Last Updated: February 7, 2021
Want to know your junk car's scrap value?
Current scrap and junk car prices range from about $50 to $400 in 2021 but how do you determine your scrap car price?
A junk car's cash value in scrap is based on its weight and recyclable metal mostly. Some cars that still have valuable parts will sell for more but the majority of cars that are junk do not have reusable parts.
But what are scrap metal prices like during a global pandemic? And how does that affect the junk car industry? And what can you do to ensure you get the highest value possible for your junk car? We have the answers.
How Junk Car Prices Are Calculated
There are many factors that determine the value of scrap metal and which ultimately cause prices to fluctuate. They include:
- Current Market Prices – A reflection of scrap prices on the commodity exchanges.
- Industrial Demand –Industries such as technology, construction, and automotive use scrap metal. When the demand for various metals is high in these industries, the prices increase, and vice versa.
- Time of Year – The seasons can also greatly affect when scrap metals are in demand by various industries, causing prices to rise or fall.
- A Worldwide Pandemic – When industrial companies shut down due to COVID-19 in early 2020, they stopped buying metals, killing demand and driving down prices.
Understanding Scrap Metal Prices
Scrap metal prices change on an ongoing basis. They even vary within different regions of the country. Obtaining accurate, up-to-date pricing can take some research. We’ve done that research for you. Here are some charts that will show you recent scrap metal price trends:
Steel: What most of your car is made of
Scrap steel dropped from the mid-$200’s in the winter of 2019-2020 to the low $200’s during the spring and summer. Prices recovered in the fall, rising past the $300 mark to hit $330 per ton in December. This is a reflection of the worldwide industrial shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by subsequent recoveries in China and other parts of the world. If this pricing trend continues, it should result in slightly higher prices for the steel found in junk cars.
Aluminum: Used on various parts throughout your car (engine, doors, hoods, and rims)
Aluminum followed a similar pricing trend to that of steel during 2020. It started at $1773/MT (Metric Ton) in January, dropped to $1460 by April, then steadily recovered to a high of $2015 in December, Staying above the $2000 mark in January of 2021. This bodes well for aluminum pricing going into 2021 and should support a small increase in scrap car prices.
Copper: Found in your scrap car’s wiring, starter, alternator and other components
A similar pattern can be seen in copper prices. Starting at $6031 in January, hitting a low of $5058 in April, and then roaring back to $7972 in January 2021, copper increased by nearly a third since the beginning of last year. Once again, this increases the value of the copper content in your scrap car – if this pricing trend continues to be supported by the metals markets.
Platinum: Located within your car’s catalytic converter
Once again, the pandemic-related pattern holds for the pricing action of platinum. The precious metal dropped during the first few months of the year, bottoming out in April, then rising to a high in January 2021 that was more than ten percent higher than January of the year before. This could mean a slight uptick in the value of the platinum that can be recovered from the catalytic converter of your scrap car.
How Scrap Metal Prices Affect the Value of Your Car
Your car's value as scrap is based primarily on its weight and recyclable scrap metal content. When a junk car operation purchases your vehicle, what they’re really buying is the value of that scrap metal. 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 many other items.
The price for scrap metal varies based largely on demand and your location. If car manufacturers aren’t making many cars, the prices of steel and aluminum drop. If builders aren’t constructing new homes and apartment buildings, the prices of the metals they use also drop. International factors can also affect scrap metal prices.
Why A Scrap Car’s Value Lies Mostly In Its Weight
Your scrap car is a combination of varying amounts of different metals. The most recent statistics, which are for 2017 models, list the metals content in the average vehicle as follows:
|Steel||2090 lbs. (approx. 1 ton)|
|Copper & Brass||69 lbs|
|Lead (battery)||37 lbs|
Keep in mind that these numbers apply to an “average” 2017 model vehicle. Smaller, lighter vehicles will have lesser amounts of each metal, while larger, heavier vehicles will have more. Older vehicles will have a higher steel content and a lower aluminum content, due to the increasing use of aluminum for weight reduction in newer vehicles.
Your scrap car’s overall weight of is a big part of its value
To give you an idea of how much the weights of different vehicles can vary (which is reflected in their scrap values), here are the lightest and the heaviest vehicles on the market. All other vehicles will fall somewhere in between:
|Mitsubishi Mirage (Subcompact Car)||2,018 lbs.|
|Ford F450 Super Duty Crew Cab (HD Pickup Truck)||8,600 lbs.|
Bottom line, that huge and heavy F450 will have a much, much higher scrap value than the tiny little Mirage!
If you want to know how much your specific vehicle weighs, there are several places you can look:
- Your owner’s manual: This includes a section with vehicle specifications, including the weight of your car.
- Inside your driver’s door: Some vehicles have stickers with vehicle information on the inside frame of the driver’s door.
- The manufacturer: You can contact your vehicle’s manufacturer for this information.
- Online: Websites such as Love to Know have published lists of weights for the most popular vehicle models.
What is the metal in your scrap car worth?
Now we come to the prices of individual metals. Here are the prices for the metals listed above, as shown on the iscrappapp.com website for February 5, 2021. Remember that market prices fluctuate, so these can change on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Prices can also vary from region to region:
|Copper & Brass||$0.71-$2.68/lb. (based on type of copper) & $1.43/lb. (brass)|
But wait, there’s more!
Depending on your scrap car’s overall condition, there may be other parts that have higher values than what they are worth simply as scrap, as long as they are in good condition, are in demand, and can be resold on the used parts market. Having recyclable parts makes your car worth more than its scrap value.
While you are bound to receive different offers for your car when dealing with various cash-for-car businesses, they all use the same basic formula when quickly determining scrap car prices.
Junk car buyers use this formula to determine the absolute lowest amount of money for which they can get your vehicle.
Knowing this formula, therefore, affords you a rough estimate of your vehicle’s value and protects you from low offers.
How to Quickly Calculate Your Car's Scrap Car Value
To work out the minimum value of a junk car with the scrap car estimator formula, multiply the weight of the car by the current local price for scrap metal:
Car weight in tons × Scrap metal price per ton
Why minimum value?
While some cars can be stripped for parts, most junk cars are not in good enough shape. Moreover, even if some parts can be sold, scrapyards will often use the scrap car estimator formula to calculate the lowest possible income – i.e., your car’s minimum value – they can make from your car.
Additional Factors That Minimally Impact Scrap Car Prices
The scrap car estimator formula will give you a good idea of the value of your junk car. However, it does not reflect exactly what a cash-for-car company will offer you. These companies do their best to pay you a fair price, but what they offer may be slightly lower than you had estimated getting for your vehicle.
Besides vehicle weight and scrap metal prices, several business factors will affect the quotes you receive:
- Towing: You may have to pay a fee or have a towing company transport the vehicle to the scrapyard if you cannot drive it. While many companies advertise free pickup as part of their services, they do, in fact, subtract the towing cost from the estimate they give you.
- Driver’s wage: Factored into the towing cost is the driver’s hourly wage. The driver will be paid to pick up and transport the car, handling the collection of the title and paperwork.
- Cost of gas: Also included in towing fees is the cost of gas the tow truck needs to make the trip between the salvage yard and the pickup location.
- Time spent on paperwork: Before scrapping the car, staff must complete the purchase and transfer the title.
- Dismantling and crushing the car: Pulling useful parts from the car and dismantling it for crushing is very arduous work. So, cash-for-car businesses also consider the wages for the staff who scrap the car.
Once these additional costs are factored in, you should have an estimate that accurately reflects the offers you will get from junk car buyers.
How to Get The Best Price For Your Scrap Car
Given all of this, how do you scrap a car and get top dollar?
If you’ve received one or more quotes from salvage yards for your unwanted car, you might wonder if you’re getting the best scrap car price possible. Selling an unwanted car to a salvage yard doesn’t happen to the average consumer very often, so the average individual has 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, and nothing that says what a junk car should be worth.
With that in mind, here’s a simple list of things to consider if you’re wondering whether you're being offered a fair price for your junk car when you ask, “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 when trading junk cars for cash. There are plenty of resources you can use to keep track. Some are listed below:
- Phone Apps – There is a mobile app for just about anything these days. If you’re after the going rate for scrap metal, check out the iScrap App. This app allows you to look at scrap metal prices based on your location.
- Check the Metals Market – Metals prices are available to consumers through the many informational websites available online.
- Contact a Junk Car Buyer – When you’re trying to get the best rate possible, 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 – Make a spreadsheet and keep track of prices for the various types of scrap metal that make up your car.
2. Don’t Wait – It Only Makes Your Junk Car Less Valuable
The longer you wait to send your car to the salvage yard, the less it’s going to be worth. Why? Because there are many parts on a car that deteriorate quickly, and the parts that deteriorate the fastest are often the most valuable parts to a salvage yard. Sell that junk car now!
3. Make Sure You Get More if Your Car Is Drivable
To a salvage yard and those who buy junk cars, a car in running condition is always worth more than one that isn’t. First off, it won’t require towing. Second, it can be sold at an auction if it runs. This should get you more than the minimum scrap value from the salvage yard.
4. Make Sure You Get More if Your Car Has Salvageable Parts
Keep in mind that the straight scrap metal price for a car does not take into account any valuable components still on the car. If your car has re-usable parts like an alternator, a starter, good body parts, nice wheels, new tires, or anything else that is easily removed and resold, you should be able to get better than straight scrap prices for it.
5. Never Accept a Price That Comes With Conditions
Watch out for the Bait and Switch. This happens when a junk car buyer gives you a conditional price based on your description, then says they’ll inspect the car when they arrive to pick it up. Once the car is on the tow truck, they give you a much lower offer. The pressure is now on you to agree and settle for less.
Don’t let this happen to you! When asking "How much is a junk car worth?", give the salvage yard a detailed description of your car and its condition up front, then send them some digital photos to back it up. Ask for a firm scrap car price and make them stick to it.
JunkCarMedics.com Values Scrap Cars As High As Possible
At JunkCarMedics.com we buy junk cars and we want you to get the best value for your car. Using the information you provide us about your vehicle, we will give you a fast and appropriate estimate.
We are honest about the operation costs that affect the final offer we present to you. This is because we want to make sure that our offers are clear and fair.