Junker Car: What Determines If Your Car Is a Junker?

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

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To junk or not to junk?

That might be your question about the hunk of junk that sits in your driveway and never works when you need to get to work on time.

You’ve been holding out until your car completely dies. But let’s face it, that old beater-mobile isn’t winning you any popularity contests. And that growing puddle of oil in the driveway is threatening much more than the environment.

The problem is, no one else wants it either. As a trade-in for a new car, they’ll laugh you off of the car lot.

But what are your other options? Consider recycling your junker car.

The trick is knowing if your car qualifies as a junker and what to do about it.

Read on to learn if your car qualifies as a junk vehicle.

Why Automotive Recycling?

Cars and other automobiles are some of the most recycled items every year.

The U.S. and Canada recycle about 4 million vehicles annually. It’s a lucrative business the re-uses many parts of an automobile.

The value of junkers is more than the metal for scrap. Junker cars are recycled for fuel, engine oil, batteries, and more.

So if a trade-in value isn’t enough to make it worth your while at the dealership, you could make better money selling your car as a junker.

What is a Junker?

Just because your car is ugly and drives uglier doesn’t mean it’s a junker.

Consider these criteria to determine what is a junk car:

  • Age: It doesn’t have to be ancient. But in most places, your car needs to be at least three years old before considering it a junker.
  • Value: Because of the car’s condition, no one wants it. Even if you offer it on Craigslist or for parts, you can’t get rid of it.Check the Kelly Blue Book Value based on the car’s condition. If the value is extremely low, you might have a junker.
  • Damage and Operability: If your car has severe body damage, rust, broken axles, and is inoperable on a good day, it’s probably a junker.
  • Repair Costs: If if the cost to get your car back in good condition than the car is worth, you’ve got a junker.
  • Paperwork: How old is the license and registration? If it’s months or years past the expiration, you’re probably looking at a junker.

Be sure that you have the title for your car. When you determine you want to sell it as a junker, you’ll need the title to prove you’re selling a car you own.

How Much Is My Junker Worth?

Before you take it to a salvage yard or junkyard, you’ll want an idea of how much your car is worth as junk.

Forget the resale value at this point. Your car’s value is now based on the current value of scrap metal.

The value of scrap metal changes frequently. Use an online source to check the current value.

Look up the total weight of your car and calculate the value of your car based on the weight and current value of scrap metal.

It won’t be exact. There are parts of your car that are not metal. But you’ll have an idea of what the salvage yard should offer for your car before you go.

Be sure you also factor in the “junked” level of your car. If it needs towing to a salvage yard, it’s worth less than if it can muster a last bit of strength to get there with you driving it.

My Car is Junk. What’s Next?

Prepare your junker for its final goodbye. Follow a few best practices to get your car in shape to earn you the most you can get for its junker status.

Clean it out

Empty everything from the inside.

Toss trash. Keep the necessary title paperwork.

Remove Rust

If you have time, try and remove as much rust as you can. Doing this improves the value of the car.

Drain Fluids

Drain any unnecessary fluids, like washer fluid.

The salvage yard crushes cars for scrap metal. Removing fluids beforehand makes the salvage process less labor-intensive for the salvage yard.

The less time they spend getting it “salvage ready”, the more money in your pocket.

Cancel Registration

Before you take your car in, cancel the registration and remove license plates and windshield stickers. You’ll also need to cancel the insurance for your vehicle.

Don’t trust the junkyard with plates on your car. Be sure you’ve canceled everything before leaving it behind.

Car Junker Quotes

Do your homework and get quotes from more than one car junker.

Let the salvage yard know the condition of your car and if it requires towing or pick-up. Go with the yard that offers you the most money for you beloved junker.

Choose Your Junkyard Wisely

Yes, in the world of junkyards, there are good yards and bad yards.

Ask to see the junkyard’s license. Salvage yards and junkyards must have a license to operate as a business. If they can’t show you a license, walk away.

Watch out for a junkyard operator who seems too eager to take your car off of your hands. And watch out for incentives that seem too good to be true or don’t equal more cash in your hand.

Request cash or immediate payment for your car. Avoid checks or payments in installments.

Walk away from the junkyard with full cash in hand, or walk away with your car and find another salvage yard.

Your Junker Car is Worth More Than Sentimentality

She’s been a good car. But it’s time to call her a junker car and send her to that auto salvage yard in the sky.

We have locations all across America. We’ll ask some questions about your car and its mileage and condition. Then we’ll give you a free instant quote.

Let us make it easy on you to part with your beat-up car from college. We’d love to be your car junker.

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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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