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What’s the Difference Between a Salvage Yard and a Scrap Yard?

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Looking to sell your old car?

You’re in luck since 69% of Americans would buy a used vehicle. However, if your old car is too unfit for safe travel, you might consider selling it to a scrap yard. An alternative is to sell it to a salvage yard instead.

Wait, aren’t the two the same? The answer is far from the truth. Read the rest of our guide and learn the differences between salvage yards and scrap yards.

What are Car Salvage Yards?

Automotive salvage yards are businesses that buy junk cars and sell them for parts or as salvage vehicles. Whether it’s wrecked, unusable, or damaged, these businesses will buy them. They won’t hesitate to buy your car even when it’s in working condition too.

Most people have this misconception that salvage yards will only buy inoperable vehicles. As long as you want your car taken off of your hands, any salvage company will be happy to oblige.

Give the vehicle’s full description to get an offer. If you accept, the company will come to your home. They will tow away your vehicle free of charge. Otherwise, you can drop off your car at their location.

Salvage yards are great for selling old cars because of the cash benefits. As a general rule, these businesses give the highest offers around. These businesses can either break the cars apart for parts or restore them for salvage car auctions.

When salvage yards sell parts separately, you can get a better price for your vehicle. They will drain all the fluids from your cars before putting them in the yard. They will crush all unusable leftovers into scrap metal they can sell to businesses that recycle them.

They will also recycle various car fluids like oil, gas, antifreeze, and more. The amazing recycling capabilities of these yards are remarkable. You get higher pay while helping the environment.

How to Get the Most Cash When Selling to Salvage Yards

Now you know what salvage yards are, you might feel encouraged to sell yours. However, finding a reputable buyer can be difficult. To avoid future grief, use the following tips to get an excellent deal:

Call Several Yards and Compare Quotes

Selling damaged cars for cash is simple. As long as you get a reputable dealer, you won’t have to worry about a fair price. Call various salvage yards and ask for quotes.

Compare these prices and pick the ones with the best deals. To further improve your odds, read our guide. It lets you learn how to determine your car’s actual value to avoid getting low-balled.

Check Whether They Have Additional Fees

After getting several quotes, consider what each service can offer. Never hesitate and ask questions whenever you’re talking with dealers. Start by determining whether their towing services are free.

If they charge towing fees, deduct it from the amount you’ll get for selling your car. Sometimes, these companies already include the towing service fees on their initial quote. Ask if this is the case upfront to avoid doubling down on any subtractions that you’ll make.

Ensure They Get the Car As Is

Salvage yards take damaged cars regardless of condition. Small dents, major damages, and high mileages won’t deter most. Some companies will always be willing to take it from you for cash.

However, give a concise explanation of your car’s current condition. They must be clear enough when accepting a set amount for it. Some dealers will look for loopholes to lower your car’s price after assessing its state.

For example, tell them that the car has problems starting sometimes. Otherwise, they might lower the price of the deal if they find this condition on their own. Ensure their honesty when taking the damaged car in its current state.

Work with a Trustworthy Company

It’s the most important step when dealing with salvage yards. They must be reliable, accountable, and have a solid reputation. You only lose more money if you get the quote from disreputable establishments that won’t deliver.

Check whether the company has the proper license, insurance, and bonds. Check their website for customer reviews and other testimonials. If they’re a company at least several years old with lots of positive feedback, they’re safe enough.

Ask for Cash on the Spot

Before closing your deal, ask about the process of payment. It’s the most common step for scammers to take advantage of you. If they say you’ll get the payment after more inspections, switch to another company.

The best salvage yards around will have no problem handing you what you’re due on the spot.

What are Car Scrap Yards?

A car scrap yard is a business that buys leftover scrap metal from cars and other vehicles. Even when they buy metal from any seller, they’ll usually purchase in bulk. They use the weight to determine prices, either by the ton or by the pound.

Some businesses will buy small amounts of scrap metal. However, the more you have, the better price you’ll get. It also depends on the kind of metal you’ll sell with your car.

These companies will also have set prices for specific metals. The most popular materials they buy include:

  • Copper
  • Cast zinc
  • Aluminum

These metals are bountiful in both heavy metal and aluminum cars, as well as some appliances. These yards will exclusively buy these metals and sell them for profit to metal-recycling businesses. It means there’s no chance for your vehicle to get repaired and sold as a salvage vehicle.

Factors that Determine Your Scrap Car Value

Knowing your car’s going rate is important. It helps you determine whether the money you get from scrap yards is worth your while. Here are some factors you must consider:

Year, Make, and Model

The first factor that determines the price of a scrap car is its type. The year, make, and model determines its current market value. If it has salvageable parts, the value will increase.

Common cars will have a higher value since you can sell parts to fix other cars. If the demand for the parts is high enough, you can ask for more. However, if the car is rare and desirable, its price can also increase.

The year, make, and model also determines the amount of material the car yields. Some models will have less steel or aluminum content. When your car has more environment-friendly plastics, its value can plummet.

Current Scrap Metal Prices

As a regular car owner, you’re unlikely to think about the American scrap metal prices. However, your old car’s going rate depends on these rates. For scrap cars unworthy of any salvaging efforts, their metal is worth something.

On average, scrap cars contain around 2,400 lbs of steel and 300 lbs of aluminum. The price will depend on the supply and demand for these materials. When the metal supply is high but the demand is low, the prices are low.

Vehicle Condition

Cars with severe rusting and warping have lower values. The more parts they can strip and sell, the better price you’ll get from it. Otherwise, you’ll only get money from the weight value of the scrap metal.

Car Part Demand

If your old scrap car isn’t worthy of salvaging, some parts will be valuable. The battery, tires, and radio are removable and recyclable. Again, the price will depend on the demand for parts.

Certain car parts have a higher value compared to others. Working tires, suspension components, lights, and other exterior parts can fetch a pretty penny. The market demand for these parts can change due to factors like gasoline prices, car age, and the number of older vehicles in your area.

Vehicle Location

The location of your scrap car plays a role in determining its price tag. Scrap metal prices can vary per state. Even minute differences can affect your vehicle’s final price when the scrap yard takes it in.

Your vehicle’s popularity within your city can determine its parts’ market rates.

Should You Sell Your Old Car in a Salvage Yard or Scrap Yard?

With these differences, you’ll have a better idea of where to get more value out of your car. In most cases, it’s all about what you choose to sell. If you want your old car to become a salvage title car, selling to salvage yards is the better choice.

Some salvage yards will remove every component of your car that has value and sell them. It matters not whether they’re metal or other materials.

In contrast, scrap yards will mostly buy the metal from the car. If your vehicle is mostly metal and non-functional, consider selling it to a scrap yard.

Sell Your Car Today!

Now you know that salvage yards are the better option, consider selling your car to these businesses. You’ll get top dollar offers, especially for functional vehicles. You’ll get no better offer from any other business, so go to a salvage yard and sell your car today!

Do you have an old car to sell? Enter your car’s details on our website to receive an accurate offer for your vehicle.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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