What is a Derelict Car?

This guide explains what a derelict car is, all the synonyms of a derelict car, and takes an in-depth look at what is a derelict car, its prices, removal, buyers, laws, and more.

What is a Derelict Car?
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    What is The Definition of a Derelict Car?

    Derelict cars are passenger motor vehicles that have been neglected to the point of ruin. The definition of derelict from the Oxford dictionary is something voluntarily abandoned. Vehicles that are abandoned in barns or fields are derelict cars. Derelict cars can also be old cars no one wants that have been left to sit and decay because they can’t be sold as used cars. Cars with significant mechanical problems that break down for the last time unexpectedly and abandoned on the side of the road or highway are also derelict cars.

    Most derelict cars are more than 20 years old, are not in demand, or are in-demand models with too much damage to be of use in a restoration. Barn finds and derelict cars uncovered in fields are often over 45 years old. Vintage cars made between 1918 and 1930 and antique vehicles manufactured between the end of the Great Depression through the muscle cars of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. The older the car the more severe the damage, although some vehicles can show more neglect at a faster rate depending on the environment in which it was stored. Derelict cars are almost always inoperable.

    Synonyms of Derelict Cars

    There are many other names for derelict cars depending on their condition and type of junk car. Below are some common names for derelict cars, including:

    • Unregistered car
    • Clunker
    • Beater
    • Decrepit car
    • Barely operable or inoperable car
    • Lemon car
    • End-of-life vehicle

    Depending on their condition, derelict cars could also be called scrap cars, damaged cars, salvage cars, old cars, incomplete cars, totaled cars, wrecked cars, or abandoned cars.

    An In-Depth Look at Derelict Cars

    A derelict car is a vehicle that has been abandoned or neglected to the point of disuse. Derelict cars are often abandoned on highways, public roads, fields, and barns. A derelict car is a junk vehicle that is so dilapidated that it cannot be economically repaired. Old cars left to the elements and vehicles whose maintenance has been neglected are more likely to become derelict cars. Derelict cars are also called junk cars, throw away cars, discarded cars, abandoned cars, battered cars, ruined cars, scrap cars, clunkers, decrepit cars, inoperable cars, and end-of-life vehicles.

    Derelict cars come in varying conditions, but they are rarely in running condition. Derelict cars are rusty, dirty, have holes, and have few working parts, if any. Many derelict cars are incomplete or much of them has rotted away. Most derelict cars are vintage cars, antique cars, and other old cars that have been abandoned to decay. This dereliction has different results depending on the inadvertent storage conditions. Some very old derelict cars have bodies or frames in surprisingly good condition thanks to happy circumstances.

    Many people believe that getting rid of derelict cars is nearly impossible because no one wants these vehicles, but selling derelict cars is easier than you think. Derelict cars have value as scrap metal even if they have some rust and no reusable parts. The automotive recycling industry nets $67 billion per year disposing of these derelict cars.


    How does a car become a Derelict Car?

    There are 8 common ways a vehicles becomes a derelict car.

    1. Derelict cars are often found in barns, old garages, and fields throughout America. It is unknown how many of these derelict cars may be out there, with some barn finds totaling more than 300 old cars.
    2. Derelict cars fall out of use gradually due to worsening mechanical problems. The more problems a vehicle has the less it is used until it is eventually forgotten.
    3. Discarded parts cars and scrap car shells left over from car restoration projects become derelict cars. Parts cars themselves could fall under the derelict car definition but could have much use beyond that of other derelict cars not in demand.
    4. Ditched project cars due to unavailability of discontinued parts. It is possible to have parts made for restorations or restomods, but these are typically outside the budgets of most hobby mechanics.
    5. Neglected project cars due to lack of time, money, or accessible parts.
    6. Decommissioned clunkers on large private property are often used to maneuver around their property more easily, but getting rid of them wasn’t a priority.
    7. Decrepit cars can be the result of unnecessary storage of old cars that have no value other than as scrap. Many collectors sit on cars waiting for an offer they feel is fair because they are asking too much for the car’s value, which decreases continuously as the vehicle is left to rot in storage.
    8. Simple neglect leads to more decrepit cars. Neglecting to follow through with routine maintenance, failing to make timely repairs, and failing to protect inoperable vehicles from the elements can all lead to decrepit cars.

    Derelict cars can also be the result of owners buying lemon cars that cannot be repaired to the point of being safe and therefore legally driven on public roads. Any car that has become so decrepit that it could not possibly run safely is a derelict car.

    What are some common characteristics of Derelict Cars?

    Here are 5 characteristics commonly found on derelict cars.

    1. Neglected cars are dirty to the extreme. No one takes the time, money, or initiative to keep clunkers clean when they could clearly break down at any time. Cars abandoned to the elements or dirty storage will also be caked in filth.
    2. Derelict cars have torn, disintegrating, or decomposing upholstery. This does not necessarily decrease the value of derelict cars that already have value only as scrap. Even derelict cars in demand for parts or restoration projects do not have their value diminished by worn out upholstery.
    3. Derelict cars have rust in many places on the body and frame, as well as on some parts. The rust varies in stage from surface rust, scale rust, and penetrating rust that causes the metal to completely disintegrate, leaving large holes.
    4. Derelict cars often do not have paper titles. Most old cars in this category are not required to be titled in most states and may be sold with only a bill of sale. This includes parts cars. Some nonrepairable cars or salvage cars do not receive a paper title depending on the state.
    5. Derelict cars are never registered. All 50 states have safety inspections that must be passed for a vehicle to be registered, and such registration is required to drive the car on public roads. Because derelict cars are in such bad condition they cannot be registered in any state. This limits what can be done with the derelict cars.

    It is important to note that because of the points above it is normal to sell a derelict car with no title in almost any state. There is also no requirement to provide vehicle registration to sell derelict cars. A bill of sale is the most common way to transfer ownership of decrepit cars. However, an old vehicle registration may be used to prove ownership in place of the bill of sale.

    Are derelict cars junk cars?

    Yes, derelict cars are junk cars because they are near or at the end of their life. A derelict car has been neglected to the point that it will soon have total mechanical failure. Any car that is unsafe to drive like derelict cars are junk cars that should be recycled rather than repaired.

    What is a Derelict Car worth?

    How much a derelict car is worth depends on several factors including the year, make, model, overall condition, and demand for the vehicle. Derelict cars of certain makes and models might be worth quite a bit of money to the right buyer. However, derelict cars less than 35 years old are not in demand and are typically worth only their value in scrap metal. Therefore, scrap metal prices in your area are one of the biggest factors that affect derelict car values.

    What are the price ranges of derelict cars?

    Derelict car price ranges depend on the age and condition of the vehicle and whether or not it is in demand.

    What are the most valuable parts of derelict cars?

    Most derelict cars have no reusable or valuable parts and are only good for scrap metal recycling. Vintage and antique derelict cars may have a few working parts that are in demand or may be able to contribute body parts to the restoration of another vehicle.

    What to do with a Derelict Car?

    There are 4 main things you can do with a derelict car.

    1. Find an independent buyer for the derelict vintage or antique car. When the derelict car is a vintage or antique car finding a private buyer could net the biggest profit. However, finding these individual buyers is not easy for the average person. Most independent buyers are found through auctions, and the process is difficult to navigate for most people.
    2. Sell the derelict car for scrap metal. Derelict cars that are not in demand or are in too poor condition to be of any use can be sold to auto dismantlers, vehicle recyclers, or scrap metal processors. Many of these junk car facilities do not buy derelict cars from the general public.
    3. Sell the derelict car to a junk car buyer. A junk car buyer will purchase derelict cars for their value in scrap metal then sell that vehicle to a vehicle dismantler, an auto recycler, or a scrap yard. They act as a middle-man that makes it easy to get the derelict car properly recycled.
    4. Sell the derelict car to Junk Car Medics. Junk Car Medics buys derelict cars at a fair price based on the competing offers of other junk car buyers, junkyards, salvage yards, and scrap yards. Junk Car Medics finds the best buyers that pay the most cash for derelict cars including the car auctions that attract collectors of vintage and antique derelict cars. This allows us to pay more cash for derelict cars of particular years, makes, and models, sometimes regardless of condition.

    Junk Car Medics stands out as the best way to get rid of decrepit cars. By making the right buyers compete for the vehicle we are able to pay higher prices than other junk car buyers. Junk Car Medics makes the process to get rid of derelict cars quick, easy, painless, and rewarding.