Can I Junk a Car With Expired Registration? Yes and Here’s How to

Considering how much time we spend buying a vehicle and taking care of it, junking a car is remarkably easy. JUST contact a salvage yard, make a deal, complete some paperwork, trade the junk car for cash…DONE!

But wait, what was that paperwork thing? No biggie; you just need the standard vehicle forms. But if your car is unregistered, it might take a little more work to junk it. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to present to the salvagers when you hand over your car, and what to do if you’re missing some documents. When you’re ready to get rid of your clunker, Junk Car Medics will diagnose your junk car woes with cash.

First of all, you should be aware that keeping an unregistered junk car around is asking for trouble. In some areas, the law requires any car on your property to be registered. If you don’t know your local ordinance, check it out. These regulations often come with fines attached. You may just need to figure out how to sell a junk car.

The lawmakers aren’t trying to just raise money through the DMV. When owners don’t register cars, a lot of them are left sitting around, deteriorating. Scrap cars become eyesores. As the cars rust out, their fluids leak, polluting the environment. Animals can take up residence. Great for the critters; bad for the earth.

If you live under one of these junk car laws, either get that vehicle registered or get rid of it fast. You might just get a warning…at first. But if you don’t fix the problem, fines can run into the hundreds of dollars. On the other hand, if you junk it, you’ll get money.

So what do you need to present to salvagers when you junk your car? Rules vary a bit from state to state, and your junkyard can give you specific details and offer guidance if you’re missing an essential form. Generally, though, if you have the title, you’re golden. That’s proof of ownership, and salvagers just need to know you’re not trying to sell your neighbor’s noisy, air polluting rust bucket. (Not that you would.)

If your title is MIA, you can get a replacement from the DMV, but it will probably take a little time. You should do is ASAP. But if you’re in a hurry (remember those fines!), you might be able to substitute your driver’s license and the car’s registration. But whoops! You’ve let the registration lag. You now have an unregistered vehicle. Are you in trouble?

Probably not. You flaked on the registration (or let it run out on purpose), but you still have the old tag and card. In many states that’s enough. Lucked out on that one.

What if you don’t have the old registration either? (Seriously? Are you sure you own this car?) You could consider visiting the ol’ DMV to get a duplicate. In some cases, an insurance card and your license might do the trick. (We’ll talk later about a better organizational system for your documents. Seriously, everything is gone?) If you don’t have any of those forms and can’t get your hands on them, you might very well be doomed. Or at least the car sale is.

A salvage yard will tell you what you’re going to need to make the exchange, so be ready for the question. That means knowing if you have the title and realizing if you’re missing your registration. If there’s an issue when the tow truck comes to pick up your car, the whole deal may be delayed. And I’m sure you had plans for that cash…so when you’re making arrangements with the salvage yard, let them know if paperwork is going to be an issue.

Some states give you other options. For instance in some states if your car is with out a title it must be

  • X years old or older, and
  • worth less than $X

…a Licensed Vehicle Remover is then permitted to recycle it. Your salvagers can tell you if your state offers any extra special bonuses.

Some unfortunate folks have property littered with an unregistered vehicle or two that don’t belong to them. Persons known or unknown have dumped the cars, and the landowners have no idea when and if the junkers will be collected. (We’re guessing never, but who knows?)

If this is your plight, your best bet is to contact your local police station. They can explain what to do if you have an abandoned vehicle. Take care of it by the book, and that book can’t be thrown at you later.

Having all the paperwork ready -- every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed --makes the process of junking your car super simple. (If you’re sentimental about your old jalopy, however, you may have some emotions to deal with. For that you’re on your own.) But if there’s a problem with your forms (such as your junk car being unregistered) there’s also a solution. Junk Car Medics will help you determine what you need, and then give you a fair price for your junker.

What is The Definition of an Unregistered Car?

The definition of an unregistered car is one that does not have license plates issued by the state in which the owner resides. Unregistered cars can be of any year, make, or model, and can be in any condition. Brand new cars or used cars newly purchased may be unregistered if the purchaser was not prepared for all of the costs, expenses, and fees associated with licensing a vehicle in their state. However, most unregistered cars are junk cars that cannot pass the necessary inspections to be registered in that state.

Why do cars become Unregistered Cars?

There are 3 main reasons for unregistered cars and expired license plates.

  1. The unregistered car cannot pass a safety or emissions inspection. When a vehicle cannot pass the inspections required for legal vehicle registration and the cost of those repairs is more than the car is worth, these unregistered cars end up being salvaged for their reusable in-demand parts and recycled.
  2. The car is not required to be registered. Some states do not require old cars such as vintage cars, antique cars, or classic cars to be registered. In addition, vehicles listed as parts cars or with an inoperative, salvage, or junk title status are not required to be registered in most states.
  3. The unregistered car is recent to the state. Moving from one state to another is very expensive, and one of the expenses people forget to account for is transferring the registration on their vehicle. Most states have a 30 to 60 day grace period for vehicle owners new to the state to register their cars. Some states have strict emissions inspections while others do not, which can also lead to vehicles from another state not having registration and needing to be recycled when repairs are too costly.
  4. The new car owner was not aware of the costs associated with licensing a vehicle. There are many costs associated with registering a vehicle with your state’s DMV, although these do vary by state. The most common costs associated with registering a vehicle in the US are property taxes, inspections, sales taxes, licensing fees, license plates, title fees, administrative or service fees, and car insurance.

There was a significant spike in unregistered cars in the US in 2020 and 2021 due to relaxed enforcement of expired or missing license plates during the pandemic. Most communities and states are now cracking down on unregistered vehicles, which means that owners of these unregistered cars must get them into compliance or have them removed and recycled as quickly as possible.

Do Junkyards buy cars without registration?

Yes, junkyards buy cars without registration. You will need the vehicle title and your identification.

What do I do with my registration when I junk a car?

When junking a car you can discard your registration.