Scrap Car vs Salvage Car: What Is the Difference?

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Have you been using then terms scrap and salvage interchangeably?

If so, then you might want to educate yourself. The difference between a scrap vehicle and a salvage one is pretty big. If you’re in the market you might be hurting your pocketbook by not knowing.

Let’s hop to it. There are a few key differences between these two classifications and knowing the difference is key to getting the most for your dollar.

What is a Salvage Vehicle?

A salvaged vehicle is one which has a salvage title.

Okay, that didn’t clarify anything.

As a general rule, a vehicle only ends up with a salvage title once it’s been declared a “total loss” by an insurance company. It means the vehicle has taken damage at some point and the company holding the policy has decided that fixing it would cost more than the car was worth.

From there the owner of the vehicle receives their payout and the insurance company takes possession of the vehicle underneath the salvage title.

The causes of a total can vary from extensive cosmetic damage to complete destruction of the drive train. Once it’s declared, however, it’s actually a crime to “wash” the title, no matter how much work has taken place.

If you’re buying a car underneath a salvage title then it’s important to make sure that you know your stuff. It’s either that or bring along someone who does. A good mechanic should be able to tell you whether the buy is going to be worth it.

Salvage vehicles can often find themselves returned to running condition. The biggest difference between them is how extensive the repairs required are.

Vehicles which fall under this classification almost always have parts which are worth selling on their own as well even if you’re not able to restore them to running condition.

What is a Scrap Vehicle?

A scrapped vehicle is one which can really only be sold for scrap.

While a salvaged vehicle might still be good for selling parts, as a general rule when you’re looking at this kind of vehicle the only thing it’s worth is the material that it’s made out of.

There’s nothing worth saving when you’re dealing with a scrap vehicle. Instead, it’s going to end up crushed and sold for the weight of the materials rather than any part of it returning to circulation.

You can also choose to scrap a salvaged vehicle which is beyond your means to repair.

So, What’s the Difference?

A salvaged vehicle still has the potential to return to the streets. That said, it’s never going to hold Blue Book value under a salvaged title.

A scrapped car is completely done and will be removed from circulation and sold for scrap metal prices.

When it comes to selling off a vehicle in either condition there are going to be some big differences in the price you’ll receive.

For a salvage title automobile, you’re looking at more money, even if you choose not to disassemble the vehicle yourself. If the parts are good enough, or the car can be restored to running condition with a relatively small amount of work, then you’re looking at more money.

Otherwise, for a scrapped vehicle you’re just looking at getting paid for the weight of materials.

Not every scrapyard is going to give you extra money for a salvaged vehicle, however, many times you’ll have to look around to find a pick and pull junkyard which is willing to pay for more than just the steel in the car.

The Difference for Buyers

When you’re buying a car that’s on a salvaged title, instead of one which is completely junked, you’re looking at a vehicle that has good parts in it and even potentially runs if the repairs required aren’t too extensive.

That’s a great value since you don’t really have to take bluebook value into account when you’re purchasing the car.

Admittedly, a reputable buyer is still going to take into account the make, model, and year of the car as well as the condition if they’re planning on selling parts.

Scrapped cars, on the other hand, are destined for the compactor and the only thing that’s going to matter is the weight of the vehicle and what kind of margin the buyer can pull on it.

In either case, it’s usually a mutually beneficial deal.

What Should I Do With a Salvage or Scrap Vehicle?

The best thing to do is usually to begin calling around to different yards and see what you can get for it.

Chances are there’s not going to be a lot of haggling you can do. The cars are worth what they’re worth and since they’ve been damaged it’s usually not going to be nearly as much as you want.

If it’s clearly a salvage vehicle and not simply a scrap one then you should be able to negotiate a little bit. In any case, there are some measures you can take to maximize the value of your vehicle.

While it does happen on occasion, it’s pretty rare that usable parts that are in high demand are going to end up in crushed.

Call Us Today

Whether it’s a salvage or scrap vehicle, if you’re looking for someone to take that pile of non-running metal off of your hands then you’re in the right place.

We take into account everything about your vehicle before giving you a price, which means that we’re the right solution for the majority of people when it comes time to get rid of it.

Why not give us a call and get a free offer on your vehicle today?

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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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