How to Get the Most Value for Your Scrap Car

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

It makes sense to run your car into the ground. A car never appreciates. As soon as you drive it off the lot it’s worth less than when it was parked and unsold.

But now that your car, while it served you well, is complete junk, what are you going to do with it? It’s not like you have to dispose of a car on a regular basis.

The best method of disposing of an old junk car is by scrapping it.

Scrapping a car essentially means selling it for the worth of its parts. And a single car is made up of about 30,000 parts.

A good many of these parts can be reused or repurposed. And there are people in the world who will buy a car just for its parts.

Junking your car isn’t exactly like selling it on a used lot. Depending on your situation, you may not even be able to move your car.

So, how do you get the most out of your scrap car without spending too much money? We’ve got all the answers you need right here.


How To Tell If Your Car Is Scrap Worthy

It might be a little embarrassing if you take your old jalopy to the used car salesman and he says, “Sorry, sir, I wouldn’t be able to sell that even if you threatened my life.”

It’s possible to tell if your car is really a junk car, but there are a few questions you probably should ask before you make that determination.

And there will come a point where it’s absolutely obvious your car is way past its last legs. But you might need to get rid of it before it comes to that.

So, at what point is a car not worth sitting on a used car lot?


When The Cost Of Future Repairs Is More Than What You’d Spend On A Car Loan Payment

Car repairs can be costly. For check engine light repairs in the United States, it costs car owners an average of $387.37 per visit to the car garage.

And sometimes, the older the car, the more expensive the repairs.

If you’re spending $200 or more each month for car repairs, you might consider at least selling your car if not scrapping it.

Some used cars cost 8-10K. And if your car is really at the end of the road, then you’ll end up spending less or the same on a newer used car payment each month than you are on repairs to your scrap car.


It’s Bleeding Gas Like A Grievous Wound

Cars are more fuel efficient today than they’ve ever been. Cars hit on average 23.6 miles per gallon back in 2012. And they’re becoming more fuel efficient every year.

If you’ve got an old clunker, and you’ve already spend a ton on repairs, you might be keeping it alive with gas and wasting money.

Let’s say you’re driving around an old pickup. And let’s say it gets 8 miles to the gallon.

If you upgrade to a newer vehicle that gets 40 miles to the gallon, you’ll save over $3000 each year on gas according to a car upgrade calculator.


You’ve Already Sunk Too Much Money In Your Scrap Car

Don’t beat yourself up over this one. If you’ve already paid $3000 for a new transmission and yet it still needs more repairs, it might be time to cut your losses.

Consider how much you would get for the car on the lot. It might be nothing. If that’s the case and you’re spending tons on your vehicle, scrap it.

You can mitigate your losses a little by selling it for parts. But you’re never going to get the full money you sunk into repairing your vehicle recently.


Is It Totaled?

To figure out if your car is totaled after an accident, check the worth of the vehicle.

If the cost of repairs is more than the vehicle’s worth, your car is totaled. It’s a scrap car at that point.

At this point, if your car is insured, your insurer will (depending on state laws) offer you a cash settlement or offer to replace your car with a comparable car in your area.

But if you weren’t insured, you could just scrap your car for cash.


Are Future Repairs Too Costly?

Future finances and repairs are another set of considerations. How much will the car cost to repair in its last year or years? And can you afford to keep repairing it?

To find out the answer to the first question, you can always ask your mechanic. If you’ve found an honest mechanic, they’ll give you an honest estimate or at least guess.

Your mechanic has probably been around cars for years and seen all kinds of situations. They’ll know when a car is ready for the scrap heap or still worth trying to sell in a used car lot.

Only you can know if your future finances can cover the cost of repairs. Also remember that the older a car is, the more likely it will break down. Even your mechanic can’t know all the things that might happen to your car.


Search Car Forums For More Advice

If you’re still unsure if your car is a scrap car or not, there are thousands of car forums out there.

Other motorists will likely have advice for you on those forums. But be careful with forum advice. Make sure you always corroborate advice with actual professionals.

But, you can find out what repairs people have had to make on their cars. And you can compare costs with other motorists.

Learning from other people’s mistakes is the beginning of wisdom. So make sure you consult everyone you can before making your decision.


How To Get Money Out Of Your Scrap Car

Now that you’ve determined that your car is a scrapper, it’s time to actually make some money or recoup lost funds.


Prepare Your Car For Scrapping

There are a few things you need to do to prepare your scrap car to be stripped for parts. These are important as you want this to be as easy a process as possible.

Remove Your Belongings

You might not have much or you might have your whole life in your car. But you’re going to need access to all parts of your car.

To get access to all parts of your car, it needs to be empty of things that don’t count as your scrap car.

Even if you are dropping your scrap car off at a junkyard, it’s still your responsibility to remove your stuff.

And be thorough. You never know how much pocket change you might find in those seat cushions.

If you value any of your CD, check your CD player for discs. And any personal paperwork should go with you when you leave the junkyard.


Have Your Title Ready

If you’re taking your scrap car to the junkyard for cash, then you need to transfer ownership to the junkyard.

If a junkyard doesn’t ask for a title, insist they take it anyway. You still own the car when it goes into the junkyard and the car still works, that car could be a liability to you.

So, have your title and your photo ID ready when you take the car to the junkyard.

Of course, if you’re scrapping the car yourself, then you won’t have to worry about the title as the car will be in a million pieces by the time you’re done with it.


Remove Valuable Parts

If you haven’t made a deal yet with the junkyard, you can possibly take out some valuable parts yourself to sell for more money.

The battery, if newish, might be worth something. And if you have newer tires, you can replace those with balding tires.

Any stereo systems or electronic gear would be valuable on eBay or elsewhere.

This is a great way to get extra cash for your scrap car before junking it completely.


Use All The Gas

If your car is still running, it’s time for a short road trip.

This could actually be fun.

And besides, the junkyard doesn’t want your gasoline. They have to drain any fluids out of your vehicle before they can scrap the car anyway.

If your car doesn’t run anymore, you can always siphon off the gas and use it for another vehicle.

Although, this might not be worth it if you don’t want to get gasoline in your mouth. It typically requires you putting a hose in your gas tank and sucking the gas out until it begins to flow.

But if you’re low on cash and don’t want to lose a tank of gas, then siphoning out your gas is a plausible option.


Remove The License Plates And Cancel Insurance

Some states require you return your license plates. But even if you don’t need to return the plates, it’s still a good idea to take the plates with you when you scrap your car.

If you leave the plates on, others could use the plates to hide nefarious deeds. And you don’t want your name out there for something you didn’t do.

Also, you probably don’t want to be paying your insurance after the car is in a million pieces. Make sure you get ahold of your insurance company and cancel all auto insurance policies you have on the vehicle.


Questions To Ask The Junkyard

  • Should I strip the car of its non-metal parts to get a better price?
  • What’s the method of payment?
  • What’s the estimated payment for my vehicle?
  • Will they charge for a pickup if the vehicle won’t move?


How To Scrap A Car Yourself

If you want to try and scrap the car yourself, you can price all the parts yourself.

If you’ve had a little bit of experience working on cars, you might choose this method. But it might be a bit more work than you anticipate.

Ask yourself how much time do you want to spend just to get a few extra bucks off the sale of individual parts.

If you’re still sure you want to scrap the car yourself after that, there are a few steps you need to take to get the job done.


Find Which Part Killed The Car

If the car completely died, then there was a reason. If you don’t already know the reason, you’ll want to figure it out. Then you’ll know which parts are good for sale or not.

If multiple parts failed, you may want to consider still taking it to the junkyard.


Sell The Battery First

Like we said before, the battery could be worth something if it’s newer. Even if it’s not new, the lead in the battery is usually worth something.

So make sure you strip out that battery first before any other part.

And remember to drain the gas. You could sell it or use it in another vehicle. But you don’t want it in there while you’re scrapping everything else.

If you don’t, it could be dangerous to work on the car.


Remove The Basics

Your scrap car is now ready for scrapping. This is where you really start to make the money.

An obvious sell are the tires. If your tires still have tread on them they could be worth some money.

If you have an unusual kind of tire or a particular kind of truck tire, you should be able to sell the tires online for a decent amount of cash.

The stereo system is probably worth some money. There’s a reason they make removable stereos now. It’s always been the easiest and most lucrative part of the car to steal.

If you had a decent sound system, you can sell that pretty quickly online as well. Make sure you don’t forget the subwoofer under the back seat.

Now, strip out the plastic parts. You can take off things like the steering wheel pretty easily.

Other non-metal parts might include the seats, the seat covers, headrests, glove boxes, windshield wipers, headlights, and dashboard lights.


You Might As Well Junk Your Scrap Car

Stripping anything more than the non-metal parts will require quite a lot more work than it’s worth. The engine block requires a massive chain and crane system to remove from the car.

Some parts might require a torch to remove.

If you don’t want to go through all that work, you might as well junk your scrap car. Get a free quote on your scrap car right now. We’ll make you a fair deal.


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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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