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[Ultimate Guide] The Most Valuable Scrap Car Parts for Money

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

Table of Contents

In 2018, the average vehicle life span in the US has reached an all-time high of 11.8 years old. That’s a 4% increase in their service life within the last half-decade.

What’s more, experts estimate that by 2021, 84 million vehicles will be at least 16 years old!

As impressive as these figures are, driving a car that’s more than a decade old isn’t that practical. These consume more fuel and are also prone to frequent breakdowns.

If these describe your clunker, consider selling your car for parts. For starters, the most valuable parts on a car to scrap can already net you a few hundred dollars. You can then use that cash to help pay for a new car that will perform better and a lot safer.

Ready to learn more about selling a car for scrap? Then let’s get right into it!

Why Scrap Your Car in the First Place

In 2018, the transportation-related expenditures per household averaged $9,761. $3,975 went towards paying for the vehicle itself and $2,109 for gas and motor oil. The rest — $3,677 — most likely went towards maintenance and repairs.

Both old and ill-maintained cars cost more to run because they’re less fuel-efficient. For instance, the average fuel efficiency of 2010 light vehicles was only 33.9 mpg. That’s 6.1 mpg less efficient than 2017 models which had an average fuel efficiency of 39.4 mpg.

The older your car is, the more likely it is to guzzle up more fuel. Moreover, the longer you own and use a car, the closer its parts reach the end of their life. This increases the need for repairs, many of which will be major expenses.

All those trips to the mechanic could be worth more than your ride’s actual market value.

If your clunker has been in the repair shop multiple times in a short period of time, it may be best to just scrap it. You shouldn’t forego repairs either, as driving a defective car can lead to an accident. In fact, between 2005 and 2007, over 44,000 car crashes were due to vehicle failure.

Decaying and corroding car parts also have health and environmental impacts. Exposure to heavy metals, for instance, can result in poisoning and even cancer!

These metals and other vehicle chemicals can also leach into soil and water. This contamination can cause diseases and deaths in people, animals, and plants. Vehicle part corrosion also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

All these should be enough reason to bid your clunker goodbye. If you have the skills and time though, you can part out your car and sell the scrap car parts individually.

Let’s dive into this ultimate list of scrap car parts to sell for money.

The Engine: One of the Most Valuable Parts on a Car to Scrap

One of the most valuable parts of a car to scrap is the engine. Replacing a car engine can be an extremely expensive proposition, so many turn to the secondhand market to find what they need. The same holds for transmissions.

If your engine is still in running condition, it could be an easy sell for someone looking for a replacement.

However, even if your engine isn’t working anymore, it can still bring you value. They can often be scrapped for their aluminum. As aluminum is more valuable than steel, don’t neglect any aluminum that may be found on your old car.

Although engines can be valuable, they do require some advance preparation. If you’re not selling the car as a whole, you’ll need to remove the engine, drain the fluids, and then transport the engine to the junkyard.

The best way to do this may be with the help of a mechanic.

Sell a Junk Engine

A vehicle’s engine converts an energy source (such as fuel or electricity) into motion. The easiest and most common way for cars to do this is to burn fuel inside the engine. This internal combustion creates a huge amount of energy in the form of expanding gas.

The engine then harnesses the power of that gas to move its parts, such as the gears, valves, and pistons. From here, the engine transfers the energy into the transmission system. The transmission system then supplies the power to move and turn your wheels.

A failed engine part, be it a spark plug, an oil pump, or a piston, will interfere with the combustion. This can then lead to your engine overheating, making odd noises, or not starting at all.

With all these vital roles, it’s easy to see how valuable a vehicle engine is. It’s so valuable that a complete engine rebuild can cost you up to $4,000. A complete engine replacement, on the other hand, can be worth up to $7,000.

This is why the first step on how to scrap a car for the most money is to sell its engine. Here are two ways you can make money out of this valuable car component.

Sell It to Engine Rebuilders

If repairs can bring your engine back to life, sell it to rebuilders or remanufacturers. If your engine passes inspection, the company will repair and sell it.

Since they’re technically used, these engines cost less than brand new OEMs. That makes them very popular among engine replacement buyers.

Scrap the Metal

If your engine is completely dead, you can still make money from its metal parts. Most engines have aluminum components, such as engine blocks and heads. Aluminum is worth more than steel too.

Transmission System

The estimated global value of the automotive transmission market is $109.36 billion. By the end of 2026, experts say this will go up to a staggering $130.25 billion.

These figures already prove how valuable transmissions systems are. After all, it’s the mechanism that transmits the energy produced by the engine to the wheels.

At the same time, it regulates the energy to ensure that the car won’t go too fast. It provides you — the driver — a way to control this power so you can make your ride go slower or faster.

In that sense, a transmission system is also essential to keeping a vehicle’s speed in safe levels. Without this part, your ride will stay on one gear, which would be its fastest (or slowest) speed.

That’s if you can even get your car to move in the first place. After all, the transmission system is what converts the engine’s power into torque. The torque is what makes your wheels rotate.

No torque, no car movement.

Slipping gears, a burning smell, and fluid leaks are some of the most common signs of a bad transmission. Leave these problems unresolved, and your car will eventually stop changing gears.

Sell the Entire System

If your transmission system is still repairable, you can sell it as-is to car parts buyers. Some car repair shops will offer to buy it from you if you rather not deal with its hefty repair costs. Like with used engines, there’s also a market for used transmission systems.

Convert Its Metal Parts to Cash

Aluminum is one of the most common metals used in transmission system cases. The transmission system itself may consist of up to 85% aluminum. Steel, cast iron, aluminum, and brass are also common metals used in transmissions.

Catalytic Converter

Did you know that the U.S. Clean Air Act is the reason behind the invention of catalytic converters? It was this law, after all, that required 1975 model vehicles to cut their emissions by 75%.

Since then, catalytic converters have become a must-have component in all vehicles. Their main function is to reduce the harmfulness of vehicle emissions. They do so by minimizing the number of pollutants that vehicles produce.

These devices help reduce air pollutants like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide. These pollutants are major health and environmental threats. Scientists have long since linked these emissions to global warming.

With cat converters being a major car component, it’s easy to see why they’re a huge hit among thieves. Every year, US police receive some 4,000 reports of catalytic converter theft.

Either way, replacing a cat converter can mean shelling up to $2,000. Rather than deal with that cost (plus all the other costs of repairing your clunker), why not scrap it instead?

Keep in mind that in most cases, selling a used catalytic converter is against the law. In fact, the EPA says it’s illegal for vehicle owners to remove a cat converter from their cars.

However, you can sell a catalytic converter as scrap material. Most converters today use expensive metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. It’s not uncommon for these converters to contain at least 4 to 9 grams of such materials. The best place to sell a converter is at a car scrap yard.

GPS System

While many people probably use their smartphones as their GPS system now, when it comes to parting out your vehicle, selling a car’s built in GPS system could make you a couple hundred bucks richer. Even if you own a portable system, selling your gadget with the car could give you bank account a little boost.

Fenders

When it comes to car parts, fenders are the sort of thing you only think about when your car is brand new or gets damaged. Fenders serve a very practical purpose: protecting the wheel wells and portions of the undercarriage of a car. For many cars nowadays, the fenders and bumpers are directly connected, which makes replacing the part expensive. For this reason, many people seek out used fenders, since buying from a private seller is usually cheaper, but still profitable for the seller.

Doors

Unless you’re driving an off-road Jeep Wrangler or a delivery truck, chances are you’re not going to want to ride around without car doors. 

Not only do doors provide obvious protection from the elements, they also are worth a bit when it comes time to part out your vehicle. 

While it’s easy to think of a car door as one giant part,  individual components (window controls, mirror controls, lock/unlock buttons, sheet metal) can be sold separately, so you can truly maximize your profit.

Many people are in need of replacement doors after car crashes, which can make your doors valuable spare parts.

Even if only parts of your doors are still working, such as the locks, handles, or side mirrors, there can still be a market for these parts too.

Bumpers

We’ve all seen those cars that are otherwise perfect, minus a cracked, dented or missing bumper. 

In many vehicles today, the bumper is actually a multi-layered group of parts consisting of aluminum, steel, fiberglass composites and plastic. The combination of these materials helps to reduce damage received in low speed accidents. 

Depending on the make/model/year of your vehicle, a bumper in good condition could earn you a few hundred dollars.

For example, if your car was rear-ended, your front bumper may still be in pristine condition.

Or, if your make or model is popular, there are likely to many people with the vehicle who are looking for replacement bumpers for their car after an accident. Or, even if the opposite is true, this can help.

For example, if your car model is no longer in production, it can be much harder to find spare parts. So, if you have the parts to offer, they could get scooped up quickly by someone who has been on the lookout.

Bumpers are frequently damaged in car accidents, so they are always going to be in high demand.

Battery

While selling the battery itself to a scrap yard will only make you about $20 richer, by recycling it, you’re keeping harmful chemicals away from the environment. Alternatively, instead of immediately recycling it, you can refurbish the battery using distilled water and Epsom salt. Through this process, you may be able to extend the life of your battery by 5 or so years.

Air Conditioning

There is nothing worse than being stuck in a car with a broken air conditioner. Luckily, even if the rest of your car is down and out, you can probably make a small chunk of change.

Air conditioning system parts, like the compressor and condenser, can bring in some money. They can either be put into another car or can be reused elsewhere.

You may need a mechanic to remove the parts before you can sell them.

Air Bags

If your car has been totaled, but the airbags were not deployed, you may be able to make some money off of the unused airbag. 

While the airbag itself can be replaced for a couple hundred bucks, a proper installation can cost closer to $1,000. In an effort to save money down the road, many people will opt to buy an unused air bag, and if the seller plays their cards right, they may be able to fetch up to $200 dollars.

Most new cars have multiple airbags, but some of the most valuable include the steering wheel airbag and the one for the front passenger.

If you’re not experienced with installing airbags, do not try to remove them on your own. They are explosive and cause serious injury if you’re not careful.

Not to mention, if they’re damaged during the removal process, they’ll lose their value as scrap parts.

Windshield Wiper Arms

Like scrapping a battery, you’re not going to fetch the big bucks for a windshield wiper arm, but money is money, right? Depending on the model of your car, you may be able to get up to $65 per windshield arm.

Tailgates

In practice, a truck’s tailgate is nothing fancy, but when it comes to selling parts off a vehicle, tailgates may be worth a couple hundred dollars if it is in good condition. If you had a custom or specialized tailgate installed onto your pick-up, you will probably be able to make considerably more than that.

Motor Oil & Oil Filters

While recycling oil filters and engine oil will not make you a large profit,  engine oil doesn’t actually wear out, it just gets dirty. That’s why disposing of it properly is so important. By bringing it to an authorized recycling station or garage, you’re ensuring it can be used by future car owners. The same idea applies to oil filters. Oil filters can be cleaned, refurbished, and reused once the oil has been removed.

Radio

Other than major mechanical issues, or a broken A/C, there is nothing worse than driving a car without a working radio.  Obviously, if you have had a new radio installed in your car, it’s probably worth more than the generic setup your vehicle came with, but selling your radio system could put some much needed spending money back in your wallet.

Did you have a custom audio system or speakers in your car? If so, this is one of the most valuable parts of your car’s interior. In addition to scrapyards, you could probably sell the radio online to someone looking to upgrade their car.

Or, even stock standard audio systems are hot commodities that can be put into other cars, so hang on to them for resale value.

Infotainment System

Eight in 10 cars sold in the US in 2019 came with a dashboard touch screen. Even back in 2014, more than half of all sold vehicles came with such techy devices.

Infotainment systems have become such a hit thanks to their multi-function features. Their audio and video interfaces make vehicle command and control easier and safer. Their hands-free capabilities also help reduce distractions while driving.

That said, you can sell a functional infotainment system at car accessory shops. Pawnshops and electronics stores would be happy to take it off your hands too. Of course, a complete set (navigation, touch screen display, and stereo) will have a higher value.

You can also look for buyers online through driver forums and social media. This will take longer, but individual buyers are often willing to pay more for quality tech. After all, some brand new infotainment system upgrades can cost up to $1,290.

Even if some of their parts no longer work, you can still sell them for their valuable content. These include their electrical terminals, motherboards, and even the metal inside their wires. The glass and plastic components are also scrapable and sellable.

Wheels and Tires

If you can remove them safely, you can sell the entire wheel set-up (including rims and tires) to individual buyers. The more valuable your wheels are (such as aluminum alloy), the more cash you can get for them. Still, even steel wheels are still worth something to auto salvage yards.

To make a good profit off your tires, the treads need to be in good condition and they should be fairly new.

Large tires, such as from an SUV or truck, can fetch even more money in the secondhand market.

Like a few other items on this list, cashing in on your wheels, tires, and rims might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. You may not think your cruddy old wheels and rims have much value, but to a car enthusiast or modification specialist, your junker might have the much-needed parts they want. 

This is especially true if your vehicle is sporting aluminum wheels.

Here are a few ways to sell your car’s wheels and tires.

Complete Set of Wheels and Tires in Working Condition

If the rubber and the wheel are in good condition, you can sell them as a set to buyers who have the same car make and model. This also makes parting out your car easier, since you only need to remove the entire wheel itself. You don’t have to separate the tire from the wheel.

Sell the Rubber and Wheel Separately

If you’re planning to use the wheels for a different car, you can sell the tires on their own. This is also a good way to make money off of the tires if you find a buyer who only wants the wheels. You can then sell the tires that are in good condition (with even wearing and not worn out) to car parts buyers.

Scrap Both the Tires and the Wheels

Tires and wheels that are too worn or banged up still have some scrap value. These will go into recycling though, so don’t expect to make a lot out of them. Still, it’s a good way to make sure your unwanted car parts don’t end up in a landfill.

Note that California alone generates 51 million reusable and waste tires each year. That’s only one state, so you can just imagine how many million more of these tires get discarded in the US.

Car Seats

Your car’s seats, front and rear, can be some of the best junkyard parts to sell. If your car’s seats are still in good condition, they can be very desirable to someone looking to replace theirs.

As car seats can lose their padding, become stained, or rip, a car seat in a good condition can be valuable.

To get started, find an auto salvage yard near you.

Radiator

Radiators are important parts of a car, as they can keep your engine from overheating by pumping coolant through the engine.

Not only can radiators be valuable if they are still functioning, but they also contain large amounts of aluminum, like the engine. This can bring in some quick income at a junkyard.

To sell, first remove the coolant and remove it from the car.

Windshield

Automobile glass is very valuable. As it often breaks in even minor accidents, it will always be a much-needed spare part.

Windshields also get damaged and chipped by rocks or hail damage, so many people are looking for replacement glass. Not only windshields but also windows.

Air Conditioning System

Air conditioning system parts, like the compressor and condenser, can bring in some money. They can either be put into another car or can be reused elsewhere.

You may need a mechanic to remove the parts before you can sell them.

Lights

If headlights and taillights aren’t cracked or broken on your old car, you can probably sell them as spare parts. More high-end lights tend to be worth more, such as Xenon lights.

Car headlights can break easily in car accidents, so many buyers are looking for new lights.

Turn Your Old or Junk Car Into a Quick Source of Cash Now

There you have it, your ultimate guide on the most valuable car parts to scrap. As you can see, there’s a lot of stuff in your car that retains value even if your ride is old or it doesn’t run anymore. If you have the time, skills, and tools, consider parting out your car and selling all these parts.

Not only do you need the time to physically take the car apart, you will need the time to research how much parts are worth. 

On top of that, finding a buyer for the parts can also be time-consuming. While there is more money to be made in parting out your vehicle on your own, if you’re looking for an easy and fast solution, calling a junk car buying company may be your best bet. 

Most companies like Cash Auto Salvage provide free-towing, speedy pick-up, and will pay you on the spot for your vehicle.

So if you’d rather not get your hands greasy, the easiest and fastest way is to sell your entire car. This way, you don’t have to do any laborious work and make mistakes that can chip away at the value of your car parts.

Ready to sell your car, be it used, junk, or totaled? We can help! Get an instant offer right now and see what your car’s worth!

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About the Author

Marc
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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