Determining the value of your scrap or junk car is pretty straight forward.
There are 7 factors which determine the value of your junk car and how much it is worth, with the local scrap metal prices being the top factor.
Unfortunately, the demand for scrap has been relatively low. Scrap metal prices can change on a dime based on everything from the time of year to general industry demand. It's a commodity that has swung up and down over the years, but lately, it's been on the downside.
Despite this piece of bad news, Junk Car Medics buys thousands of junk cars every month from people just like you. The reason why so many people trust us, even when they're not offered as much as they'd like, is because we find ways to give you the fairest possible price despite the challenges of the market.
THE 7 FACTORS THAT DETERMINE WHAT YOUR JUNK CAR IS WORTH AND IT'S SCRAP CAR PRICE
When asking the question "how much can I get if I junk my car," it's essential to remember that you are selling it mostly for its scrap car value, not its trade-in value.
Cars are made up of various types of metals, all differing in worth. Steel is the most common type of scrap metal and along with iron, makes up about 65% of a car's weight.
Auto salvage yards, junkyards, and scrap dealers buy scrap cars so they can strip the metal and sell it. Manufacturers then recycle the metal to make a variety of goods, including new cars and building materials. Therefore, when junking a car, the value is based mostly on the demand for the metal and current scrap metal prices for cars. When manufacturers experience a drop in production, it reduces the demand for metal - which means a lowering of a car's scrap value.
If your car is truly a junk car, then the price we offer is based largely on the market value of scrap metal however there are 7 overall factors that determine how much it's worth:
- Current scrap metal prices
- The vehicle's weight
- Current market for your vehicle's parts
- Year, make and model
- Vehicle's condition
1. CURRENT SCRAP METAL PRICE
This is the #1 factor in determining how much your junk car is worth. The definition of a junk car is a car that has no other value beyond it's weight in metal.
According to an article on ETF.com, the average car contains 2,400 pounds of steel. The average truck contains 3,000 pounds. That accounts for about 55 percent of the car’s total weight. There’s also approximately 300 pounds of aluminum in the average vehicle.
Unfortunately, scrap value of these metals is currently low and has been losing value since 2014. In 2015, the price of metal was about $480 per ton. By early 2016, that figure had been dramatically reduced, and a ton of metal was only worth about $50.
Domestic demand has remained about the same, but exports are lower, so supply for recycled metals is high. This, combined with a strong US dollar and overall slow international economic growth, is bad for scrap car dealers.
If they don't get much, they can't pay much.
The price of scrap metal fluctuates regularly and greatly impacts scrap car prices. The market is influenced by supply and demand, the economic conditions in major trading nations, and the complicated international trade policies that have affected the production, sales, and purchases of these commodities.
If the market values of the various scrap metals in your car are low, then your scrap car will be worth less money compared to when scrap metal prices are higher. You can check metals prices online to get a general idea of the current values of each.
How Do Scrap Prices Affect the Value of my Junk Car?
According to an article on ETF.com, the average car contains 2,400 pounds of steel. The average truck contains 3,000 pounds. That accounts for about 55 percent of the car’s total weight. There’s also approximately 300 pounds of aluminum in the average vehicle.
When a car junker purchases your vehicle, what they’re really buying is the value of that scrap metal by the ton. Steel, aluminum, copper and other metals can be sold for cash to scrap metal dealers. Those scrap metal dealers, in turn, sell the metal to manufacturers who recycle the metal and turn it into new cars, building materials, wire, smartphones and other items we use every day.
The price for scrap metal varies based on demand. If car manufacturers aren’t making many cars, the price of steel and aluminum drops. If builders aren’t constructing new homes and apartment buildings, the price of metal also drops.
Right now demand for metal is low and supply is high. That means prices are low. In fact, the price of steel has fallen from $480 per ton in February 2015 to $50 in early 2016. You can see the precipitous drop in prices in this chart from Quandl:
The trend looks similar for aluminum, although it’s not nearly as alarming, as you can see on this chart from InvestmentMine.com:
Understanding Scrap Metal Prices
Scrap metal prices vary on a nearly daily basis. They even vary in different parts of the country. And obtaining accurate pricing can sometimes require a subscription service.
To give you an example of scrap metal prices we have pulled these numbers from Scrap Monster:
Steel - this is what the majority of your car is made of.
Aluminum - is used on various parts such as the engine, doors, hoods and rims.
Copper - located throughout in the wires of the car.
Lead - Sometimes found on the wheels and in the battery.
Platinum & Palladium - located within the catalytic converter.
Why Are Scrap Metal Prices Constantly Changing?
There are plenty of factors that determine the value of scrap metal and ultimately the reason for the fluctuating rates. Some of the major influences on the price of scrap metal in the US include:
- Market Price - how much are scrap commodities going for in the stock exchange?
- Industry Demand – Is there presently a high demand for scrap metal? If so, which metals are most in demand? Industries such as technology, construction, and automotive can often use scrap metal. When the demand is high in these industries, the prices increase.
- Time – Believe it or not, seasons can also greatly affect when these industries are in demand for scrap metal. During certain seasons when metal is not in demand, the prices and value of scrap metal will drop.
How Often Can You Expect Prices to Change?
Now you know what key factors can directly influence the cost and value of scrap metal. But how often do these changes really happen?
Like gold and silver, scrap metal prices can change within the same day, often even several times. Have you ever tried to sell your junk car for cash? Were you told you’d receive a lesser amount than what you were originally quoted? If so, it could be due to the change in prices.
It is a lot more common to see scrap metal prices change weekly than daily. The changes are generally altered by a few cents per pound. Because of minimal price changes, many junk car buyers check scrap metal prices weekly and adjust their rates then. That is unless the change is drastic and will cause them to lose a lot of money.
Monthly changes in scrap metal are often the most common. They’re also the best sign for the scrap metal industry and car owners trying to sell junk cars for cash. Monthly changes are typically very small which symbolizes a strong and stable economy.
A brief (recent) history of the international metal market
Metal is a commodity (a raw material for manufacturing or food products) that’s traded internationally. That means what’s happening in the world affects the prices. For years China’s economy was growing so rapidly it created high demand for steel, copper, aluminum and other metals. As its economy slowed from a sprint’s pace to a marathoner’s stride, demand for metals has also gone down, says an article on CNN Money.
However, that doesn’t mean China’s production of steel has slowed down. China has huge overcapacities in steelmaking, says Jan Pfeifer with InvestmentMine. “This steel has to go somewhere and now it is going into the world market, where it depresses prices.”
China produces both finished and semi-finished steel, says Nick Tolomeo with Platts, a leading global provider of energy and commodities information and benchmark price references. The semi-finished steel (also known as billet) has been used as a scrap substitute by steel mills in Turkey, the largest overseas buyer of U.S. scrap. Now that they’re opting for Chinese billet, U.S. scrap is left stranded on the east coast.
Pfeifer says the U.S. and EU have imposed huge import tariffs on steel to try and counter the influx of inexpensive materials from China. That’s helping, says Tolomeo, but it will still be a while before the entire U.S. steel supply chain sees sustained market improvement from these measures.
“Any time you’re trying to figure out what China is doing it’s a guessing game,” he says. “They have somewhere around 150 million metric tons of excess capacity. They seem to be getting more serious every day about rationalizing this capacity. But even if they’re serious about that and taking measures, it’s probably two to four years before the U.S. market sees a material impact.”
Thanks to the tariffs, there were slight upticks in the price of steel in February and March. If price increases can sustain themselves through June and July, Tolomeo thinks recent gains in U.S. scrap prices can be sustained.
“Most steel mills are tied pretty closely to the energy industry” because it’s a major consumer of U.S. steel, he says. If oil and gas prices go up and drilling increases, that may also help increase the demand for scrap steel. However, “overall fundamental demand probably won’t recover too much in 2016,” he reports.
The Wall Street Journal calls junk car dealers “the latest victims of the commodities bust.” They interviewed several auto scrap yard owners who confirm they’ve gone from paying consumers $400 for the average car to between $50 and $100. The Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries notes that 50 scrap metals yards have ceased operations altogether. Others have stopped selling cars and are simply stockpiling them until prices come back up.
2. YOUR CAR'S WEIGHT
Your car's weight significantly impacts how much money you get for a junk car. Once a salvage yard purchases a vehicle, they strip it for parts before selling the scrap metal to a recycling yard. The recycling yard can then sell the recycled scrap to other businesses, including car manufacturers, where new cars are built from the material. The more your vehicle weighs, the more a salvage yard and companies, including Junk Car Medics, will be able to offer you.
If your poor junker is good only for scrap, the quote is based on its weight. Steel accounts for most of that and it's priced per ton.
Larger vehicles tend to weigh more, which means that they contain more metal. At a given point in time, this will usually make more of a difference in your car's scrap value than anything else. Here are some weights of various vehicle categories:
Cars Example Avg. Class Weight
Subcompact car Hyundai Accent 2,505 lbs.
Compact car Toyota Corolla 2,919 lbs.
Midsize car Honda Accord 3,361 lbs.
Large car Dodge Charger 3,883 lbs.
Minivan Chrysler Pacifica 4,437 lbs.
Subcompact SUV Buick Encore 3,145 lbs.
Compact SUV Mazda CX-5 3,590 lbs.
Midsize SUV Ford Explorer 4,404 lbs.
Large SUV Chevrolet Tahoe 5,603 lbs.
Midsize Pickup GMC Canyon 3,977 lbs.
Large Pickup RAM 1500 4,951 lbs.
To find the exact weight of your vehicle, you can do the following:
- Consult Your Car's Manual: Your car manual provides several specifications for your vehicle and usually includes the car's weight.
- Check the Inside of the Driver's Side Door: A car's weight is sometimes displayed on a sticker found inside the driver's side door of the vehicle.
- Contact Your Vehicle Manufacturer: You can contact your vehicle's manufacturer with your car's make, model, and year to determine the car's weight.
- Use a Car Scale: You can weigh your vehicle at any vehicle scale in your area.
3. CURRENT MARKET DEMAND FOR A VEHICLE'S PARTS
Salvage yards that pay cash for junk cars sell high-demand car parts that are still in good condition. This is where your vehicle's make, model, year, and condition come into play. If a car is still in high demand, its parts may be worth more. If a vehicle has several components that are still in good condition, the salvage yard may offer more to the owner as there will be more parts that the salvage yard can sell.
If they're in good shape, easily salvageable components include alternators, starter motors, high-end GPS systems, and relatively new tires. Salvage yards pull these before scrapping the car, so you reap additional benefits. However, since you're not doing the work to tear down the car and store and sell parts, you won't receive the full potential sale price.
On the other hand, older vehicles might not be worth much for parts, because few drivers are looking for replacement components. Demand is also linked to geographic location, because needs vary from place to place.
The automotive recycling yards that sell these parts will catalog and store them, then offer them for sale on the internet to buyers across the nation. Parts can be shipped to just about anywhere they are needed, with high levels of efficiency.
Some of these automotive recycling facilities will set themselves up as a "pick and pull," in which vehicles are parked in rows, and local customers can enter the grounds with their tools, browse through the vehicles on display, and remove the pieces they need. This provides a self-service approach which saves consumers money, since they are performing their own labor to dismantle and remove the parts they need!
Who buys these parts? Repair shops, body shops, budget-conscious owners of older vehicles, and anyone else trying to save some money by buying used parts instead of new ones.
Every vehicle's parts are not necessarily of high value in the used parts market. The cars with the highest value parts have these qualities:
- They are popular models made in large quantities
- They were produced fairly recently, so many of them are still on the road
- The parts are in sellable condition
If your car qualifies on all three counts, there should be a robust demand for parts from it. Both body parts and mechanical parts will be sought out for various types of repairs being made to these vehicles. Having desirable parts will yield the highest junk car prices.
On the other hand, your car's parts may not be worth much if there are not many of that model still registered and running around on the roads. There's just too little demand.
The only exception to this is if you have a rare and desirable vehicle. If so, you may be able to sell it directly to a collector as a parts car.
4. YOUR CAR'S MAKE, MODEL, AND YEAR
A car's make, model, and year will all impact how much money you get for a junk car. If your car has some salvageable components, certain types of cars -- popular and high-end vehicles -- might bring in more. If there's a demand for specific parts that your car can fill, your estimate might go up because they can still sell on the market as replacement parts. Simply put, a totaled Ferrari does not have the same value as a totaled Impala.
- Popular cars tend to be valued top dollar if parts can be salvaged and resold. For example, Nissan Altima, being a common car, is more useful and therefore worth more than a Dodge Neon.
- New cars are made with aluminum & magnesium alloy, which are worth more than steel, increasing their scrap value as it saves manufacturers money.
- Discontinued cars tend to be valued less as their parts aren't in high demand and the scrap value is all it's worth
- Some newer cars use less metal and more plastic, lowering the scrap value of such junk cars.
5. YOUR VEHICLE'S CONDITION
In many cases, junkers are end-of-life vehicles, meaning they are good only for recycling materials. Individual components are too damaged or deteriorated to be worth re-selling. Therefore, your old friend will get crushed and sold for scrap. (Stay strong.)
That said, your vehicle's overall condition can still impact the amount you can receive. This includes exterior, interior, and mechanical conditions. If you can drive your car to the business instead of having it towed, you'll typically make a bit more.
And whether your car is driveable or not, used parts in good shape are often sought after as replacements for expensive new components. Damage to more valuable components such as the catalytic converter or engine will have a more significant impact.
Sometimes salvaged cars are sold at auction to people who'll fix them up and resell them. If this is likely, the vehicle's owner will often get a higher quote from the salvager. However, unless a car is in very good condition (and then it probably wouldn't be a junker!), it'll be included in an auction lot. Because these cars are typically in worse shape than individually sold vehicles, lots tend to be valued less.
The value of junk cars - and steel or scrap metal - varies by state. Factors, such as state scrapping laws and local demand, affect how much you are paid for your junk car. If you've been asking yourself, "should I junk my car," you'll want to keep in mind that some states require intensive security steps, such as fingerprinting, before a car can be scrapped. This increases the cost of processing your junk car and lowers the amount you receive for it from junkers.
Some logistics factors also come into play. In states that have few junk car buyers, traveling with tow trucks to customers is expensive because of the hassles involved. On top of it all, they might not be able to offer free towing and junk car removal. The cost of transportation for the business and lack of competition are two factors that can reduce the price you're offered for your old car.
Of course, the popularity of specific vehicles in a certain area will determine the market rate of the car and its parts. Also, if you can't drive your vehicle in, it'll have to be towed. That involves gas and labor, so transporting your car is usually taken into account when a salvage company gives you a quote.
Old car plus high mileage equals lower estimate because individual parts won't be worth much. After all, if the mileage were lower and the components were more trustworthy, you probably wouldn't be getting rid of the vehicle.
How to get the best scrap car price per ton for your automobile?
Each of these factors plays a role in determining the estimate for your junk car with the current scrap metal prices being the ultimate factor.
Given all of this, how do you get the highest price possible for your junk car?
If you’ve received one or more quotes from junkyards for your unwanted car, you might wonder if you’re getting the best scrap car price possible.
Selling an unwanted car to a junkyard doesn’t happen very often to the average consumer, so they have very little experience to rely on when determining the value of their junk car. Unlike the new or used car markets, there are no published prices for junk cars by make, model, year, or condition to go by, or nothing that says cars in Lancaster sell for this and cars in Philadelphia sell for that. So here’s a simple list of things to consider if you’re wondering if you're being offered a fair price for your junk car when you are wondering how much I can get for my car.
1. Keep Track of Current Scrap Prices
If you’re going to sell your junk car for cash, it’s best know some basics about current scrap metal prices. By keeping track of the most current rates, you can determine when you’ll get the most for your junk car. There are plenty of resources you can use to keep track. Here are some listed below:
- Use Applications – There is a mobile application for just about anything these days. If you’re looking for the going rate for scrap metal, check out the iScrap App. This application allows you to look at scrap metal prices based on your location. You can review what other scrap yards are advertising so you can get the best deal.
- Check the Stock Market – If you invest in the stock market you already have plenty of resources to use to determine the going rate in the US on any given day. Utilize those applications or resources to look up the price for the type of metal you want to sell.
- Contact a Junk Car Buyer – When you’re trying to get the best rate possible, you can contact a junk car buyer. They can tell you what the going rates are for scrap metal. Often, they can give you an accurate assessment of how much you could potentially get for your junk car.
- Create a Spreadsheet – Say you don’t scrap metal often and visit junk car buyers or scrap yards frequently. There are still ways to keep an eye on the pattern of scrap metal prices. Create a spreadsheet and make sure that it’s organized well. Write down the specific metals you’re interested in scrapping and the going rate. Try recording new information weekly so that you can get a clear understanding on the pattern of price changes.
2. Waiting Only Makes Your Junk Car Less Valuable
Many people hesitate before selling their scrap cars because of the prices. They may think that they’d like to repair or restore the car when they have more time or money, or might be able to find a buyer that wants the car. They might have ideas about stripping the car to get the maximum scrap value. It may even be a car that's in bad shape but still runs, and is held as a replacement in case the household’s primary vehicle dies.
No matter the reason you’re storing an unused car on your property, it’s important to understand that the longer you wait to send your car to the junkyard, the less it’s going to be worth. That’s because many parts on a car that isn’t running deteriorate quickly, and the parts that deteriorate the fastest are usually the most valuable parts on the car to a junkyard.
When a car isn’t driven regularly, many of the supposed-to-be-moving parts break down. Rust will appear and spread ever faster. Anything made of rubber like window gaskets, hoses, belts, and tires will become brittle. All the fluids in the car will begin to settle out. Any gasoline left in the tank will absorb water from the air, and if the car is left out in the weather, the seats will fade and crack. Animals and other pests will even infest the car, and rodents will begin to chew the electronics, exposing the wires. Corrosion can degrade valuable parts like the starter motor and alternator until they’re only good for scrap.
Junkyards will often only offer you the scrap value of a car by weight if the car is inoperable and left outside. If you’re thinking of selling your unused car for junk, do it right away and tell the junkyard that the car was on the road until recently to get a better car scrap value.
3. Make Sure You Get More if Your Car Is Drivable
To a junkyard, a car in running condition is always worth more than one that isn’t. First off, a car that runs won’t require towing in order to bring it to the junkyard. Junkyards tow cars all the time, but any savings of time and trouble is worth some money to them so it will factor into the scrap prices for cars.
Junkyards also pay better scrap car prices if they can sell the vehicle at an auction. Not all cars bought by junkyards are actually destined for the scrap heap. A car that's still in running condition is much more likely to be attractive to an auction buyer who is looking for cars that can be refurbished and resold. But unless your car is in exceptionally good shape, the junkyard will probably sell it at auction as part of a group of cars. That spreads the risk for the auction buyer and seller, and that’s why you shouldn’t assume that just because your car is suitable for auction you could make a lot of money on it. You should, however, be able to get more than the scrap minimum from the junkyard.
4. Salvage Prices Are Higher Than Scrap Prices for Cars
Remember: the scrap metal price for a car does not take into account the valuable components still on the car. If your car has re-usable parts like an alternator, a starter motor, an expensive onboard GPS system, new tires, or anything else that is easily removed and resold, you should be able to get better than scrap steel prices for it. Keep in mind that all salvage operations involve labor for the scrapyard, and the risk and expense that comes with keeping inventory on hand, so don’t expect junkyards to give you the full value of parts they sell. But you may be able to negotiate for up to half the value of the easily re-sold components.
5. Use The Weight of Your Car as a Last Resort
When all else fails, you can use your vehicle’s curb weight as a guestimate for its value as scrap metal. The majority of the weight in your car is composed of steel. It’s fairly easy to determine the value of scrap steel at local recycling yards. Prices of around $150 per ton are common, so your average car is usually worth around $300 to a scrapyard. If you’re being offered scrap prices for a car that has potential for salvaged parts or even an auction sale, you should negotiate further with the junkyard, or look for additional quotes.
6. Never Accept a Price With Conditions
Set a value when junking your car and stick to it. Then it’s smart to get as many quotes so you have various junk car prices from junkyards as possible before making your decision. Simply ask them how much is a junk car worth. Be on the lookout for one technique used by unscrupulous junkyards: the Bait and Switch. Some auto salvage yards near me have been known to give you a conditional price based on your description, and say they’ll inspect the car when they arrive to pick it up with their wrecker. Once the car is on the truck, they offer you a much lower figure than you agreed upon on the phone. All the pressure is on you to capitulate, because the car is already on their truck.
Don’t worry about missing out on a few more dollars if they ask to inspect your car first. Give the junkyard a detailed description of your car and its condition, and accompany it with digital pictures if necessary. Ask for a firm scrap car price, and make them stick to it.
Junk Car Medics buys junk cars across the country with some of our most popular locations including:
- Los Angeles
- Las Vegas