"How much is my junk car worth?"
That (or some variation) is far and away the #1 question asked of Junk Car Medics, the best junk car buying service in the United States, bar none.
But answering the question is impossible to without more details on your specific car.
Each car is valued based on 5 factors:
- The vehicle's condition
- The demand and value of your car's parts
- The current scrap metal market
- The weight of your vehicle
- Your location
- THe year, make and model
Where your junk car falls in each of these categories will determine its value.
How Do You Calculate Scrap Car Value
Multiple factors can go into determining scrap car prices and how much you will be paid when scrap a car.
Let's use this article to highlight what those factors are and whether or not they will come into play when pricing your vehicle as a scrap car.
1. The Weight of Your Vehicle
Just like your car's worth is our #1 question, the weight of your vehicle is the #1 factor.
This means that barring anything else a scrapyard or junkyard should be able to make some factor of this number off of your car at the minimum.
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.
2. The Scrap Metal Market Greatly Impacts Your Car's Value
After the scrap car's reusable parts have been removed, the shell that is left will be flattened or crushed and taken to the steelyard. (Did you know more than 60% of your car is made of metal?)
It is then fed into a giant shredding machine, which breaks it down into small chunks of metal.
Additional processing separates these chunks of mixed metal into ferrous metals (iron and steel) and non-ferrous metals (aluminum and copper). All these metals will be recycled into new raw materials, which will then be used in the manufacture of new cars and other products.
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 junk 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.
3. The Demand and Value of Your Cars Parts
This kind of goes hand in hand with the year, make, and model, but the demand for car parts in your area can impact the price. If similar vehicles to yours are still all over the road, there is a much higher chance a scrapyard can resell various parts.
There are plenty of useful parts that can be removed from a junk car and resold, such as:
- Suspension parts
- Catalytic converters
- A/C components
- Door panels
- GPS system
- Rear hatch
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. Car parts can be shipped to just about anywhere they are needed, with high levels of efficiency.
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.
Some of these automotive recycling facilities will also 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 that saves consumers money since they are performing their own labor to dismantle and remove the parts they need.
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. The Year of Your Vehicle
If your vehicle is newer, there may be a chance to fix it up. Plus, there surely will be more of a demand for its parts than there would have if it's 15 years old or older. Scrap yards can do a lot more with newer cars even if they are totaled.
5. Your Geographic Location
Depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle, the price may go up or down a little bit.
Where you are located can determine the type of cars that are generally on the road in your area. A 2020 study of the most popular cars in America conducted by Insurify revealed that the coastal states tended to have a preference for Honda, while Midwestern states love Chevrolet models like the Impala and Malibu.
Up north there are fewer Mustangs than in the south simply because they are tough to drive in the winter months. So your location can highly impact the demand for certain parts in your area.
The same can be said for the scrap metal markets. The prices can and do vary by region, so you may get a few dollars more or less depending on your location.
What is The Current Price of Scrap Metal?
Scrap metal prices vary on a daily basis and the market can be pretty volatile. In 2020 things were going OK until the Coronavirus hit. Since, the scrap metal market has tanked with most steel mills limiting their operations and some even closing their doors for the time being.
As we noted above, the price of scrap metal greatly impacts your car's scrap value because scrap cars get pulled of their parts and then crushed down and sold for their worth in metal.
With more than half of your car's weight coming in the form of metal you can see why this is a big factor.
However, just like the stock market, the scrap metal market fluctuates daily and can be pretty volatile. Outside noise from China often impacts it and things just haven't been the same since recent regulations have been implemented and the decrease in exported steel.
To find out the current price of scrap metal, particularly steel and automotive scrap, you can call your local metal recycling center (or steel mill). If you live in the northeast Upstate Shredding and Weitsman Recycling is a great place to check as they tend to set the market in that area.
Here's a couple good places to check what general rates are in the United States:
How Much is My Junk Car Worth?
The prices for junk cars go up and down but you can expect about $150 - $500 for your junk car. Again, the factors that impact how much your junk car is worth are the vehicle weight, scrap metal market, demand for car parts, vehicle year and condition, and your geographic location.
Determining the actual value of YOUR junk car is pretty easy. We've created a calculator that can help you determine your car's scrap value and the actual price we will pay for it. You can find out how much your car is worth here:
Things That Do NOT Impact Your Junk Car's Value
Just Having Filled The Gas Tank
There is a very good chance that, if your car ends up at a local scrap yard, the gas is siphoned out of your vehicle and end up in tank that the owners and employees use to fill their own cars.
There is a 0% chance that you will be paid extra for it. Don't like it? Drive your car around for a while longer and use it up. Although, there's a good chance you can't do that anymore if you are here reading this.
New Tires or Brakes
Tires have some rules and regulations tied to them. And who really wants to buy used brakes? Therefore junk car buyers are not going to give you extra money because your tires are only a year old or because your brakes just were put on last week. Don't like it? Try removing them yourself and selling them separately.
The Sentimental Value to You
I'm sorry to break this to you, but junk car buyers do not care about the sentimental stories and the value you place on those stories about your car. So save those sob stories when it's time for junk car removal.
Anything Not Listed Above
The factors listed above are the only ones that matter when determining junk car prices. Here they are again:
- Current scrap metal prices
- How much your vehicle weighs
- Year, make, and model
- Demand for vehicle's parts
- Your location
And again, here are the factors that do not impact the price of your junk car:
- Full tank of gas
- New tires
- Brakes or new parts
- The sentimental value you put on the vehicle
- Everything else not listed in the list above.