of your personal belongings, before the tow truck arrives to pick up the vehicle. It’s tempting to leave items you no longer want inside the car, but that can cause problems with the transaction. This is why the first thing you should do when selling your car to a salvage yard is to go through your car and remove ALL your personal items. Take your time and look everywhere. Here are some places to check:
- Glove compartment
- Center console
- Door pockets
- Rear seat console
- Overhead console
- Other storage areas in the dashboard, armrests, rear deck, cargo area, etc.
- Sun visors
- Trunk or cargo area
- Under the floor of cargo area or trunk
- Under the floor mats
- Under the seats
- Between the seat bottoms and seat backs (could be some change in there!)
- CD player (remove all of your CDs)
Granted, a lot of what you find will be fit only for the trash can. But there are some items that you never want to leave in your car when you scrap it. Personal documents like registration documents, auto insurance cards, and credit card receipts should be removed and shredded. In the wrong hands, these can lead to a bad case of identity theft.
2. Get Your Title in Order: Be Sure You Have the Right To Junk Your Car
There is one key administrative detail that you will need to take care of before you can say goodbye to the car you plan to junk. That is having a valid title, which you need in order to transfer ownership of your vehicle to the salvage yard. You can sell your car without a title but it's much harder.
When you are selling a junk car, the buyer will need proof that you own the vehicle, and therefore have the right to sell it. Your possession of the title, in your name, is usually sufficient proof that you own the car you are selling. Your registration is often required as well. If the car was a gift from a friend or relative, you must have the title transferred to your name before you can sell the car for scrap.
But what if you don’t have the title?
Well, that depends on your state’s laws about transferring a junk car. Check your state’s DMV website for what’s required to junk your car. Some states do not require a title, and they may allow you to present an old vehicle registration, along with your driver’s license. Otherwise, you can easily get a duplicate title or a copy of the current registration from your state’s DMV.
What happens if you still owe money on the car?
If you still owe someone (like a bank, credit union, or finance company) money for the car that you are planning to junk, it gets a bit complicated. If you look at the title and there is a financial entity listed along with your name, there is a lien on the car.
Whomever you owe the money is known as the lienholder, and both you and the lienholder own the car, until the balance is paid off. When you pay off the balance you owe, you become the sole owner of the vehicle. Once it is yours, you are free to sell it.
The easiest way is to pay off the loan first, then scrap your car. Depending on what you owe and how much scrap value your car will bring, you may be able to pay the lienholder out of the proceeds from the sale, if there will be enough to pay off the loan. If not, you will need to pay the lienholder out of your pocket, get another loan to pay off that loan, or charge it to a credit card.
3. Look for Valuable Components to Sell Yourself
If you’ve agreed on a price for your car with a salvage yard, you should turn it over to them in the condition that you described when you made the deal. However, if the price you’re able to get for your car doesn’t reflect much more than its scrap metal value, you may be able to remove a few valuable components from the car to make a few extra bucks. These items can include:
- Tires with plenty of tread left (replace with bald used tires)
- Alloy wheels (replace with cheap used rims)
- Battery (sell if it’s fairly new, recycle if it’s old)
- Electronics of value (stereo systems, GPS)
Once you have done this, store all of your parts in a secure location. Next, you will need to price everything. Then you can post these items for sale on eBay and/or Craigslist.
4. Have All of The Relevant Information About Your Car Handy
When you start shopping for the best price for your junk car, you should have all the important information about your car in front of you, so that you can provide it to all of the prospective buyers. This information consists of:
- The year, make, and model of your car
- Its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN – found on registration or base of the windshield)
- Your car’s condition (including problem areas)
- Your car’s current mileage
- Is car in running condition?
- Is car in towable condition?
This means, for example, that you should disclose that your engine has blown or the rear end of the body was smashed in, if that’s the case. Why? If you are dealing with a recycler who will sell your car for parts, major parts that can’t be resold will affect the price they will give you. If you are selling the car purely for scrap value, this won’t matter as much, but you should still be honest about the true condition of your car.
One more thing – shoot some pictures of your car after washing it, so it looks presentable. Include shots of the exterior, the interior, and under the hood. The photos will let buyers know exactly what they can expect.
5. Find Out Where to Scrap A Car Near You
Do an online search for “sell my junk car.” This will give you plenty of local sources to start with. You can also check for customer ratings on sites like Yelp, which can help you find the places you would prefer to deal with.
Next, contact various junkyards in your area, by phone or email. Give them the description of your car that you have compiled. Make a list of the prices they are offering you for the scrap metal or parts recycling value of your used vehicle. If we’re talking scrap, you're likely to get more for a bigger vehicle than you would for a smaller vehicle, due to the difference in weight.
Once that you have run the numbers, decide which one offers the best overall deal. For example, does their price include picking up or towing your car away, or do you have to deliver it to them (and then arrange a ride back home)? These things can make a difference, in terms of how much money you end up with, and how hassle-free the process is.
6. Get Familiar with The Process of Scrapping Your Car
Here are a few simple steps that will help you to figure out the best way to proceed when the time comes to junk your car:
Assess your vehicle
What kind of condition is your car really in? Knowing this is the first step toward getting a good price for your vehicle. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is it driveable?
- Are any parts of it severely damaged (like major body damage from an accident, or a blown engine or transmission)?
- Are there any valuable parts, in good condition, on it that could be resold (wheels/tires, alternator, body parts, glass, seats, etc.)?
Write down the answers to these questions and include them when you are contacting scrap yards and auto recyclers for price quotes. Offer to send the photos you shot to potential buyers of your junk car.
Understand the ballpark you are in, price-wise
Now for a dose of reality. If your car is not drivable, or if it has major damage, it will be worth much less than if it was in good shape and in one piece. You can check online appraisal sources like Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book for a very rough idea. Look up your car’s trade-in value in the worst possible condition, and then reduce it from there. Now you are ready to price-shop your junk car.
7. Have Realistic Expectations About the Price You Will Get
It’s only natural to want to get the highest possible price for your junk car. But how much is that? Let’s put a few things into perspective.
Your car’s value is largely based on its metal content
To the scrap metal industry, your car’s metal content is the primary source of its value. The metals that your car is made of can be recycled and reused to make a wide range of items, including new car parts. There are established markets and prices for steel, iron, aluminum, copper, and even the platinum and palladium found in your catalytic converter. These all have a scrap value, based on market prices that fluctuate daily.
Generally speaking, the more metal there is in your vehicle, the more it is worth as scrap. Large trucks and SUVs have more metal in them than midsize cars, which have more metal than compact cars, and so on. So larger vehicles win on the scrap metal chart, and you will get more for them on that basis. As a point of reference, the average car is made up of 2400 lbs. of steel and 300 lbs. of aluminum.
Your car may have value beyond scrap
There can be more value in your car than what its metal is worth on the scrap market. Even if it is not in running condition, it may have a number of valuable parts that can be removed and resold on the secondary market. This is where auto recyclers come in. They will buy your car based not only on its scrap value, but also on the value of its parts.
If your car is a popular model that has been sold for several years, there is a robust market for used parts. This includes mechanical parts, body parts, and even interior parts, which can be sold if they are in decent condition. These recyclers fill a niche, for those needing usable parts at realistic prices. Auto recyclers have built nationwide networks, making these parts available online to a national audience.
This can also apply to luxury brand vehicles, whose new parts prices are unbelievably high. If your car fits one of these profiles, be sure to include auto recyclers on your list of sources to call for pricing on your junk car. Make your car’s reusable parts a part of your negotiations. You might be surprised at what they offer you!
8. Get Quotes From Auto Salvage Yards Or Junk Car Medics
Now you are ready to start the process of getting price quotes for your junk car. Contact as many junkyards and auto recyclers (if appropriate) in your area as possible and get estimates on the best price they would give you for the scrap metal value (and resalable parts, if any) in your used vehicle. Email them the photos you shot of your vehicle, so they can see it and give you an accurate quote. Remember to get a free online quote from Junk Car Medics – we will buy your car, whatever it’s condition!
Negotiate your best possible deal
Keep in mind that the places you are calling buy many junk cars, day in and day out. Their first price will usually be a lowball – you do not have to accept it. Use the information about your car to negotiate a better price. Focus on its condition (if decent), and any parts that could be resold for additional profit. You may be able to get more for your car this way. Make sure that they will take your car as it sits, without the need for you to do any additional work on or dismantling of it.
Don’t be in a rush – take your time, playing one junkyard’s price against another’s. Keep this up until you can’t get the price any higher. Make a list of the prices you are offered. Make sure that any offered price includes a tow truck for the pickup, especially if your car isn’t drivable. If your car is drivable, you can try to get a few extra bucks back later, by offering to drive it there yourself, and saving them the towing cost.
When you have reached the end of the negotiations, and you have found a buyer that will give you the best price for your junk car, you are ready to finish the process.
9. Be Sure That the Buyer of Your Junk Car Is Licensed
Depending on the state where you are located, salvage yards and other buyers of junk cars may require a special license to do so, above and beyond a standard business license. You can check your state’s regulations for scrap metal here.
It is important for you to know that the buyer of your junk car is legally able to do so. There could be serious legal liability for you if the buyer is not properly licensed, including possible fines and jail time. Ask to see their license. Some states have online databases where you can verify that a company has a valid license to junk your car. If the buyer appears to be unlicensed, walk away and take the next best deal.
10. Cancel Your Car’s Insurance
If you are selling your car for junk, you will no longer need to insure it. Once you have decided who you will be selling it to, and you have a firm date when it will be hauled or driven away, call your insurance agent or company. Explain that you are selling the car, and you wish to terminate your coverage at the end of the day on that date. This way, you will have coverage until the car arrives at its final destination. Any coverage that you have already paid for, beyond that date, will be refunded to you by the insurance company.
11. Remove the License Plates
Unlike when you sell a car on Craigslist, selling a car to a salvage yard can result in an immediate pickup situation. If your car is disabled and parked at a location like a service station or tow yard, you could have difficulty getting everyone there at the same time to complete your transaction. Time is money for the tow truck driver that’s sent to get your car. It’s very easy to overlook important details when everyone is in a hurry.
Be sure to remove the license plates from the car before it’s towed away. The rules differ in every state regarding what to do with the plates after the sale. In many states, you must return the license plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles before your registration can be cancelled. You might not be able to cancel your car insurance policy until the plates and registration have been turned in, as well. In some states, the license plates belong to the owner, and can be used on another car that you purchase.
What’s the worst-case scenario that could happen if you leave your license plates on your junk vehicle? They could be stolen and put on another car that is used in the commission of a crime. You definitely don’t want to have to deal with the police coming to your door, if that happens!
12. Use Up or Remove Your Gasoline
Sometimes it just happens that way. You fill up your tank, leave the gas station, and a disaster of the terminal type happens to your vehicle. What can you do?
If your car is still running before you sell it to the salvage yard, you might want to use up the gasoline in the tank before you have it towed away. Depending on the size of the tank in your car or truck, the value of the gasoline in the tank can represent a substantial portion of the total value of the price you’re getting from the salvage yard. You could take your car for a nice farewell drive, to use up most of the remaining fuel.
If your car is not running, you can siphon the gas out of the tank, putting it only in approved gasoline storage containers. Never use your mouth to siphon the gas, use a siphon pump. Remember to use the gasoline as soon as possible – it will go bad after a few months.
13. Remove Non-Metal Components (Optional)
You may face the situation where a buyer of your junk car wants it in “stripped-down” condition, and then offers you a better price if you will deliver it this way. This means that all non-metallic parts have been removed, and all the fluids have been drained out.
Be warned, this involves a lot of work. If you have some mechanical aptitude, you may be able to do this yourself. Or you could pay a mechanic to do it. Either way, it will involve removing and disposing of:
- Door panels
- Sound insulation
- Bumper covers
- Headlights and taillights
- Exterior plastic trim
- All the fluids (oil, transmission fluid, washer fluid, brake fluid, coolant
If the additional dollars you get for doing this seems worth it to you, and you are willing to do it, then go for it! Remember to follow your local laws relating to recycling the used fluids that you drain out of the vehicle.
14. Be Alert to Common Scams
While most places that buy junk cars are reputable, there are always some “bad apples” that may engage in unethical practices, or otherwise try to cheat you. Here are a few red flags you should watch out for:
- Towing is (not) included
- Bait and switch
- Your payment is delayed
- Your car has no value
- Their math doesn’t add up
- They don’t care about transferring the title
- The dealer is unlicensed
- They offer prizes and discounts of questionable value
We describe each of the above, plus more, in our separate post on auto salvage yard scams.
15. Verify That the Scale Used to Weigh Your Car Is Certified
This is one more thing to check on when you are selling your junk car. Because so much of the value of your car is tied to the amount of various metals it contains, you want an accurate weighing of your car for a proper valuation. If a dealer’s scales have been tampered with, they may show a lower-than-actual weight, thus cheating you out of money.
Most states have agencies that are charged with checking and verifying the accuracy of scales used in various types of commerce. Any junk car dealer should be able to produce a current certification that their scales are accurate. Accept nothing less!
16. Arrange for Transportation to Get Your Vehicle There
The last step in selling your vehicle to a junkyard for cash is arranging the transportation for your car to get to its final destination. You have a few options here:
- If your junk vehicle still runs, that's great — just put the key in the ignition and drive it there.
- If it doesn't run, you have a choice to make. Be aware that junkyards will you offer free towing, but there is a cost for this, which will probably come out of your payout in one way or another. You can always ask for a price both ways, with and without towing. But if you prefer the convenience, then take the “free” tow.
- Do you want to squeeze every possible penny out of the deal, and your car doesn’t run? Look into renting a trailer or contracting a tow truck operator to get your vehicle over to the lot, for less than the dealer’s towing charge. This way, you can bank the maximum buck possible!
17. Consider Another Way to Junk A Car
There is another great way to say good-bye to a junk car, besides selling it for cash. It is easy to do, and it will make you feel wonderful inside:
Donating your junk car to a charity
Although most people junk their cars for cash, giving it away to a charitable organization of your choice is another useful way to get rid of it. The charity sells your car, and usually adds the proceeds from the sale to its operating budget. You, on the other hand, qualify for a tax deduction for donating!
Keep in mind that there are limits on how much you can deduct from your taxes for donating your car. We go over the specifics on donating a junk car and the tax limitations on this post.
Consult the charitable organization, or your tax adviser, if you have any additional questions about the donation process and the tax filing requirements. As with any junk car, you must have clear title, remove your personal items, remove the license plates if required, transfer the title, keep a copy, and get a receipt. It’s also a good idea to shoot some photos of your car and the transaction, for your records.
We hope you found our guide on how to junk a car helpful. You are now armed with the knowledge to deal with the entire junk car industry on your own terms. You know how to prepare your junk car, how to get the best price for your junk car, and how to avoid the scams that may appear as you go through this unique process.
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