Is My Car a Junk Car? These 8 Signs Point to Yes

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Marc Skirvin

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More than 25 million motor vehicles get taken out of service each year around the world. The US alone accounts for about half of all these “out-of-service” vehicles. Every year, the nation scraps between 10 and 15 million of these “useless” automobiles.

The reason for scrapping? They’ve reached the end of their useful service life.

A junk car is a perfect example of such a vehicle.

The question now is, what exactly does “junk” in this case mean?

To help answer this common question, we decided to come up with this guide to classifying junk cars. Read on to learn all about the signs that will help you tell if it’s time to junk your ride.

1. Your Car Has Reached Its Useful Service Life

In the US, 25% of vehicles are at least 16 years old. However, the average age of all automobiles in circulation is 11.9 years.

If your car’s age is nearing, has reached, or has gone beyond this average life span, it may be time to junk it. This is especially true if frequent issues plague its major components.

A perfect example is your car’s engine. If it always sputters or dies, and your car is already a decade old, then it may make more financial sense to junk it.

2. Your Ride Meets the Legal Definition of Junk Car

In the US, the 49 USCS § 30501 codifies the definition of a junk automobile. According to this code, a junk automobile is an inoperable automobile. Under this regulation, it can mean one of two things.

First, a junk car is no longer capable of running on highways, public streets, and roads. Second, a junk automobile carries no other “value” except as a source of scrap or useful vehicle parts.

This doesn’t mean that your car is already junk just because its engine is dead. However, unless you fix your car to a safe working condition, the law can consider it a junk vehicle. Note that there’s a long list of federal, state, and city laws on motor vehicle safety.

If your ride doesn’t meet all these regulations, authorities can deem it unsafe. So, you can’t operate it, and the longer you let it stay that way, the closer it gets to becoming a full-on junk car.

3. You Totaled Your Ride

totaled automobile is another perfect example of a junk car, as it’s already inoperable. Totaled vehicles are those that require repairs that exceed their actual value. Some states also have laws with specific thresholds defining a totaled automobile.

For example, Alabama considers a vehicle “totaled” if the cost to repair damages is over 75% of the car’s value. Let’s say that your ride’s value is $10,000, but the estimated cost to repair it is $8,000. Since the repair cost is 80% of the value, the Cotton State is likely to deem the car totaled.

4. You’ve Become Best Buds With Your Repair Mechanic

If you’ve been setting up a lot of “dates” with your repair mechanic, it may be best to junk your car sooner than later. This is especially true if your ride is nearing its useful service life. For instance, fixing 10-year-old vehicles often cost more than “younger” cars.

According to reports, the average maintenance and repair bill for a 2010-made car is about $458. By contrast, the average cost to fix a 2017 model is only $83. That’s a massive difference of $375!

5. DIY Repairs Are Now Way Over Your Head

A 2018 study revealed that more than a third of US car owners don’t know how to fix a flat tire. What’s more, over 40% of the participants were unable to identify a car engine! So, it’s no wonder that more than two-thirds of the studied cars had at least one problem.

Suppose you aren’t one of these folks and that you do some vehicle repairs on your own. However, unless you’re a licensed mechanic, you’re likely to run into an issue that’s way over your head.

For starters, cars are becoming more complex, especially their computers. Fixing these requires more extensive knowledge and specialized equipment and tools, too.

If your vehicle has too many up-for-repair parts, have a mechanic inspect it and give you a quote. From there, determine which tasks you can DIY and which ones you don’t have any knowledge of. Then, recalculate to see how much your estimated final bill will be.

If the cost is still too high even after removing the ones you can DIY, then it’s smarter to junk and replace your ride.

6. Your Car Got Hit by a Flood

Did you know that six inches of water can already make you lose control of your car? Or that two feet of floodwater can already float a 3,000-pound vehicle?

That should be enough reason to avoid driving during bad weather. Another is because floodwater can damage your car to the point that it becomes a total loss.

After all, water can wreak havoc not only to your car’s interiors but also to its electronics. If your car gets submerged, this can damage everything under the hood. In this case, your ride’s mechanical systems are likely to end up with severe damage.

It’s not illegal to sell flooded cars in the US, so long as the seller discloses that they have flood damage. Under the law, sellers must obtain a flood title first before they can sell a flooded vehicle. They must then inform all potential buyers about the damage.

Failure to do so can result in the seller getting slapped with a fraud lawsuit.

Do note that a flood title is different from a salvage title. However, both require full disclosure for their sale to be legal.

The process itself of getting a flood or salvage title is complex and time-consuming. If you neither have the time or patience to do so, it may be best to get in touch with an auto salvage yard instead. These are some of the best places that buy junk cars, including flood-damaged vehicles.

What’s more, you can sell your flooded car as-is to these facilities. Don’t worry, as the law allows them to do so since they will be the ones to restore or repair the vehicle. If your car is completely unrepairable, they’ll recycle or scrap its usable parts.

7. You Keep Postponing Car Repairs

Perhaps you’ve decided to repair or restore an old car during your free time or days off. However, many things may have happened that you’re now going about the project at a snail’s pace.

The longer you keep delaying the needed repairs, the more likely that old thing will corrode away.

However, rust is the least of your worries; you should be more concerned about chemical leaks.

For starters, deteriorating vehicles can leach out petroleum hydrocarbons. These come from motor oils, petroleum, gas, and diesel. These are toxic chemicals regarded as carcinogens or “cancer-causing”.

Also, the longer your junk car is on your property, the more time it can leach heavy metals. Some examples of such dangerous metals include aluminum, arsenic, lead, and mercury. They contaminate soil and even water if they mix with storm runoff.

There are also several acids that a junk car can leach, including those found in car batteries. For instance, lead and sulfuric acids in vehicle batteries are highly corrosive. Exposure to these can cause significant injuries, diseases, and even permanent blindness.

All that should be enough reason to schedule a junk car removal service. The sooner you do, the sooner you can reduce your risks of such hazards.

8. You No Longer Want to Have Anything to Do With That Car

Let’s say that your family has grown or you got a much better paying job. Because of this, you ended up buying a new vehicle that you now use all the time. As for your old car, it’s now only taking up precious space in your garage.

Your old car may not be junk, but it’s best to consider selling it ASAP before it starts to deteriorate. Keep in mind that the longer a vehicle goes unused, the higher its chances of developing issues. This is also why auto experts recommend the use of top-notch antifreeze during winter.

However, this no longer applies to your old car since you haven’t used it for a long time. All those frigid and hot seasons that have passed have likely taken their toll on your vehicle. Even if your car starts after a long period of unuse, it’s highly possible that it needs other major repairs.

If you won’t use it that much, it may be best just to sell the entire thing, considering that you use the new one more.

Junk or Sell Your Car Before It Loses Any More Value

As you can see, there are many ways for a vehicle to classify as a “junk car”. It may be because it meets the broad legal definition of junk vehicles. It can also be that you no longer want it.  

Either way, it’s best to sell a car, whether junk or not, as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the more you can likely get out of it.

Ready to sell your junk, salvage, flooded, old, or unwanted car? If so, then know that Cash Auto Salvage is here to help! Ring us up now so that you can get an accurate estimate of how much your ride is worth. 

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About the Author

Picture of Marc

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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