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Assessing Your Vehicle’s Value Ahead of Time

Assessing Your Vehicle's Value Ahead of Time

Once you decide it’s time to part ways with your junk car, SUV, or truck, research will always be your friend. The more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you will be when you get your first quote from a junkyard. Here are a few things you can do to get a sense of how much your vehicle is worth.

Find Out How Much Your Car Weighs

Since most of your vehicle’s weight is steel, you can estimate how much your car is worth once you know your car’s weight and the current market rate of scrap steel.

To figure out how much your car weighs, you can use a resource like Kelley Blue Book, search by vehicle by make and model, then select Specifications and it will be listed as Curb Weight.  Other resources like Edmunds and Consumer Reports will list vehicle weights.

In addition, some vehicles have a label on the inside of the driver’s side door frame that is titled, “Tire and Loading Information,” which lists the weight of your vehicle. You can do a quick Google search to determine to the current market rate of scrap steel.

The second largest metal component in your vehicle is aluminum (the average amount per vehicle is 300 pounds). Other metals found in a vehicle include copper, lead, platinum, and palladium (a lot of this is found in the catalytic converter – which is a great part to sell).

If Your Vehicle is Damaged Due to an Accident, Call Insurance

Although each insurance company uses its own formula, you can call your insurance company to find out the vehicle’s market value. Again, this is to give you a sense of what a junkyard might offer when you start calling for quotes.

The insurance company will assess how much it would cost to get rid of your car (salvage parts, sell at auction, etc.) verse how much it would cost to repair it and return it to its original condition. 

If they determine that the car is totaled or declared to be a “total loss” (a term used by insurance companies when a vehicle requires repairs in excess of 75% of the vehicle’s original value), they may offer you an amount based on whatever they determine its worth according to their calculations minus any applicable deductible. If you accept their offer, your insurance company then takes ownership of your vehicle.

Check Out the Blue Book Value

The Blue Book value assumes your car is in decent or better condition. If you’re taking the vehicle to a junkyard, we are going to assume that’s not the case. Although your car’s scrap value will be a lot less than what is listed in the Blue Book, the easy and free resource will at least give you an idea of what you might expect from an offer from a junkyard. Here’s how to use this resource for your purpose: 

Take the Blue Book value and subtract the cost of all the repairs that are needed to make the car sellable. Use your best judgment. (Remember, this is just to help you assess how much an offer might be.) Once you subtract these repairs, you will have a rough estimate of what your car might be worth if it sold at auction or if it were repaired and flipped at a junkyard.

You can also check out the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) website to get a general determination of your car’s value.

Keep Track of Current Scrap Metal Prices

Although the price of scrap metal is based on multiple factors, the biggest factor that determines the going market rate is nothing more than supply and demand. The price of scrap metal has been down the past few years, but it fluctuates every day. Monthly changes are the most common and scrap metal price does impact the value of your vehicle

They’re also the best indicators for both junkyards and those looking to sell their junk vehicles for cash. Keeping track of current scrap metal prices can really help you get the best cash offer for your junk car. There are applications you can download to help you keep track of the current rates (iScrap is one for example). If you normally follow the stock market, any of the applications you use for that are great as well.

Don’t get too discouraged if the price of scrap metal is low. Remember that there are other valuable parts of your vehicle that affect its value. The alternator, starter motor, new tires, and an onboard GPS system are all worth something. 

Any other parts that work and are reusable are worth something too and will increase the price you receive for your vehicle. Naturally, you won’t be offered full value for these parts as the salvage yard must invest time and labor in order to resell them and make a profit. However, you can try to negotiate for about half of the value.

Figure Out How Much it Would Cost to Make Your Car Driveable

A vehicle you can drive into a junkyard is worth more than one that must be towed in. It might be worth the effort to get a quote to see how much it would cost to make your vehicle drivable. If it’s not too much, or even better, if it’s something you can fix on your own, it may be worth the expense to fix it. 

The money you’ll save on transporting the vehicle to the junkyard and the increase in your cash offer for having a working car might outweigh the cost of the repair. Getting two quotes, one on the vehicle as is, and one on the vehicle in working condition without needing the tow, will help you make the best decision.  

Understand the Importance of Timing

When you’re assessing the value of your vehicle, not only is timing important when it comes to the market rates of scrap metals, the season in which you try to sell your car affects the value. 

Consider the value of a convertible in the winter months. It’s probably not going to be very high, as opposed to that of a 4×4 SUV. There are certain cars where the season has a greater effect than others. In addition, you’ll also be able to get more for your junk car when the cost of gas goes down.

With this said, if waiting for the right season will cause additional damage to your car by way of deterioration, don’t wait. The longer you wait, the longer your car goes unused, and the more those valuable parts deteriorate. 

In fact, the most valuable parts deteriorate the quickest. If your car is left outside, it’s important to take into consideration weather damage. Precipitation can cause corrosion and lead to rust. Sun can cause colors to fade and seats to crack. Rubber parts become brittle. Fluids begin to settle out, and any gasoline that’s left in the tank will absorb water from the air.

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