What is a Parts Car?

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

What is a Parts Car?
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What is The Definition of a Parts Car?

    A parts car is a severely damaged car or incomplete car whose parts can be used in the repair or restoration of another vehicle. Once a car has been designated as having value for its salvageable parts and that vehicle is not going to a junkyard or auto salvage yard it becomes a parts car. Parts cars are sold among autobody shops, car restoration and resto-mod specialty auto shops, and owners of classic and antique cars. Parts cars can be of any age or condition. Parts cars include barn finds, which are vehicles that are found abandoned in barns, old garages, or fields. These parts cars are usually sold to other car restoration enthusiasts and autobody shops for use in vehicle restorations.

    It is usually unknown how many miles are on a parts car. This is because many parts cars are missing the engine or the engine had already been replaced, making it impossible to know how many miles are on the current engine or the other parts in the vehicle. Parts cars can be of any model year, but most cars sold as parts cars are used to rebuild or repair and modify old cars. Parts cars are never in running condition.

    Synonyms of a Parts Car

    Other names for parts cars include scrap cars, salvage cars, incomplete cars, beater cars, derelict cars, decrepit cars, inoperable cars, and end-of-life vehicles. All parts cars are also unregistered cars and most are rusted cars. Depending on how the vehicle became a parts car, it could also be called a wrecked car, totaled car, lemon car, or abandoned car.

    An In-Depth Look at a Parts Car

    A parts car is a scrap car that is purchased to use in the repair or restoration of another vehicle. A parts car does not run on its own, but has enough reusable parts that it can be of use to a mechanic. Parts cars are damaged cars or incomplete cars that are inoperable cars or have missing parts, at least some of which have been or will be harvested for use on another vehicle. It is often cheaper overall to purchase a parts car with multiple parts and pieces that are needed for a restoration or resto-mod than to purchase the used parts individually. Parts cars that have been stripped of their useful parts are scrap cars or scrap car hulks that must be hauled away and recycled.

    Parts cars come in a variety of conditions, but all have sustained mechanical failure, significant body damage, or both. Parts cars are often already partially dismantled before they are purchased by the mechanic that will make use of them. Parts cars that are missing most or all of their reusable or valuable parts still have value in a restoration when pieces of the frame or body of the restored vehicle need replacement. Parts cars are never in running condition.

    Parts cars can be of any year, make, or model, but most parts cars are used in the restoration of old cars like jalopies, vintage cars, antique cars, classic cars, and collectible cars. The most popular cars to restore have the most demand for parts cars. According to Motor Trend, the most commonly sought after parts cars are the 1967-1969 Chevy Camaro, 1964.5 to 1973 Ford Mustang, 1932 Fords, 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger, 1964-1972 Pontiac GTO, and the 1968-1972 Chevy Corvette.

    Parts cars affect several sectors of the automotive industry. It is important to note that even though they are salvaged for used car parts, parts cars are not included in the $6.5 billion used auto parts industry. Instead, parts cars actually decrease the sales of used auto parts because the mechanic is able to pull many parts from one vehicle rather than paying for each of those parts individually. The scrap car shell from parts cars fuels the automotive recycling industry, which is worth $67 billion according to imarc, a market research firm.

    Parts cars are in high demand because 80% of classic car owners are comfortable doing at least part of the work themselves, as reported by Body Shop Business, an industry publication. Vintage parts cars are sometimes sold by classic car dealers to those doing restorations. Classic car restorations make up a decent amount of the auto repair industry, which is worth $78 billion according to International Business Information Systems (IBIS). Classic car dealers sometimes sell vintage and antique parts cars and are a $2.9 billion industry per IBIS. Overall the classic car market is estimated to be worth about $16.59 billion as of 2023 according to Statista.

    It is important to note that not all parts cars are old cars. Later model vehicles that are in demand may also be purchased as parts cars when the vehicle was severely damaged but its parts can be used to repair another severely damaged vehicle. This is common among mechanics that buy salvage cars in lots from online car auctions and junk car buyers for the purpose of repairing the selling a rebuilt salvage vehicle.


    How does a car become a Parts Car?

    There are 3 main ways a car becomes a parts car.

    Wrecked and totaled cars are parts cars.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates a total of 15 million car crashes per year in the US, with about two-thirds of those going unreported. Unreported accidents and wrecked cars not covered by a car insurance claim are often sold as parts cars if the vehicle is in demand. Cars that have been wrecked, totaled, or otherwise damaged that are less than 10 years old may be in demand as parts cars to those that rebuild damaged cars with a salvage title. However, these parts cars have technology that is not easy for the average hobby mechanic to repair. Many old cars that are wrecked and set aside by junkyards and classic car dealers for sale as parts cars to the right buyer.

    Mechanical failure leads to parts cars. Many parts cars have already suffered major mechanical failure, but have other smaller parts that are of use. When these cars are sold as parts cars it is cheaper for hobby mechanics than buying each of those smaller parts individually. Parts cars from mechanical problems can be of any age, because improper or a lack of maintenance leads to early mechanical failure. This describes about a third of the cars on the road, based on data from a study done by AAA.

    Abandoned cars become parts cars. Many of the vintage, classic, and antique cars that become parts cars do so because they have been abandoned in a field, garage, or barn. Abandoned cars have significant damage, a lot of rust, and may be missing whole body panels. They can be of any year, make, or model, but most were made before the 1980s. There are many reasons such cars become abandoned, usually because the person working on the vehicle restoration became incapable of following through on the project, or passed away before it could be completed and it was forgotten. Many cars that are already parts cars are found and sold in this way as well.

    Any vehicle that has value only for its parts or scrap metal could become a parts car. Most cars end up in junkyards or salvage yards, or with auto dismantlers that sell the used car parts at wholesale rather than selling whole parts cars. However, whole or incomplete parts cars can be obtained from these junk car facilities as well.

    What are common characteristics of Parts Cars?

    There are 7 common characteristics of parts cars.

    Parts cars are always unregistered.This is because registration is reserved for vehicles that will be driven on public roads and highways.

    Parts cars often don’t have titles. Many states do not require parts cars to have a title. Parts cars are most often sold using a bill of sale. However, some states do require titles with specific branding for parts cars. Your local DMV can tell you which applies in your state. It may also depend on the laws in the state in which the parts car was purchased.

    Parts cars are inoperable cars. All parts cars are inoperable cars. This is because they are incomplete cars that have value only as used car parts and vehicle recycling.

    Parts cars are missing wheels or have flat tires. Parts cars often sit for years before they ever become purchased for use in a restoration of another vehicle. For this reason it is common for them to have missing or flat tires.

    Parts cars have been stripped of at least some of their parts. Whether those parts are inoperable or have been removed entirely, parts cars are usually already missing quite a few parts before they are sold as parts cars.

    Parts cars have visible damage. Nearly every parts car will have at least some body damage, even if it is just a few dents or scratches. Most parts cars have been severely damaged in a car accident or they have significant rust damage.

    Parts cars are dirty and full of trash. Parts cars are usually filthy inside and out, with trash, debris, rodents, and other pests infesting the remains. This is especially true of cars that have been stored in a barn, garage, or other building for an extended period of time. Parts cars stored outdoors and exposed to the elements such as in a junkyard or salvage yard are more likely to be infested with mice and other pests.

    The most common characteristic of parts cars is that they are purchased by select individuals. Hobby mechanics restoring their own vehicle, mechanics rebuilding salvage vehicles, and the junk car dealers that sell parts cars to each of these markets are the only demand for parts cars.

    Are parts cars junk cars?

    Yes, parts cars are junk cars because they have value only as salvage and scrap metal. Parts cars must be recycled and disposed of as junk cars when their usefulness as a source of used car parts has been exhausted. Experienced junk car buyers working with the best local towing companies can handle removal of parts cars regardless of their condition, even if they do not have wheels or inflated tires.

    What is a Parts Car worth?

    How much a parts car is worth depends on demand and condition. For a car to have value as a parts car it must be in demand. How many parts are remaining on the car that are of value in the repair or restoration of another vehicle is the other main factor that determines how much a parts car is worth.

    What are the price ranges of parts cars?

    The price ranges of parts cars vary depending on demand for the vehicle as well as its condition. It is important to note that the price ranges of parts cars can vary as demand changes. Prices for parts cars can also decrease if finding the right buyer for the parts car is expected to take some time, during which the parts car buyer must store the vehicle.

    Here are the price ranges for the parts cars in demand for easy hobby restorations based on data from the Hot Cars Magazine.

    Vehicle Price range with most parts Price range with few/no parts
    1967-1970 Mercury Cougar
    1968 Dodge Super Bee
    1967 Buick Gran Sport
    1960 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
    1977-1981 Pontiac Firebird
    1965-1970 Chevrolet Impala
    1964-1967 Pontiac 2 + 2
    1970-1972 Chevrolet Chevelle
    1966-1970 Dodge Charger
    1965-1970 Ford Mustang

    The price ranges for late model cars used for rebuilt salvage vehicles are below. This list of parts cars comes from the best selling used cars of 2022 per Autoweek.

    Vehicle Price range with most parts Price range with few/no parts
    Ford F-150
    Chevrolet Silverado 1500
    Dodge Ram 1500
    Chevrolet Equinox
    Honda Civic
    Toyota Camry
    Toyota RAV4
    Nissan Rogue
    Ford Escape
    Jeep Grand Cherokee

    Keep in mind that these price ranges depend on being able to find the right buyer for the parts car. Junk Car Medics stands out from other junk car buyers in that we work with all of the entities that purchase parts cars. By being able to sell the parts car to the best possible buyer, Junk Car Medics is able to give the best prices for parts cars.

    What are the most valuable car parts on a parts car?

    The true value of a parts car lies in whether or not it has enough reusable parts to save money over paying for the used car parts individually. A parts car is purchased precisely because it has reusable parts. As such, any of the car parts left on a parts car when it is purchased have value to the buyer. Typically engines, transmissions, and computer replacements are the most expensive, and therefore bring the best prices. The engine and transmission also have the highest value in scrap metal of any other individual car parts.

    What are the most valuable scrap metals of parts cars?

    The most valuable scrap metals of parts cars are platinum, rhodium, palladium, magnesium, aluminum, steel, and other iron alloys. About 65% of a vehicle is made of steel according to the World Steel Association. Most of this steel is found in the frame, body panels, drive train, engine, and transmission casing. The transmission has a significant amount of valuable aluminum. The other precious scrap metals of parts cars come mostly from the catalytic converter.

    How much is a parts car shell or parts car hulk worth?

    How much a parts car hulk is worth depends on the year, make, and model of the vehicle, as well as how much of the vehicle is present. These factors determine how much of which metals are in the parts car to be recycled.

    What to do with a Parts Car?

    There are many things you can do with a parts car depending on its condition and whether or not it is still of any use in repairs or restorations.

    Donate the parts car to a charity.You could donate a parts car to a charity, but this is not wise. Both you and the charity will benefit more when you sell the parts car and donate the cash instead. The organization will receive more funds for their cause and you’ll get a bigger tax deduction. Also, keep in mind that not all charities accept junk car donations.

    Sell the parts car to a junkyard or salvage yard. You have more options to get rid of parts cars when they still have some use as a source of used car parts. Parts cars that can still be salvaged for parts are in demand from junkyards and salvage yards that allow customers to pull their own parts. When the vehicle is no longer of use it will be completely dismantled, crushed, recycled, and disposed of, with not all steps completed by the junkyard.

    Sell the parts car to an auto dismantler, vehicle recycler, or scrap metal recycler. When a parts car has no further value as a parts car and needs to be disposed of it should go to an auto dismantler, vehicle recycler, or scrap metal processor, as makes sense for the car recycling process in the area. Most dismantlers, recyclers, and scrap yards do not purchase parts cars from the general public but instead rely on junk car buyer like Junk Car Medics to get the parts car to the next stage of recycling.

    Sell the parts car to an individual. Selling a parts car to an individual who needs the vehicle can bring the most cash for parts cars, but it takes a lot of time and effort to find the right buyer. It is better to find a dealer in parts cars to find the right buyer. If you’re not sure whether or not your parts car is in demand for restorations or rebuilds, an experienced and reputable junk car buyer can give you a fair evaluation of your parts car.

    Sell the parts car to a junk car buyer. A junk car buyer usually buys parts cars that need to go to junkyards, salvage yards, scrap yards, auto dismantlers, and vehicle recyclers. The junk car dealer is a middle-man acting as liaison between consumers and the junk car facilities that process parts cars and other junk cars. This is the easiest and fastest way to get rid of parts cars.

    Junk Car Medics is the best way to get rid of an unwanted parts car. Junk Car Medics has a quick, easy, painless, and rewarding process for selling parts cars. We are able to give the best prices for parts cars because we work with all of the entities that purchase parts cars and make them compete for the vehicle.

    Can I sell a parts car with no title?

    Yes, you can sell a parts car with no title in most states. States set their own laws for when and how a vehicle must be titled. The majority of states do not require parts cars to be titled, but rather allows them to be sold on a bill of sale as property rather than as a motor vehicle. However, other states do require parts cars to be titled with a brand such as junk, nonrepairable, or salvage to indicate that it is only good as a parts car. This type of title usually prevents the parts car from every being rebuilt and registered as a vehicle for driving on public roads and highways.

    Can I sell a parts car with no registration?

    Yes, you can sell a parts car with no registration. Vehicle registration is only required for vehicles that are being driven on public roads and highways. Because of this parts cars are almost never registered. However, an old registration can be used to prove ownership to sell a parts car on a bill of sale or in a state where a title is required but it has been lost, damaged, mutilated, or destroyed.

    Who buys parts cars?

    There are 4 main places that buy parts cars, but it is important to note that not all of them buy parts cars from the general public.

    • Individuals restoring or rebuilding another vehicle
    • Junkyards, salvage yards, or auto dismantlers who dismantle and sell used car parts
    • Auto dismantlers and vehicle recyclers that recycle parts car shells
    • Junk car buyers acting as liaison between consumer and junk car facilities

    Because not all junkyards, salvage yards, or scrap yards buy parts cars directly from consumers, it is important to check with the junk car facilities in your area to make sure they will buy your parts car. You may be forced to use a junk car buyer instead.

    How to choose a parts car buyer

    Choosing the right junk car buyer to sell your parts car is important when you want to get the best price and have the easiest, most painless experience possible. To choose a junk car buyer one should research junk car buyers in the area, read reviews from real customers online, get referrals from friends and family, and determine what parts car removal services are included in their quotes.

    Here are some things to look for when reading reviews and websites for junk car buyers near you.

    Experienced junk car buyers.An experienced junk car buyer is of increased importance when selling parts cars. This is because only experienced and well established junk car buyers have the contacts to get the best prices for parts cars of any type or condition. The junk car industry has grown from $25 billion in 2019 to $67 billion in 2023, showing that there are many inexperienced junk car buyers on the scene. Junk Car Medics has been in business since 2016 and has a large network of places who buy parts cars.

    Knowledgeable junk car buyers. Junk car buyers should be knowledgeable in the process and requirements to sell parts cars in your state. When junk car buyers understand the details of title laws in a particular state they are best able to assist in the process to sell parts cars. Your local DMV can be a great source of information, but the right junk car buyer makes the process as painless as possible. Junk Car Medics is licensed and knowledgeable in the laws at all locations across the country, and we offer one-on-one assistance with paperwork to sell parts cars if needed.

    Comprehensive junk car removal services. You should never pay for removal of parts cars out of pocket. However, junk car removal is not free. The towing costs are incorporated into the calculations to determine the quote for your parts car from the junk car buyer. The junk car buyer should make scheduling of parts car removal easy and painless, handling everything for you at your convenience. Junk Car Medics offers free removal of parts cars and works with the best local towing companies for a positive experience.

    Payment upon pick up of parts cars. The best junk car buyers will reward you for your parts car when they pick it up. Payment for parts cars may be by cash, check, or digital payment. Junk Car Medics honors all junk car quotes for parts cars for 7 days and pays for the parts cars removed at the time they are picked up by our local towing partner.

    Junk Car Medics stands out from other junk car buyers because we are able to give the best prices with the most value through our proprietary process for getting rid of parts cars.