Junkyard – Definition, Types, & What They Do

As a business specializing in buying junk cars since 2015, I've come to appreciate the vital role of junkyards in the automotive recycling industry. A junkyard is not just the final resting place for vehicles that have reached the end of their life; it's a crucial part of the lifecycle of a car.

Junkyards, also known as salvage yards, scrapyards, or auto salvage yards, serve as collection points for end-of-life vehicles. These vehicles are typically no longer roadworthy due to age, damage, or mechanical failure. In our experience, junkyards are where these vehicles are stored and processed, with usable parts salvaged for resale and remaining materials recycled.

There are several types of junkyards, each serving a specific purpose in the automotive recycling chain. Auto salvage yards focus on salvaging usable parts for resale, providing an affordable source of replacement parts for vehicle owners and repair shops. Wrecking yards specialize in dismantling vehicles for scrap metal and spare parts, while car dismantlers primarily disassemble cars for parts and materials, often specializing in certain makes or models. Car recyclers emphasize recycling as much of the vehicle as possible, including parts and materials like metal and plastic.

The primary purpose of a junkyard, from our perspective, is to recycle and repurpose vehicles and their components. By salvaging usable parts, junkyards help keep vehicles on the road for years to come, reducing the need for part production—a costly and environmentally impactful industry. This not only saves the community thousands of dollars by selling used parts at a fraction of the cost compared to OEM parts from the dealership but also lowers the environmental impact by reducing carbon emissions.

For businesses like ours, junkyards are essential partners in the process of buying and recycling junk cars. They contribute to a sustainable and circular economy, making them a key player in our efforts to provide eco-friendly solutions for disposing of old vehicles. As we continue our work in the automotive recycling industry, the role of junkyards remains central to our mission of keeping cars on the road longer and reducing waste.

In the following sections, we will dive deeper into these aspects, highlighting the integral role of junkyards in the automotive recycling industry and their importance to our business of buying junk cars since 2015.

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What is a Junkyard?

    A junkyard is a place where end-of-life vehicles are stored and processed. It's where cars that are no longer roadworthy are dismantled. Usable parts are salvaged for resale. The remaining materials are recycled. People also call junkyards salvage yards, and auto recyclers. They are also referred to as scrap yards although a scrapyard and junkyard are different when it comes to cars. For example, someone might say, "I found a replacement door for my car at the local junkyard." This means they bought used car parts from a place where old cars are taken apart and recycled. A picture of a junkyard might show rows of old cars. They could be stacked or arranged in an open space, waiting to be dismantled or recycled.

    What Can Be Found in a Junkyard?

    In a junkyard, you can find various items. These include:

    • Vehicles: Cars, trucks, vans, and motorcycles that are no longer roadworthy.
    • Car Parts: Engines, transmissions, doors, and other components that can be reused.
    • Scrap Metal: Metal from dismantled vehicles is often recycled and used in new products.
    • Tires: Used tires that can be retreaded or recycled for other purposes.
    • Batteries: Car batteries that can be reconditioned or recycled for their materials.

    Each of these items plays a role in the recycling and salvage process. This contributes to the sustainability of the automotive industry. For businesses like ours, junkyards provide a source of parts and materials. We use them in repairing or refurbishing vehicles. Junkyards are also a place to sell junk cars for recycling.

    What Are The Different Names of Junkyards?

    Junkyards are known by various names. Each reflects a specific focus or function within the automotive recycling industry. Here's a table summarizing the different names and their definitions:

    Junkyards A yard that purchases vehicles with salvageable parts that can then be resold. Junkyards also take other appliances and large equipment, as well as boats.
    Auto Salvage Yards A yard specializing in the junk industry's automotive aspect, including cars, buses, and RVs. Auto salvage yards buy and resell vehicles, including components that have been removed and resold individually.
    Wrecking Yards A location specializing in dismantling wrecked or otherwise inoperable vehicles to resell for parts. Similar to junkyards and auto salvage yards, just a different name — more common in Canada and Australia.
    Car Dismantlers A business that focuses on dismantling old and decommissioned vehicles to sell functional parts for profit. Same business model as junkyards, auto salvage yards, and wrecking yards.
    Car Recyclers Car recyclers dismantle vehicles for valuable spare parts. There is less focus on salvaging all usable parts of a vehicle and more on recycling the vehicle by getting it ready for being crushed, shredded, and melted down.

    Let's take a closer look at each type:


    These are places where end-of-life vehicles are collected, stored, and processed for recycling and salvage. They deal with a wide range of vehicles and parts, from engines and transmissions to doors and tires.

    Auto Salvage Yards

    These yards focus on salvaging usable parts from damaged or old vehicles. They clean, test, and sell these parts to customers or repair shops.

    Wrecking Yards

    These yards specialize in dismantling vehicles for scrap metal and spare parts. They strip valuable parts and crush the remaining metal for scrap.

    Car Dismantlers

    These yards primarily disassemble cars for parts and materials. They often specialize in certain makes or models and sell parts to specific markets or enthusiasts.

    Car Recyclers

    These yards emphasize recycling as much of the vehicle as possible. They reuse or sell parts and recycle materials like metal and plastic.

    What is the Purpose of a Junkyard?

    Junkyards not only serve as blue-collar employers in many communities, but they also benefit the public and the environment. From a business standpoint, junkyards buy and sell junk cars and their various parts and components. These items may include engines, transmissions, alternators, tires, airbags, and audio systems. Some junkyards may sell whole junk cars for those seeking a project car. Most junkyards strip these scrap cars for parts and sell the individual pieces to interested parties.

    Junkyards are locations where wrecked and totaled vehicles can be taken. Many neighborhoods have rules against inoperable cars in the driveway or on the street, visible to the public. Usable parts from the junkyard can be resold at steep discounts. The public and mechanics can purchase individual parts to repair a vehicle for a cheaper cost when compared to brand-new OEM parts.

    Environmentally, junkyards help to reduce the carbon footprint of the automotive industry as a whole. They provide less demand for part manufacturing, which is expensive and energy-intensive.

    The operation of junkyards is a complex process. It involves the dismantling of vehicles, sorting of materials, and safe disposal of hazardous substances. The benefits of junkyards are numerous. They include economic advantages through the provision of affordable car parts. They also create jobs in the automotive recycling sector. Additionally, they reduce the environmental impact through recycling efforts.

    How Does a Junkyard Operate?

    There are many daily operations that a junkyard must successfully run to stay in business. It costs nearly $40,000 to start a junkyard, which can quickly add up over time if the business doesn't become profitable quickly. Junkyards may invest in marketing to encourage the local public to sell junk vehicles to a junkyard. Without enough public interest and business, including the buying and selling vehicles and used parts, a junkyard is at risk of going out of business.

    Junkyards don't just recycle and resell vehicles and components. They're also responsible for disposing of hazardous liquids such as Freon, engine oil, brake fluid, and fuel. These liquids can't simply be dumped, which harms the soil and the water sources nearby. Junkyards safely dispose of these hazards and dead batteries that must be responsibly recycled.

    Once a junkyard salvages any usable parts on a junk car, it sells the remaining metal frame, which can be shredded and sorted using magnets, to a recycler. The junkyard can sell the frame based on weight, giving them additional profit from the vehicle they salvaged and resold parts.

    Do They Sell Car Parts at the Junkyard?

    Yes, junkyards sell car parts to the public and specialized buyers such as mechanics. This is one of the main aspects of a junkyard's business, and by removing or salvaging used car parts, the yard can pay better car prices. Once a vehicle has been scrapped for all of its valuable parts, the junkyard can crush the frame and sell it to a recycler — such as a scrap yard that breaks the metal down further and sorts it out.

    Used car parts often sell for 20%-80% less than new parts at the junkyard. This enables drivers to keep their vehicles on the road for longer due to cheaper replacement parts. Mechanics can refurbish a junkyard car part and use it as a replacement for a vehicle in their shop.

    Do Junkyards Purchase Junk Car Parts?

    Junkyards typically focus on purchasing entire end-of-life vehicles rather than individual junk car parts. However, some junkyards may buy specific valuable parts if there is a demand for them in the market. The decision to purchase parts depends on factors such as the condition of the part, its rarity, and its resale value. In general, selling an entire junk car to a junkyard is more common and economically viable for both the seller and the junkyard.

    Do Junkyards Purchase Junk Cars?

    Yes, junkyards purchase junk cars. This is the number one priority of a junkyard's business model. Without junk cars, there would be no junk car parts and scrap metal to sell to a recycler. Junkyards purchase junk cars from the public once a vehicle has reached its end of life. This can be due to a wreck or simply as a vehicle gets old and begins to break down, becoming unreliable and too expensive to repair.

    Junkyards provide offers for junk cars based on the car's make, model, year, and condition. Junk cars that are damaged on the exterior but have valuable interior working components are worth a fair price to a junkyard, as they can remove and resell the parts. Read more about selling a junk ca to a junkyard.

    How Much Do Junkyards Pay for Cars?

    The amount junkyards pay for cars varies widely depending on several factors. These include the make, model, age, condition of the vehicle, and current market prices for scrap metal and parts. On average, junkyards may offer anywhere from $100 to $500 for a typical junk car. However, for vehicles with valuable parts or higher metal content, the price can go up to $1,000 or more. It's important to note that prices fluctuate based on supply and demand, as well as regional differences in scrap metal prices. Sellers can expect to receive a quote based on an assessment of their vehicle's value in parts and scrap.

    Average Prices Paid by Junkyards for Different Types of Vehicles

    Here are some estimated price ranges for different types of vehicles based on their condition:

    Vehicle Type Condition Average Price Range
    Sedan Good $300 - $500
    Sedan Poor $100 - $300
    SUV Good $400 - $600
    SUV Poor $150 - $350
    Truck Good $500 - $700
    Truck Poor $200 - $400
    Classic Car Restorable $600 - $1,000
    Classic Car For parts $200 - $500

    These prices are estimates and can vary based on location, demand, and other factors.

    How Do Junkyards Value Cars?

    When valuing a car, junkyards consider several factors to determine its worth. These factors include the make and model, condition, year, weight, market demand, and location. Popular models with in-demand parts are valued higher. Cars in better condition or with more usable parts have higher value. Newer cars and classic cars can have higher value due to parts demand. Heavier vehicles can have higher scrap metal value. High demand for parts from a specific make or model increases value. Prices can vary based on regional demand and towing costs. Junkyards typically use a combination of these factors to calculate the offer for a junk car.

    Are Junkyards Open on Sundays?

    Are Junkyards Open on Sundays?

    Most junkyards are closed on Sundays. However, it is possible to find a junkyard that is open on Sundays, though it may be more difficult. If you want to sell your junk car on a Sunday, you may need to search for a junkyard open on that day or consider alternative options, such as selling your car to a private buyer or dealership. Remember that junkyards may have different operating hours and policies, so it is best to check with the specific junkyard you are interested in before visiting.

    Junk Car Medics is a nationwide junkyard that allows customers to get offers for junk cars 7 days a week. If they cannot provide junk car removal services on Sundays in your city, they will try to schedule the removal on the next business day. Junk Car Medics will buy any make or model of car and does not require the keys or title as long as you have a copy of your license and vehicle registration.

    How Profitable is a Junkyard?

    The profitability of a junkyard depends on various factors such as location, size, operational efficiency, and market conditions. On average, a well-run junkyard can generate a monthly revenue ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 or more. The profit margin can vary, but typically, a junkyard can achieve a net profit margin of 10% to 20%. This means that a junkyard with a monthly revenue of $30,000 could potentially make a monthly profit of $3,000 to $6,000. However, these figures can vary significantly based on the junkyard's business model, the volume of cars processed, and the prices of scrap metal and used parts.

    Are Junkyards Good for Business?

    Yes, junkyards can be good for business, particularly in the automotive recycling industry. They provide a valuable service by offering an environmentally responsible way to dispose of end-of-life vehicles. Junkyards also supply affordable used parts to consumers and repair shops, contributing to cost savings and resource conservation. Furthermore, by recycling materials such as metal, plastic, and rubber, junkyards reduce the need for new raw materials and help minimize environmental impact. However, the success of a junkyard business depends on effective management, market demand, and the ability to adapt to changing industry trends and regulations.

    What Tools Do Junkyards Use?

    Junkyards utilize a variety of tools and machinery to dismantle, process, and manage end-of-life vehicles efficiently. These tools are essential for the daily operations of a junkyard, facilitating the removal, processing, and recycling of vehicle parts and materials. Some of the tools used in junkyards include:

    • Car Crusher: A machine that crushes defunct vehicles to reduce their size for recycling and easier transportation.
    • Forklifts and Front Loaders: Used for moving vehicles and large parts around the junkyard.
    • Engine Hoist: A tool for safely removing engines from vehicles.
    • Fluid Recovery Systems: These systems are used to drain various fluids from vehicles, such as oil, coolant, and gasoline, in an environmentally safe manner.
    • Magnetic Crane: Often used for moving large quantities of metal scrap.
    • Air Compressor and Pneumatic Tools: These tools are used for dismantling vehicles quickly and efficiently.
    • Machine Saws: These heavy-duty saws are necessary when employees need to cut through thick pieces of metal. This can be the case when workers are trying to access more valuable pieces with a higher resale value.
    • Roll-Off Trailers: Roll-off trailers are another option that junkyards have when they need to move heavy objects around the junkyard, such as into the warehouse for storage and inventory purposes.
    • Wire Strippers: This tool is helpful when removing the insulation around copper wires, allowing access to the valuable copper. Junkyards keep a range of sizes, as different cables within a vehicle have different insulation.
    • Balers: Balers are used to crush metal and cut it into predetermined sizes. Then, the metal is turned into a bale of metal transportable to other locations.
    • Handlers: Handlers can use magnets to sort metals, such as ferrous and non-ferrous, into piles. Handlers will also use shears to split large chunks of metal apart, making them easier to process and recycle.
    • Scrap Metal Shredders: Scrap metal shredders break down large pieces of metal into smaller particles. They achieve this goal using heavy-duty hammers that spin and break down metal, effectively shredding it before discharging the remnants.

    Is Car Crusher the Most Important Machine in a Wrecking Yard?

    Yes, the car crusher is often considered the most important machine in a wrecking yard. Its primary role in compressing cars into smaller, more manageable pieces makes it essential for the efficient processing and recycling of vehicles. By significantly reducing the size of a car, the crusher allows for the easier and more cost-effective transportation and storage of scrap metal. Furthermore, the process facilitates the recycling of metal, contributing to environmental sustainability. While other tools and machinery play critical roles in the operation of a wrecking yard, the car crusher is pivotal for its contribution to the recycling process and the financial viability of the yard.

    What Kinds of Vehicles are Junked in Junkyards?

    Junkyards accept a wide range of vehicles for recycling, dismantling, and parts salvaging. The acceptance conditions typically depend on the yard's capabilities and business model. Some of the types of vehicles that are commonly junked in junkyards include:

    • Cars: From everyday sedans to sports cars, most junkyards accept cars of any make, model, and year, especially if they have salvageable parts or valuable scrap metal.
    • Trucks and SUVs: Larger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs are common in junkyards, prized for their parts and metal content.
    • Vans: Including both passenger and cargo vans, these vehicles are accepted for their parts and potential for metal recycling.
    • Motorcycles: Many junkyards also take motorcycles, which can offer valuable parts to enthusiasts and repair shops.
    • Commercial Vehicles: Some yards specialize in or include commercial vehicles like buses, box trucks, and heavy equipment in their inventory.

    How Many Junkyards Exist in the US?

    As of the latest available data, there are approximately 8,000 to 9,000 junkyards and auto recycling facilities in the United States. This number reflects a diverse industry that ranges from small, family-owned operations to large commercial enterprises. The distribution of junkyards can vary significantly by state, reflecting local demand for auto recycling services. For example, states with larger populations and more vehicles, such as California, Texas, and Florida, may have a higher number of junkyards compared to less populous states. These facilities collectively play a crucial role in the automotive recycling industry, contributing to the economy and environmental sustainability by recycling millions of vehicles each year.

    What are the Biggest Junkyards in the USA?

    The United States is home to several large junkyards, known for their extensive inventory and services. Here are three of the biggest junkyards:

    1. French Lake Auto Parts

    This junkyard is 60 miles west of Minneapolis and has been in business for over 100 years. With 100+ acres of property, the yard has over 10,000 vehicles on any given day. These vehicles may be suitable for restoration projects, scrap metal recycling, and salvageable parts.

    2. CTC Auto Ranch

    This salvage yard is in Denton, Texas, an hour north of Dallas. The yard specializes in muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s. The dry climate featured in the Dallas area means that many vehicles are rust-free, making them ideal for restoration projects. The yard has over 4,000 vehicles on 40 acres, and the inventory changes consistently.

    3. Wildcat Auto Wrecking

    The junkyard in Oregon focuses on Chrysler vehicles, with over 800 vehicles in active inventory. Many bodies are from the 1950s through the 1970s, with many more parts in salvageable inventory. This yard sells parts from motors to glass and bumpers.

    4. Turners' Auto Wrecking

    This is a popular junkyard in California, and it began in 1928, putting it in business for nearly a century now. There are over 100 acres of vintage and classic cars and parts, making it a great place for those searching hard-to-find parts for their project cars.

    5. Old Car City USA

    Located in White, Georgia, Old Car City USA is one of the most famous junkyards in the world, boasting over 4,000 vehicles throughout 34 acres of land. The property has several miles of trails, allowing visitors to take the sights in and look at the many cars.

    What are the Wrecking Yards Statistics?

    Here are statistics for wrecking yards in 10 different states:

    1. California: Over 1,000 wrecking yards, with a significant concentration in the Los Angeles area.
    2. Texas: Approximately 800 wrecking yards, with a large presence in cities like Houston and Dallas.
    3. Florida: Around 600 wrecking yards, with a notable number in the Miami and Orlando regions.
    4. New York: About 400 wrecking yards, with many located in the upstate region and Long Island.
    5. Pennsylvania: Approximately 350 wrecking yards, with a strong presence in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas.
    6. Ohio: Around 300 wrecking yards, with a concentration in the Cleveland and Columbus regions.
    7. Georgia: Approximately 250 wrecking yards, including the renowned Old Car City USA.
    8. Illinois: About 200 wrecking yards, with a significant number in the Chicago metropolitan area.
    9. Michigan: Around 150 wrecking yards, many of which specialize in American-made cars due to the state's automotive industry history.
    10. North Carolina: Approximately 100 wrecking yards, with a presence in both rural and urban areas.

    What is the Cost of Car Wrecking in Junkyards?

    The cost of car wrecking in junkyards can vary depending on factors such as the size of the vehicle, the value of salvageable parts, and regional differences in scrap metal prices. On average, the cost to dismantle and wreck a car can range from $50 to $200. However, this is often offset by the value of the salvageable parts and scrap metal, which can result in the junkyard paying the car owner rather than charging a fee.

    Why Do Junkyards Have a Warehouse?

    Junkyards have warehouses to store and organize salvaged parts, protect them from the elements, and facilitate efficient operations. Warehouses provide a controlled environment for valuable components like engines, transmissions, and electronic parts, ensuring they remain in good condition until sold. Additionally, having a warehouse allows junkyards to categorize and inventory parts, making it easier for customers to find what they need. The use of warehouses also enhances security, reducing the risk of theft or vandalism of valuable parts.

    What Makes a Good Junkyard?

    A good junkyard is determined by several factors that ensure it operates efficiently, ethically, and environmentally responsibly. These factors include:

    • Wide Selection of Parts: A good junkyard should have a diverse inventory of vehicles and parts to cater to various customer needs.
    • Organization: The yard should be well-organized, with parts and vehicles sorted and labeled for easy navigation and retrieval.
    • Customer Service: Knowledgeable and friendly staff who can assist customers in finding the parts they need and provide information on compatibility and installation.
    • Pricing: Competitive and transparent pricing for parts and services is essential for customer satisfaction.
    • Environmental Responsibility: Adherence to environmental regulations, including proper disposal of hazardous materials and recycling of metals and other materials, is crucial.
    • Reputation: A good reputation in the community and industry, based on positive customer reviews and recommendations, indicates reliability and trustworthiness.

    How to Choose the Best Junkyard?

    When choosing the best junkyard, consider the following tips and factors:

    • Research: Look for reviews and ratings online to gauge the reputation of the junkyard.
    • Inventory: Ensure the junkyard has a wide selection of parts for your specific vehicle make and model.
    • Condition of Parts: Inquire about the condition of the parts you need and whether they offer any warranty.
    • Pricing: Compare prices with other junkyards and ensure they are reasonable and transparent.
    • Environmental Practices: Check if the junkyard follows environmentally responsible practices for recycling and disposing of materials.
    • Customer Service: Look for a junkyard with helpful and knowledgeable staff who can assist you in finding the right parts.

    How to Find Replacement Auto Parts in a Junkyard?

    To find replacement auto parts in a junkyard, follow these steps:

    1. Identify the Part: Know the exact part you need, including the make, model, and year of your vehicle.
    2. Research: Call or check the junkyard's online inventory to see if they have the part.
    3. Visit the Junkyard: Bring tools and wear appropriate clothing if you plan to remove the part yourself.
    4. Inspect the Part: Check the condition of the part to ensure it's suitable for your needs.
    5. Negotiate: Be prepared to negotiate the price if necessary.

    How to Sell a Junk Car to a Junkyard?

    To sell a junk car to a junkyard, follow these steps:

    1. Gather Documents: Have your title and any other necessary paperwork ready.
    2. Get Quotes: Contact multiple junkyards to get the best offer for your car.
    3. Prepare the Car: Remove personal belongings and, if possible, any valuable parts you can sell separately.
    4. Finalize the Deal: Agree on a price and arrange for vehicle pickup or drop-off.
    5. Transfer Ownership: Complete the necessary paperwork to transfer ownership to the junkyard.

    Can You Sell a Car to a Junkyard Without a Title?

    Yes, you can sell a car to a junkyard without a title, but it may be more challenging and you might receive a lower offer. Some junkyards accept cars without titles for scrap metal, but they may require other forms of proof of ownership, such as a registration or bill of sale. It's important to check with the junkyard about their specific requirements and regulations regarding selling a car without a title.