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The Most Common Junkyard Scams to Avoid

Avoid These Common Junkyard Scams When Selling Your Car To a Scrap Yard

Like any business, there are those that are more honest and ethical than others. Remember that you’re in power since you get to choose which junkyard gets your vehicle. Knowing some of the unethical tactics that a junkyard can employ during the process will make you a more informed seller, and you’ll have the power to negotiate more intelligently or choose to take your business elsewhere. Let’s take a look at some common junkyard scams so you can be sure you’re dealing with a legitimate and fair business.

Ask to See the Junkyard's License

Let’s start with the most obvious. A junkyard or salvage yard must have a business license in order to operate, and a good business will be happy to provide you with this information. If they don’t have a license or if the license is expired, walk away. This is an immediate red flag. 

With this being said, remember that just because a business has a license doesn’t mean it’s a reputable facility, and many of them are outlined below. There are a lot of junkyard scams out there.

Understand the Definition of a Ton

Your vehicle’s scrap value will partially be determined by its weight so it’s important to understand what how units are defined. A net ton is defined as 2,000 pounds. However, a “long” or “metric” ton is defined as 2,240 pounds. 

Be sure to ask the junkyard which definition of a ton they are using when they determine the value of your car. An honest junkyard will tell you. If they pay out in long/metric tons, you’re missing out on cash. It’s important for you to stay informed on what unit of tons their quote includes. 

Don’t allow the facility to be vague in the quote.

Later we will discuss how you can take care of some of this before your vehicle goes to the junkyard in an effort to get the best possible cash offer.

Inquire About the Towing Cost

When you are inquiring about a quote for your junk car, SUV, or truck, be sure to ask if the cost of a tow is included in the quote. Some junkyards won’t include the cost of the tow in their quote. 

Rather, once you receive your cash, there will be a fee for the two that has been removed from the cash offer that you didn’t know about ahead of time. In other words, the junkyard wasn’t forthcoming about the costs associated with everything from the beginning. Reputable junkyards will be upfront with total costs and fees and include this information in the initial cost. 

Either way, however, it’s smart to ask when you’re calling for quotes and when you receive the payment how much the cost of towing affected the value.

Be Aware of False Incentives

Sometimes junkyards will offer non-cash incentives in an effort to sweeten the deal. If this is the case, be cautious. 

Here’s an example: a junkyard may offer you a few hundred dollars less than your car is valued, and they’ll make up for that difference with coupons that appear that they’re the equivalent to or even better than the difference. 

These coupons might be for holiday offers or discounts to certain parks. Typically, these coupons have restrictions and are only valid for a limited amount of time. They are hardly every worth the amount you’re losing in your vehicle’s cash value. 

It’s best to accept the full cash value for what your car is worth and not accept anything less or anything in place of that.

Too Much Pressure is NOT a Good Sign

If a junkyard is pressuring you to sell your car to them, you might want to walk away. No one should feel pressured to do one thing or another. Remember, you’re in the proverbial driver’s seat having more than one junkyard to choose from. 

An ethical and professional junkyard buyer will give you time to consider their offer, and they’ll answer any questions you may have. If you’re under pressure, you could make a poor decision or a non-informed decision, and that’s a way for the junkyard to get you to accept less than your vehicle’s value. 

This type of decision happens most often when you’re already at the junkyard. Perhaps you called ahead and received a quote and when you arrive, they try to pressure you to accept much less. Remember that you have every right to walk away at any point, even if you already received an offer over the phone, and they’ve taken time with you. 

The more pressure involved, the more likely you’re not getting the deal you deserve. Trust your gut.

Determine How You're Getting Paid

Nothing is better than cash in hand for a variety of reasons. A check – even if delivered same day – could always bounce, and other methods of payment that are promised in the mail might not ever arrive. 

It’s best to clarify at the beginning how they will pay you. If you don’t see money when you hand your car over, it’s a safe assumption that you might never see money. Furthermore, if you sign over the title before you receive any cash for it and then you never do, you won’t be able to do anything about it because you no longer own your car. Don’t let this happen to you.

If a junkyard is offering you a payment installment plan, never accept it. Your car should be sold for a single lump sum, and they should be able to pay you in full. Since you have no way to make sure to enforce their plan if they don’t send you the payments, you’ll be out of money if they don’t pay you.

Another thing to be cautious of is if you’re told that your cash will be held in escrow. Escrow services are third-parties that exist to protect a transaction; however, there are fake escrows whose sole purpose is to fool and cheat people. When you go to claim your money, your money won’t be there.

The bottom line is this: if you’re deciding between multiple junkyards, find out which one pays cash on delivery, and go with that one. Cash is always the best so find out how you’re getting paid from the beginning.

Be Aware of Offers That Have Significantly Changed

Some junkyards will do whatever is necessary to get you “on their lot.” They’ll give you an offer that’s much higher than any other offer you received. Then when you arrive, the offer significantly changes. 

They might say that the car is in much worse condition or it’s a less popular variation of the model. Be sure to ask for clarification for the discrepancy and continue to negotiate.

Junkyards that are farther out of the way might try this trick. This might be a particularly useful tactic for junkyards that are farther out of the way. If you’ve taken a lot of time and effort to get out there, the chances are pretty good that you don’t want to leave empty handed and you’re more likely to take what you can get. 

Remember that you can walk away. Even if you’re desperate to get rid of your car, make sure you get what it is worth. You want to do business with a reputable dealer and let the disreputable ones go out of business.

Don't Fall for the "We're Doing You a Favor" Line

When you arrive at the junkyard, you’re told that your vehicle isn’t worth a dime, but they’ll do you a favor and take it from you. If you hear this, it’s a con, and it’s best for you to walk away. 

Regardless of what shape your vehicle is in, it will have value because of its scrap metal, and most will have more value than that. If the vehicle had no value to them, they wouldn’t touch it.

Another “favor” that some junkyards might seem like they’re doing for you is to negotiate a higher price for your car to make it seem like you’re getting a good deal. They’ll start with the absolute lowest offer, and then little by little offer more. 

This gives the appearance that you’re in the driver’s seat, and that you’re getting a great deal, but you’re at the very least just getting what the car has been worth the entire time.

Be Cautious if They Tell You That Your Car "Isn't in Demand"

In another attempt to convince you that your vehicle has no value, you may be told that there’s no demand for the make and model of your vehicle. This is not true. Always remember that at the very least, there is a scrap metal value for your car. 

Do your homework ahead of time as well: is your car popular in that area? Is your car frequently used for spare parts? The more you know about this, the less likely you’ll be fooled if they feed you the “not in demand” line.

Cancel Your Registration and Get Your Plates

Before you sell your vehicle, be sure to remove the plates and cancel the registration on the vehicle. Do not ask the junkyard to do this for you, and do not depend on them to take care of this for you. 

If they fail to cancel the registration, anything that happens to the car can still be traced back to you. Even worse, some junkyards have the nerve to charge you for storing your car on their lot.

Be Smart, Trust Your Gut

It may seem like there are too many potential scams, and it’s impossible to avoid them all. That’s not true. Many legitimate and reputable junkyards exist. Many will never try to scam you. 

For those that do, however, the key to avoiding the scam is always knowledge and instinct. The fact that you’re reading this is a huge starting point. Use and trust your instincts. If something seems off, it very well may be. 

If you take the time to do your homework ahead of time, assess the value of your vehicle, get multiple quotes, prepare your vehicle for delivery before you arrive at the junkyard, and exercise patience and the ability to walk away if feel like you’re being cheated when you’re there, you will put yourself in the best position to receive what your car is worth.

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