You’ve decided your car has reached a point where it’s only good for parts. It’s not worth trading in to a dealer or trying to sell privately because it’s in rough shape. Once you’ve decided the time has come to junk your car, then it’s time to decide how.
The easiest solution is to sell the whole car in one piece. A reputable salvage yard will buy your old car and then sell or safely recycle all the parts. It’s a quick and easy proposition. There is, however, another option if you have the skills. You can take your car apart yourself and then sell off the parts individually.
There’s a chance you could make more money this way, but there’s no guarantee. You might not even be able to sell all the parts. It’s important to carefully consider whether this is even something you’re capable of doing on your own. It’s one thing to know how to change the oil or replace your brake pads. It’s another thing entirely to go in and start breaking down a whole car.
Things to Consider
Working on a car can be dangerous. You’re dealing with mechanical parts, sharp edges, gears, belts, and fluids that all need to be properly handled. A mistake could cause you serious injury.
It’s important to know how to do the work and do it safely. If you’re simply guessing at how parts should be removed and don’t have the right tools, then you’re asking for trouble.
In addition to the risk of personal injury, you also run the risk of harming the environment. Fluids like oil and gas need to be properly disposed of when you’re disassembling a car for parts.
Don’t undertake any task involving your car without being sure you’re doing it safely for you and the environment.
Most people can figure out how to put a new set of tires on a car. It’s not complicated, but even this simple task can go horribly wrong if you don’t know how to do the job. The owner’s manual can help with basic tasks, but you need more advanced know-how if you’re going to strip your car for parts.
You can’t simply guess at this stuff. You could damage a part and make it worthless or, as mentioned above, you could end up hurting yourself.
It’s also important to note that once you start taking your car apart, it will immediately become more difficult to sell as a whole. Even if you don’t get very far and decide you’re in over your head, any parts you remove reduce the car’s overall value. Make sure you have the knowledge you need to break down a car for parts before you start the project.
It will take time to salvage your car for parts. How much time? There’s no way to say for sure because it all depends on you. If you work on cars regularly, then you likely have the skills to do the job more quickly. A working knowledge of how part A connects to part B and how to separate the two is essential.
If you don’t have a strong familiarity with cars, then expect it to take longer. Even the most straightforward tasks can get complicated and require extra time to research. Much like construction projects, taking apart a car is likely going to take longer than you think.
You also need the right tools for the job and will have to find them if they’re not something you already own. Make sure you are realistic about how long the job will take and whether you can commit to that time frame.
The average mechanic has an ever-present layer of grime coating his hands. Working on cars is messy and you should expect to get dirty, but it’s not just you that’s going to end up covered in grease.
The area where you choose to work on your car is going to be in a bit of disarray until the project is done. Even if you work neatly, a car that’s being disassembled isn’t a tidy thing. Your car in whatever shape it’s in, tools, and parts are going to be strewn about throughout the process. Be ready for the mess.
Room to Work
This isn’t a job that you can knock out in a day. It’s going to take time and you’re going to need a place where your car can sit while you do the work. That space might be your driveway, or it might be your garage. Wherever it is, be prepared to have your car there for a while.
If there’s rain or snow in the forecast, then you need some place dry to work or you may have to postpone the job. Especially if you don’t have access to a garage, make sure you have the time to get the job done before the snow comes and makes it impossible to work outside.
Finding a Buyer
Let’s say you have everything covered. You have the knowledge, tools, workspace, and time to take your car apart. That’s great! None of that matters if you can’t find someone to buy all those parts. You can try selling to local scrap yards or online, just remember that finding a seller half way across the country involves shipping, which adds another level of complication.
Some parts, like the engine, transmission, airbags, and seats, are easier to sell. The rest of your car could take much longer. There’s not as high of a demand for suspension components, the chassis, fluid reservoirs, or wiring. Once you remove these parts from your car, it could be months before you find a buyer. That means your garage or shed will be sitting full of random car parts.
Finally, selling parts involves haggling. You know how much you want, but potential buyers will try to haggle down your asking price. You’ll have to be ready for this part of the process with every part you sell, and it might not always work out.
What Parts Can You Sell and for How Much?
You can pretty much sell every bit of your car for parts, but there are some parts that are easier to sell than others. It all comes down to how much time you’re willing to spend on the process and how far your skills with a wrench will take you.
Here’s a look at some of the more common parts from your can that can be sold either for reuse or recycling.
There are multiple airbags in today’s cars and each has a different value. They’re in the steering wheel, dashboard, above the doors, and even in some rear seat belts.
It’s important to check that your airbags were not recalled before you attempt to sell them to anyone. Never resell a recalled airbag or any recalled part. Depending on which airbags you’re selling, they can get you as much as $150.
There are multiple kinds of car batteries from the traditional one under the hood to the larger batteries used for hybrid vehicles. This makes it difficult to determine a price, but a good rule of thumb is to expect 50-70 percent of what the was worth when it was new.
The newer the battery, the more it’s worth. High-quality batteries will also fall to the higher end of the range. Older batteries from less well-known brands will likely sell to the lower end of the price spectrum.
Used brake rotors can be sold, but if they’re worn or show lots of corrosion, expect a lower price. The standard brake rotors found on most cars have a smooth surface, but high-end or performance cars often have rotors with drilled holes designed to keep the brakes cool.
There are also a variety of materials used in brakes. Carbon ceramic brake rotors, which are again a performance variant, are much more expensive than standard brakes and are worth more used. A set of brake rotors generally sells for around $60, but if you have performance brakes, they can go for several hundred.
Your engine is one of the most valuable parts of your car. How much it’s worth depends on your exact engine and its mileage. High performance engines, which cost more to begin with, sell for a higher price.
There are also some engines that are worth more due to their popularity or rarity. The right engine could sell for thousands of dollars. Don’t get too excited here. On average, you can expect $500 or more for a typical engine in good condition.
Used engine oil is a hazardous material so it must be disposed of properly. There are recycling centers nationwide that accept it for free, but depending on where you live, the state might even pay for your used oil to encourage recycling. California pays 40 cents per gallon for used oil, but every state has its own rules.
There are also individuals who will buy used oil because it can be used in oil furnaces. Expect to get around 50 cents per gallon if you find a buyer.
Yes, even your car floor mats are worth something and this isn’t a part that requires any expertise to remove. Heavy duty rubber floor mats sell for more, but even cloth floor mats are worth selling. Especially if they are embossed with the name of the car or are in some way unique, there’s a good chance someone will buy your old floor mats.
You can sell them individually, but it’s easier to sell them as a set. The cheapest versions might only sell for $20 for the whole set, but higher quality mats in good condition can sell for $60 or more.
Once you sell individual parts, you’ll still have scrap metal that you need to sell. Your car has multiple metals including steel and aluminum. A scrap metal recycling yard can evaluate your car and let you know how much they’ll pay, which varies from place to place.
Keep in mind, that if you want to sell your car for scrap after you strip it for parts, then you need to find a way to get it to the junk yard. This could end up costing money instead of making money.
Your seats can net some cash depending on their condition and the type of seats. If your seats are worn and stained, then their value goes down quickly.
High-end vehicles with leather seats and power adjustability or performance seats are worth more. There’s a lot of variability here, but you can figure on getting around $80 for your seats unless they’re something special.
Used car tires go for a range of prices just like they do when you buy them new. Specialty tires for the track, off-road tires, or winter tires are worth more. So are tires from well-known brands with solid reputations.
The condition of your tires is a huge factor in how much they’re worth. Significant tread wear reduces their value as does age. Older tires, even without significant wear, will be worth less because the rubber degrades over time and makes them unsafe.
If your tires don’t have serious wear and are no more than six years old, you can get around $25-$75 per tire, or $100-$300 per set.
This is another high-value item and its worth depends on the which transmission you have and how many miles are on your car. You can expect to sell a used transmission for at least $200.
Whether or not you decide to sell your car for parts or sell it whole depends on how much time and energy you want to invest in the process. A car that’s ready to be junked still has value in its parts, but unless you’re ready to tackle removing those parts and finding a seller, it’s not worth the trouble.
A quicker and easier solution is to sell the whole car. You get paid more quickly and it takes far less time. You can also rest assured that your car will be properly disposed of with all its parts sold or recycled without the risk of harming the environment.