What is a Junk Car? Definition and In-Depth Look

This guide explains what a junk car is, all the synonyms of a junk car, and takes an in-depth look at what is a junk car, its prices, removal, buyers, laws, and more when selling a junk car.

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    What is a Junk Car?

    A junk car, also known as a scrap car, is a vehicle that no longer runs, is damageable beyond repair, or is not worth fixing because it has no resale value and is best sold for parts or scrap

    A junk car or junk automobile means an automobile that

    1. Is undrivable and incapable of operating on public streets
    2. Not worth fixing because of its age or damage
    3. Has no resale value except as a source of parts or scrap metal

    Every vehicle ends up becoming a junk car and reaching the end of its life at some point.

    Sentence examples for the term junk car:

    • John sold his junk car to a junkyard and received $500 cash.
    • Every car will turn into a junk car at some point when it becomes unsafe.
    • The engine of Jane's 2006 Ford Taurus blew making it a junk car because it's not worth repairing.
    Todd Bialaszewski, CEO Junk Car Medics


    - Todd Bialaszewski, CEO @ Junk Car Medics

    Synonyms of Junk Car

    A junk car has many names and synonyms. Common names for a junk car include scrap car, salvage car, clunker, junker, jalopy, decrepit car, end-of-life vehicle, old car, derelict car, inoperable car, incomplete car, beater, and lemon.

    An In-Depth Look at Junk Cars

    A junk car is an old car that is damaged beyond repair or otherwise undrivable and has no value except for its parts and scrap. A junk vehicle has often reached the end of its life.  Most people assume junk cars are worthless cars, however, they do contain a value in their scrap metal and potentially reusable vehicle parts. Synonyms for the term junk car include a scrap car, decrepit car, jalopy, hooptie, clunker, and worthless car.  An example sentence would be: Fred totaled his car and it is now a junk car.

    Typical conditions of a junk car would include vehicles that are old, vehicles that are in bad condition and have severe body damage, have missing parts, are undrivable, or do not start.  The commonality in all this is that a junk car is undrivable and not safe for the road.

    The car brands that have the most junk cars are Chevrolet and Ford because they are domestically made cars and are the most popular brands. Chevrolet and Ford were especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, and Hyundai are other car brands that have the most junk cars.  All of these car brands are also among the most popular in America so it is no surprise they end up being the most popular junk cars.

    The junk car industry is huge.  15 million vehicles reach the end of their lives each year and become junk cars in the United States.  In comparison, 17 million new cars are sold each year according to data from Statista.  The average junk car value at Junk Car Medics is $617.  If there are 15 million junk cars each year the value in US dollars is $8,100,000,000 ($8.1 Billion Dollars).Junk Car Definition According to Customers

    Currently, the most common vehicle year for a junk car is 2006.  Vehicle years 2000 - 2009 make up the top 10 most common years for junk cars. The average age of a junk car is 18 years old.

    Most junk cars reach 150,000 miles or more with some vehicles reaching over 300,000 miles of use.  Damaged and undrivable cars are the most common conditions for junk cars with less than 150,000 miles on them.  These are often cars that were totaled.

    A junk car contains value because of its value in scrap metal. Some junk cars also have valuable car parts that can be resold. However, most junk cars are so old the parts are best scrapped.  The price for junk cars fluctuates based on the scrap metal market.

    People often wonder can a junk car work? The answer is yes a junk car can work and be driveable. However, for junk cars that still work and are driveable it is only a matter of time before they are unsafe to drive.

    What are the statistics about Junk Cars in the USA?

    Statistics about junk cars in the USA fall in line with population size.  The most populated states contain the most junk cars.  Let's take a look at the top 7 states for junk cars in the United States based on the last 12 months of data at Junk Car Medics.  The First would be California which makes up 15% of all junk cars in the United States. Second is Texas making up 10% of junk cars.  The third is Florida with 7%.  The fourth-largest state for junk cars would be Pennsylvania which accounts for 5%.  Next is Arizona with 4% followed by Ohio at 4%.  Lastly would be Tennessee which makes up 3% of the total junk cars in all states.

    The top 7 cities in the USA that contain the most junk cars based on the last 12 months of data at Junk Car Medics are Los Angeles with 4% of all junk cars. Chicago, NYC, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Philadelphia are next with all making up 2-3% individually.

    What are the price ranges for Junk Cars?

    The price range for 8 out of 10 junk cars would fall between $200 - $600.  The other 2 junk cars are outliers which can cause the price range to go as low as $50 and as high as $5,000. These two outliers would be either really old, rusted cars or newer cars that were recently totaled but still contain reusable car parts.

    Price ranges for junk cars can vary based on states and cities.  For example, here are price ranges for the most common junk cars in the top 10 states:

    1. California's price range for junk cars is $180 - $947
    2. Texas's price range for junk cars is $196 - $800
    3. Florida's price range for junk cars is $210 - $697
    4. Pennsylvania's price range for junk cars is $161 - $500
    5. Arizona's price range for junk cars is $152 - $391
    6. Ohio's price range for junk cars is $140 - $281
    7. Tennessee's price range for junk cars is $147 - $499

    Take a look at current junk car prices that we keep updated.

    What are the pricing factors for Junk Cars?

    The pricing factors for junk cars are as follows:

    These factors determine prices for junk cars.  Vehicle weight and current scrap metal prices are the most important factors.

    What to do with a junk car?

    There are a few different things to do with a junk car. The best thing you can do with a junk car is to sell the junk car for cash. Doing this will give you some money in your pocket while getting the junk car off the streets and to a junkyard.

    Another thing to do with a junk car is to donate it. If you do not want to sell your junk car you could donate it to a charity of your choice that accepts cars as donations. Last thing you can do with a junk car is to part the car out and sell the usable car parts. This should only be done if you are familiar with the process of taking the parts apart.

    How to understand whether your car is junk or not?

    To understand whether your car is junk or not you can use the following factors

    1. The condition of the vehicle. If it is severely damaged and unsafe to drive it is a junk car.
    2. Is the vehicle drivable? If not, it is likely a junk car.
    3. Is it worth repairing your car? If not, it is a junk car.

    What are the most valuable scrap metals from junk cars?

    The most valuable scrap metals from junk cars in order are steel, copper, aluminum, iron, and lead.  Here are the most valuable metals from junk cars according to data from Statista and iScrapApp.

    Metal Content of metal in the average vehicle Scrap metal price Value of metal in the vehicle
    Platinum Group Metals Minimal $16,000/lb $180
    Steel 2090 lbs. (approx 1 ton) $177/ton $177
    Aluminum 416 lbs. $0.24/lb $99.84
    Iron 243 lbs. (approx ⅕ ton) $185/ton $37
    Copper & Brass 39 lbs. $3.30/lb $128.70
    Lead (in the battery) 37 lbs. $0.50/lb $18.50


    Those metals make up the most valuable scrap metals in junk cars.

    Which Junk Car Parts Are The Most Valuable?

    The three parts that are of most value in junk cars are:

    1. Engine - Most engines have aluminum parts making it a valuable part in your car.
    2. Transmission System - The transmission can possibly be resold as a whole system. If not, it still is of interest because of its aluminum makeup.
    3. Catalytic Converter - The catalytic converter contains expensive metals not otherwise found in the junk car such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum. These are the platinum group metals.  Platinum group metals are rare and extremely valuable.

    A junk car part can sometimes be used for another car however most car parts are not interchangeable.  Junk car parts are in high demand.

    Prices of Valuable Parts in Junk Cars

    What is junk car removal?

    Junk car removal is a service provided by junk car buyers that remove vehicles from sellers. Junk car buyers provide junk car removal using tow trucks and flat beds.

    Junk car removal is a necessity in the industry because most junk cars are undrivable. A tow truck or a flatbed is required to get the junk car to the junk car buyer's location. If junk car buyers did not offer a junk car removal service and required sellers to transport their junk cars the industry would not be able to operate.  Sellers would have to rent tow trucks or flat beds and the cost of that would exceed the payout from the junk car.

    What are the steps of junk car removal?

    Junk car removal consists of 5 steps.  The first involves a junk car buyer sending a tow truck or flatbed to your location.  The junk car buyer will then hook up your vehicle to the tow truck or flatbed.  The next step would consist of transferring the vehicle title.  The fourth step for junk car removal is the junk car buyer paying the seller for their junk car. This usually occurs with a check.  The last step involves the junk car buyer driving away with your junk car to their location.  They will then start the service of parting out and dismantling the junk car.

    What are the most popular junk vehicle types?

    The most popular junk vehicle types consist of

    1. Cars - Cars make up 70% of junk cars.
    2. Trucks & SUVs - Trucks and SUVs make up 23% of junk cars.
    3. Vans - Vans make up 7% of junk cars.

    What are the most popular junk car models?

    The most popular junk cars are

    1. Honda Accord - Accords make up 4% of all junk cars.
    2. Nissan Altima - Altima's make up 3% of all junk cars.
    3. Honda Civic - Civics make up 3% of all junk cars
    4. Jeep Grand Cherokee - Jeeps make up 2% of all junk cars.
    5. Toyota Camry - Camry's make up 2% of all junk cars
    6. Chevrolet Impala - Impala's make up 2% of all junk cars.
    7. Ford Escape - Escapes make up 2% of all junk cars.

    Are there any junk trains?

    Yes, there are junk trains.

    Junk trains contain a lot of metal and are often scrapped at the end of their lives just like junk cars. Junking a train is a lot tougher due to its size and makeup.  Junk Car Medics does not junk trains but there are services out there that do.

    Are motorcycles accepted by junk vehicle buyers?

    Yes, motorcycles are accepted by junk vehicle buyers as are all motorized passenger vehicles.  Some junk vehicle buyers may not accept motorcycles but that is their individual choice.

    Are bicycles accepted by junk vehicle buyers?

    No. Bicycles are not accepted by junk vehicle buyers.  Junk vehicle buyers only buy motorized vehicles like cars, trucks, vans, suvs and motorcycles.

    What are the environmental benefits of junk car removal?

    The environmental benefits of junk car removal consist of repurposing scrap metal, disposing of toxic liquids and substances, and recycling parts and old tires to avoid landfills.

    Junk car removal removes vehicles that are old and contain harmful gasses, vehicles that are decomposing, and vehicles that could drain fluids and cause groundwater pollution.

    A proper junk car recycling system helps eliminate these vehicles from everyday use and gets them in the hands of junk car buyers.  Junk car removal services need to abide by strict regulations and junk car removal laws to protect the environment.

    Junk car removal reverses these negative effects on the environment by getting these old decrepit cars off the road. One big issue with driving an old decrepit car is that the majority of engines in older car models release CO emissions and other greenhouse gasses.  Older cars release carbon monoxide at a much higher rate than newer cars.

    Are junk car metals recycled?

    Yes, junk car metals are recycled.  A junk car buyer will do its best to properly crush a vehicle down to be transferred to the local metal recycling facility.  About 80% of the weight of a vehicle is made of recyclable metal.

    How to choose a junk car buyer?

    To choose a junk car buyer a junk car seller should follow a 5 step process.  First junk car sellers should research junk car buyers online.  You can research a junk car buyer by reading their website and their online reviews to see if they have a good reputation.  Next junk car sellers should call the reputable junk car buyers they find to get a free quote for their vehicle. Third junk car sellers should choose which offer they deem best.  Fourth junk car sellers should clean out their vehicles and sign over the title. Lastly, sellers will sell their junk car to their chosen junk car buyer and get paid for their junk car.

    Tip for finding a junk car buyer

    What are the laws for Junk Cars?

    There are junk car laws in place to regulate the industry.  Federal law requires junk car buyers must take inventory of all junk automobiles or salvage automobiles obtained in whole or in part each month and document information such as the VIN, the date the vehicle was obtained, the name of the seller, and a statement of whether the automobile was disposed of. Junk car buyers and junkyards are not required to report this information if they have already reported the same information to the state.

    There are also junk car laws by state.  For instance, the Kansas Junkyard and Savage Control Act stipulates where junkyards can be located and require junk car buyers to go through screenings.  The Montana Motor Vehicle Recycling and Disposal Act requires that if you have four or more junk vehicles at any one location or if you deal with second-hand motor vehicle parts you are required to obtain a wrecking facility license.  The state of Washington requires junk cars to be stored inside a building or removed from the property.

    Who determines legally whether a car is junk or not?

    Different states have different laws that determine whether a car is junk or not.  Most of these laws are in place to keep residents from having old or damaged cars displayed on their property.  States also do not want cars left abandoned or in public view.

    Washington State Legislature states in Chapter 46.55.230 that junk cars and abandoned vehicles can be disposed of after a certain amount of time if left on someone's property.

    In November 2019 Montana amended ARM 17.50.213 and 17.50.216 to help make it easier for consumers to get rid of junk cars.  In Lewis and Clark County Montana you can fill out a form to submit to the town office to have a junk car hauled away within 2 weeks' time.

    In Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules Section 4513.64 it is stated that no person may willfully leave an abandoned junk motor vehicle on private property for more than seventy-two hours without the permission of the person that owns the property. No person may abandon a junk car on a public road or highway for forty-eight hours or longer without notifying the sheriff.

    The federal government has laws in place that are more geared towards junk car buyers.  The National Salvage Motor Vehicle Consumer Protection Act of 1997 is in place to reduce vehicle title fraud and improve consumer protection nationally by establishing nationally uniform definitions and procedures for the titling, registration, and transfer of salvage rebuilt salvage and non-repairable vehicles.

    Do Car Removal and Recycle Systems help for healthier traffic?

    Yes, car removal and recycling systems help for healthier traffic.  Car removal help get older cars off the road which helps protect the ozone.  Car removal and recycling systems also dispose of the vehicle's contaminants and recycle its parts and metal to be repurposed.

    What to do with a junk car based on legal conditions?

    A junk car owner can do two different things with it. First, the junk car can be sold, or it can be recycled for free. Recycling vehicles for free can be done if the junk car is not worth any money.  Second, the junk car owner can contact the local authorities if no one is willing to buy their junk car. The state will help them but may also charge a fee for the removal of the junk car.

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