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The Role of Vehicle Weight in Determining Junk Car Prices

Most junk yards will use the weight of your vehicle as a determining factor in how much they can afford to pay you for it. To get a curb weight range on your vehicle, look for the sticker on the driver's side door or find the user's manual. If both of these fail, you can research your vehicle's average weight using an online tool from an automotive comparison site. Scrap yards will often have scales on hand to determine the accurate weight of vehicles they intend to buy.

The heavier a vehicle is, the more valuable it is in terms of weight and ferrous metals. These metals can be recycled for further use, such as manufacturing new steel frames or different household appliances. Other aspects of a vehicle are important as well and play a part in determining value, though weight is a solid foundation on which junk car buyers can build a final offer.

As vehicles continue to weigh more on average each year, they become more valuable as sources from which to recycle metal and other reusable components. This not only benefits consumers by decreasing repair costs and saves the industry money by providing a cheaper source of metal components, but it also helps the environment by reducing the impact of having to mine raw materials and use energy to form them into steel, iron, and other metals.

How Vehicle Weight Impacts the Value of a Junk Car

The heavier a junk car's weight is, the more metal it has. This metal is valuable to junk car buyers, as it can be sold to be recycled and reused. Heavier cars, therefore, bring in more money due to larger steel frames and more iron and aluminum within the body.

Depending on what the scrap metal prices are doing at the moment, as they can fluctuate similarly to the stock market, the junk car buyer may be able to offer hundreds more for a heavy-duty truck. These trucks have thousands of pounds of steel and iron, which provide them a higher resale value to a junk car buyer based on weight alone, not even factoring in the valuable components such as the engine, transmission, and various internal pieces that can be salvaged and resold. 

Vehicle Weight Average Value
Subcompact Car (Ford Fiesta) 2,600 lbs $215-$250
Midsize Car (Camry, Accord) 3,300 lbs $275-$350
Midsize SUV (Pilot, Traverse) 4,000-6,000 lbs $330-$500
Truck (Ford F-150) 5,000-5,500 lbs $400-$500

Why Is It Important to Know a Car's Weight When Junking a Car?

Every junk car seller should know their vehicle's weight before selling it. It's important to know the car's weight when junking it as this helps to secure the best possible price for the junk car, as prices can be largely dependent on weight, as well as a variety of other factors.

To secure the best scrap value for your vehicle, it's important to know a few things before you inquire about an offer from a junk car buyer. You should have the following information on hand before you sell.

  • Model, make, year
  • Weight 
  • Odometer reading
  • Condition 

A car's weight plays an important factor in determining the junk car price. Heavier cars will bring in more than lighter cars, as a general rule of thumb. The heavier a vehicle is, the more weight in metal it has. This generally comes from the larger, more robust frame. This weight determines how much a vehicle can bring in when it's inevitably crushed and sent to the metal shredder at a recycling facility. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has noted that the average weight of vehicles has slowly been creeping upward over the years. This means that it's very likely that a newer 4-door sedan weighs more than one manufacturer a decade ago. Weight will vary significantly depending on the type of vehicle, such as a compact car versus a truck or a full-size SUV. 

If you already know the weight of your vehicle, you may be able to negotiate slightly with a junk car buyer. Professional buying services should offer a fair price without requiring any further negotiations, however. Some buyers may be taken aback by a junk car owner who knows the weight of the vehicle and its importance in the process of valuing the vehicle. 

How Does the Weight of a Car Impact the Junk Car Removal Process?

The weight of a vehicle does not impact the junk car removal process in any meaningful way. The only time this is not true is when dealing with something other than a consumer vehicle, such as a tractor. Sedans, SUVs, and heavy-duty trucks can all be towed by a regular tow truck. 

There are different classifications for tow trucks, including light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. For most instances, a light-duty tow truck is more than capable of towing away a junk car, as they have cable systems that allow them to pull between 7,000-11,000 pounds. These tow trucks are often smaller in size, enabling them to maneuver wherever they need to go, which can be helpful if a junk car has been sitting in a corner lot for years.

Junk car owners can rest assured that it doesn't cost extra to tow away a heavier junk car, such as a Ford truck. The towing cost should always be baked into the final offer price and never requested as a fee on top of this. Tow truck drivers are experienced in towing a wide range of vehicles, allowing them to do so safely and efficiently.

Vehicles that are "easier" to tow may include those that can safely be dolly towed, as opposed to flat towed. Some vehicles should only ever be flat towed, such as those with an all-wheel drive system. All vehicles can be flat towed without damaging the drive train or the tires. Not all vehicles can be towed with a dolly, including those with rear-wheel drive. 

It's more difficult at times to tow cars that won't turn on a drive even a short distance. This is especially hard when the car is in a garage or other confined space, as the tow truck has to hook up to it without any additional help from the second vehicle.

How Much Does Your Junk Car Weigh?

To determine how much your car weighs, there are several options. The easiest one is to look for a sticker on the inside of the driver's side door. This should have information on the curb weight and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). You can look at the owner's manual or the manufacturer's website as well. There are also car comparison websites, separate from the manufacturer's site, that will allow you to find the curb weight and the GVWR on your car. Many scrap yards and truck stops have a scale to weigh vehicles on if you need an exact measurement. 

For junk car purposes, the desired weight is the curb weight. This is the weight of the vehicle on its own, minus any passengers or additional cargo items. It's important to understand your particular vehicle's weight before junking it. This way, you're not taken advantage of by the buyer when they tell you how much your junk car is worth. 

Cars have been increasing in weight since the 70s. Every year, vehicles get heavier and feature new technology and functionality to impress consumers. According to J.D. Power, some models have gained over 600 pounds as they've been upgraded. For example, some makes and models that have increased in weight over the years include:

Vehicle Curb Weight (2000) Curb Weight (2023)
Honda Accord 2,954 lbs 3,239 lbs
Ford F-150 3,923 lbs 4,021 lbs
Toyota Rav4 2,668 lbs 3,370 lbs
Nissan Altima 2,933 lbs 3,244 lbs

How Much of a Vehicle's Weight Is In Metal?

It should come as no surprise that vehicles are mainly made up of metal components. The frame of the car itself, for instance, is made from steel. The exact amount of metal found in a vehicle will depend on its make and model and even the year it was manufactured. In the average passenger car, there is around 65% of steel and iron, of which around 25% of the steel has been recycled. The remaining 35% of a vehicle's weight is in other materials, such as cloth, leather, glass, and plastic.

What Metals Are In Your Junk Car?

According to the World Steel Association, 55% of a vehicle's weight in metal comes from steel. The chassis and body of vehicles are made up of steel, as this is a sturdy and relatively inexpensive metal to build with. Aluminum is another popular choice in the automobile industry when it comes to manufacturing vehicles, as it's lighter than steel and just as durable, if not more. 

Other metals that can be found in a junk car, in lesser quantities, include copper, lead, platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The latter three are found in catalytic converters. Magnesium and titanium may be found in some vehicles, though generally only in higher-end performance cars.

When it comes to determining metal classifications, all metal falls into one of two categories: ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metals are the most common recycled metals and include iron and steel. Most of the metal from a scrap car can be sorted into a ferrous pile. Non-ferrous metal includes brass, nickel, gold, tin, and other rarer forms of metal. 

Weights of Common Vehicles That Get Junked

Junk vehicles tend to fall between the 3,000-5,000 pound range, which includes sedans, SUVs, and trucks. These typical passenger vehicles are found in many households across the country, which therefore makes them the most likely to be sold to a junk car buyer at the end of the vehicle's life.

Some of the most common junk vehicles include:

  • 2003 Honda Accord — 2,989 to 3,360 pounds
  • 2008 Nissan Altima — 3,055to 3,334 pounds 
  • 2002 Ford Explorer — 4,159 to 4,374 pounds
  • 2005 Honda Civic — 2,441 to 2,782 pounds
  • 2007 Ford F-150 — 4,758 to 5,875 pounds
  • 2001 Toyota Camry — 2,998 to 3,252 pounds

How Much Can I Junk a Lightweight Vehicle For?

Based on weight alone, lightweight vehicles will bring in less money than heavier models. Many junkyards will give sellers $165 per ton for their vehicle, meaning a 2-ton (4,000-pound) vehicle will bring in almost $350 based on weight. Lightweight junk cars, such as smart vehicles or subcompact cars fall between the range of 1,500-2,500 pounds (0.75-1.25 tons), which equates to a range of $125-$215.

Local scrap prices are dependent upon current supply and demand, as well as the particular constraints of the business model run by the junk car buyer. Vehicles that are newer and that have in-demand parts will bring in more value for the owner. 

How Much Can I Junk a Heavy Vehicle For?

Heavier vehicles will be in the 2-3 ton range. Working off of a $165 per ton value, this would equate to $350-$500. Of course, junk car buyers consider a wide variety of other factors apart from weight and the final offer price will reflect a lower or higher number depending on condition, in-demand parts, and the current market fluctuations.

How Weight Affects the Environmental Impact of a Junk Car

Weight not only plays an important role in determining the value of a junk car but it can provide insight into the overall environmental impact of a car. Heavier vehicles will inevitably have a larger carbon footprint over their lifespan due to requiring more energy to gain momentum and drive down the highway. Carbon emissions from heavier vehicles are significantly worse than that of smaller, lightweight cars. Heavier cars are often larger as well, which means they take up more space in the junkyard or the landfill.

With SUVs gaining popularity over the years, the market for smaller vehicles is dwindling. Families need the extra space to transport children to and from school and activities, as well as pack up the vehicle for an upcoming road trip. By 2025, the estimates are that nearly 40% of all new car sales could be SUVs. 

Heavier vehicles, on the other hand, also have a higher content of recyclable materials. This means that they're more valuable to junk car buyers as they can provide larger quantities of recyclable materials, such as ferrous metals. 

Automobiles are the most recycled product of all consumer goods. The steel industry reports more than 14 million tons of steel being recycled from vehicles as they reach their end of life. Steel is 100% recyclable and can be reused in a new vehicle or into something entirely different, such as a new bridge or a ship. Steel is one of the few materials that doesn't lose quality over time and it can continuously be recycled and reused.

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