Your goal, if you’re looking to sell an old or unwanted car, should be to get as much money as possible for it. Whether it's selling by owner, selling to a dealer, trading it in toward the purchase of a new car or selling it for scrap parts, there's one end goal: make bank on it.
Of course, "making bank" is often much easier said than done.
Think about it: There's a reason that you're looking to part ways with an old car, and it's likely not because it's in great shape and you want to treat yourself on the latest and greatest model to hit the market. It's likely because the vehicle is past its prime at best, and inoperable at worst.
If your vehicle is in the latter category and either won't start, has been in a serious collision, or has more wrong with it than it is worth to fix, then the used car dealer lot or a trade in might not be the best route for you. The best route might be to see how much you can get to sell it for scrap parts to a cash for junk cars dealer.
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The Good Ol’ Days
Back in the day, selling a junk car used to be worth big bucks, and this is largely because the value of scrap metal was high. Those who buy junk cars weren't buying a vehicle because they thought they could fix it up and get it to run again — they were buying it for the scrap metal. But since the real value of a junk car is in the metal, the rules of supply and demand take effect as well.
Not long ago, it wasn't uncommon to get anywhere from $500 to even up to a couple thousand dollars for a junk car just because of its value in scrap metal. In fact, the average car these days contains about 2,000 pounds of steel and the typical truck about 3,000 pounds of steel. This isn't including the 300 pounds in aluminum too.
Unfortunately, these days, scrap metal's value has plummeted and so too has the price for the average junk car or truck. Not long ago, manufacturers were paying close to $500 for a ton of steel. Today? About $50. As a result, you can't expect to make bank for your old clunker. But at the same time, this doesn't mean that turning it in for cash to a junkyard still isn't a viable and lucrative option under the right circumstances.
High Supply, Low Demand for Scrap Metal
So why has the value of scrap metal plummeted over the years, especially when it was so lucrative in 2012 and then subsequent years of 2014 and 2015?
Like we said above, it's all about supply and demand. When manufacturing is booming and manufacturers from all over the world are looking for the likes of steel and aluminum that they can reuse, there's obviously higher demand for scrap.
That's not to say that manufacturing isn't going well right now, because it is. The big problem is that there's too much scrap metal for the taking, so any junk car isn't going to be valued very highly because of the expansive supply that's already available.
How Can I Get the Most for My Junk Car?
How do you junk a car for top dollar? This largely depends on the type of car that you have and how much reusable metal that it offers to a junkyard.
For instance, if your junk car is a GMC Sierra, the average price is about $500. If you have a GMC Yukon, you might get about $600 for it. These are two of the vehicles that fetch the most for scrap metals, as they have a slew of reusable materials under their hood.
However, if your junk car is a Ford Contour or a Ford Escort, you'll be lucky to bank $90 for your scrap vehicle. As you can see, generally the larger your vehicle is (i.e., trucks, vans), you'll net more for it than if it were small (i.e., compact sedan).
READ: How to scrap a car
Here's a brief look at some other tips for getting the most money for your junk car?
1. Familiarize yourself with scrap metal pricing
Though you may have to pay a moderate fee to obtain a subscription to a research outlet for this data, it may be worth it if you want to ensure you get the most money for your vehicle.
This could behoove you for a few reasons: One, it allows you to track scrap metal pricing to the day, permitting you to sell when the getting is good and avoid selling when the value is too low. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with scrap metal pricing can help you pick the season to sell your vehicle.
Believe it or not, scrap metal's ebbs and flows are often by season, so while one season might not amount to much value-wise, the next season may paint a different picture. But if you don't know, you could be losing out on hundreds of dollars based on when you sell.
2. Shop a few different yards
Just as how it's common to contact a few different dealers and weigh a few different models when you're shopping for a new vehicle, you should do the same if you're looking to score some cash for your junk car.
Pick up the phone and call a few different lots near you. Simply give them the model, make and year of your vehicle and see what they say about an estimated payout.
3. Follow up regularly
Are you already tracking scrap metal prices? Have you been in contact with junkyards near you? If you haven’t pulled the trigger yet on unloading your junk car because you haven’t liked what you can make off it, don’t just give up on things.
Like we noted in the above section, scrap metal prices were high just a few years ago, dipped, then made another little rebound. There are highs and lows to these types of things, so just because your estimated payout is low today, that doesn’t mean that it will be low tomorrow.
Be sure you’re regularly checking scrap prices and following up with junkyards to help you determine when you can maximize on the payout of your junk vehicle.