Definition of a Junk Car – What is a Junk Car (Scrap Car, Decrepit Car)?

Junk Car Medics definition of a junk car, also known as a scrap car, junk car, hooptie, or jalopy, 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.

Characteristics of a junk car

Here are the criteria to we use to determine if a car is junk when we buy junk cars.

  • Too old for the road: A junk car must be at least three years old. Most junk cars are too old, and nobody wants them because of their old makes or models. It's also very difficult to find parts such as seats and safety airbags for the old vehicle, since new seats are not built for old car models. Therefore, driving the car would risk on your safety. These vehicles are labeled as End-of-life Vehicle (ELV.)
  • Missing paperwork: A junk car has its vehicle title or registration missing. Without a vehicle title or registration, there's a risk that someone will claim the vehicle even though you might already own the vehicle. Therefore, the vehicle sits in the junkyard and deteriorates.
  • Abandoned car: Someone has parked a car in the street or on another person's property without permission for too long. Some abandoned cars might be in a good condition, while others are completely damaged. Most jurisdictions will store an abandoned car for a while before they dispose of those with little or no value to them.
  • Damage: A junk car is severely damaged or deteriorated. The vehicle might miss significant parts such as the engine, motor, transmission or tires because of theft or deterioration. The price of repairing this vehicle is too much compared to its value, therefore, it becomes a junker.
  • Completely inoperable: Since the vehicle is masked with problems, it's barely moving anywhere, anytime soon. This means that it may continue to deteriorate and lose more value with time.
  • A worthless vehicle: Your local dealership will buy your junk car for scraps. If they buy it, they'll just get a wrecker to come and dispose of it. This means that the amount the dealership trade-in will offer you is much less that what a junk car buyer will.
  • Totaled car: If your insurance company titles your vehicle as a totaled vehicle, it means that the cost of repair is more than the vehicle's actual value. The company will not even offer a salvaged title for the car. A salvaged title is when an insurance company declares a vehicle as a total loss, but hands it to a rebuilder who tries to sell it with a new title. 

Here’s a profile of a typical junk car:

Essentially, a junk car is an old or damaged vehicle that is not worth the price of fixes. The vehicle might have seen past its golden days and is now lying idle in the junkyard. It cannot run and, therefore, has no actual use. Insurance companies will not want to repair the car, as it's considered a loss to them. In addition, most junk cars have been involved in many accidents or suffered terrible damage and mold, making it difficult for them to get a salvage title. 

A real junker could give out at any moment…even when you’re going 65 mph on the highway. Even if your engine doesn’t fail in the middle of traffic, dropping dead anywhere is a problem. You don’t want to be stranded by the side of the freeway, on a country road, on a city street or in unfamiliar territory. A junk car carries that threat all the time.

Because a lot of junkers are older cars, safety features may be few and far between. Air bags? Probably not. It also can be harder to properly install infant, baby, and child seats in these vehicles. New seats are not built for old car models, and you really don’t want to jury-rig something so important.s 

Because of their excessive baggage, money earned from junk cars primarily comes from recycling. Individual parts have little or no value to auto salvage yards. Even in their wildest dreams, most “junk” cars are never going to get salvage titles. Sometimes, when an insurance company declares that a vehicle is a total loss, a salvage yard or rebuilder will fix it up and try to resell it with a new title. A “salvage title” alerts potential buyers that the car had been previously totaled.  The majority of junk cars are too far gone for this.  

Due to this, often times people make mistakes when selling a junk car.

However, a junk car is not necessarily the same as an abandoned car. Abandoned simply means its been left sitting where it doesn’t belong, either on the street or on private land. It might be a junker, as well, but, theoretically, someone could abandon a perfectly good later model vehicle. So an abandoned car might be a junker, but a junker doesn’t have to be abandoned.

Many charities accept cars for fund raising, and some even take junkers, because the organization can sell them for scrap. However, you’ll typically need a title. Also, the car must have an engine, and it must be towable. You’ll get credit for a tax credit based on IRS guidelines, but that’s only useful if you include charitable donations on your return.  And you’ll get no cash up front.

A car can become a junker over time, or it can happen in an instant. The years can take a toll, and, eventually, a car just kicks the bucket. In some cases, neglect speeds up a car’s death. (There’s a reason for the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.) An accident can suddenly render a car too damaged to be worth fixing. Natural disasters, too, can quickly do a number on vehicles. 

To Wrap It up

A junk car is a vehicle that does not have much value to you unless you sell it for scraps or parts. If your vehicle falls under most of the above categories, it's definitely a junker. You can try to salvage some working parts such as stereo system, tires, and transmission. However, you cannot repair the car to take it back on the road. If you tried to repair a junk car, you'll end up spending more money than you can recover, and the vehicle might also get damaged again, spending more time in a repair shop.  If you've never done this before learn about what to know if it's your first time selling a junk car for cash.

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