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Selling Junk Cars for Cash: Factors That Impact the Amount You Receive

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

People who sell their junk cars for cash provide the raw materials to transport the nation.

Each year, between the US and Canada, enough automobiles are recycled to produce about thirteen million new cars.

But when you go to sell your scrap car, it can be difficult to know if you’re getting a fair price. This is likely your first time investigating what metal is worth and how the parts of your vehicle could be picked and pulled for profit.

Once you start adding up the value of the raw materials and the parts in your car, you may expect a big check when you hit the yard. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

It can be difficult to know why the car you spent thousands of dollars on is now just worth a few hundred bucks. Keep reading to find out the factors that affect the price.

The Price of Scrap Metal Is Declining

Steel is a commodity that’s shipped all over the world. This makes its price tied to the global economy. It also accounts for the price you’ll get for your metal when you trade junk cars for cash.

Supply and demand affect steel prices and has brought them to a peak of nearly eight hundred dollars a ton. But these same forces are responsible for the extreme drop in 2016 to less than four hundred dollars a ton.

A big factor in the decline of steel prices is the shift China has recently made. They’ve gone from a manufacturing powerhouse to a country with high living and environmental standards.

Since they accounted for a large portion of the demand for American steel, prices have been steadily dropping. People trading their junk cars for cash can’t get the same value for their steel that they would have several years ago.

Vehicles Have to Be Drained and Stripped

Before a vehicle can be crushed, a junkyard has to drain it of all fluids and remove all unusable parts. This labor-intensive process is reflected in the amount you get when you trade your junk cars for cash.

One way to recover some of this money is to remove the parts yourself before scrapping the vehicle. You could sell them online or to a parts shop to regain more value.

In addition to removing parts, you should also get the gas out of your vehicle before you bring it to the scrap yard. Otherwise, the junkyard may charge you for additional labor.

The final thing you should do is clean out your vehicle to preserve its value. You need to remove all garbage and personal items.

Any effort you make to reduce the amount of work the junkyard has to do will be worth it. It will be reflected in the final check you get when you scrap your junk cars for cash.

The Cost of Transporting the Vehicle

Most often, when selling your junk cars for cash, you’ll need to have it brought to the junkyard by someone else. It’s likely the vehicle isn’t drivable or functioning properly.

There are three ways you could have your vehicle brought to the junkyard:

  • Have the vehicle towed to the scrapyard
  • Use roadside assistance or insurance coverage for reduced costs
  • Rely on the scrapyard to provide a towing service for you

If you choose to have the junkyard tow your vehicle for you, you’ll have to deduct the cost of this service from the check you get for your car. Depending on the distance, this could get quite expensive.

On average, this kind of tow costs about a hundred dollars. To avoid this charge, try to sell your car to the junkyard while it’s still in a drivable condition. Then you won’t have to worry about towing it.

Also, your car is most valuable while it’s still in working condition.

Deterioration of Your Car’s Parts

Around 80% of a vehicle can be recycled. Between using the parts on other vehicles of the same model and recovering the scrap metal, they can be stripped down completely. This means every part potentially has value.

But many people hesitate before they sell their junk cars for cash. They may consider things like restoration. They may dream of the day when they’ll have time and money to revamp their vehicle to the car of their dreams.

Or they may just want to sell their vehicle to a “real” buyer. They may have trouble accepting the fact that their car is good for little more than scrap metal.

Some people hold onto vehicles that aren’t running well because they’re afraid that their other vehicle will break down. This means their “junk” car will be their only option.

But no matter how good your reasons seem, you shouldn’t waste any more time before you trade your junk cars for cash. Waiting to sell your car is like throwing good money out the window.

The longer it sits, the longer the parts deteriorate. The ones that deteriorate the quickest are also the most valuable to salvage companies.

The parts in your car are made for movement. When a car isn’t driven regularly, rust can spread quickly through the vehicle.

The more rust on the body of your vehicle, the less the steel will be worth. Therefore, it’s important to avoid rust accumulation.

Rubber parts like window gaskets and tires can become brittle and break apart to the touch. If all the fluids have not been cleaned out of the car before it’s parked, any gas left in its tank will absorb water in the air. This can ruin the engine if you try to start it.

Animals can also infest your vehicle, building homes in the steering column and tampering with the wiring. Corrosion is another pesky force that can degrade valuable parts of your vehicle, like the starter and alternator.

All these problems come from leaving your car parked for too long. You should do something about your junk vehicle today.

To get the best price when selling your junk cars for cash, bring your vehicle in as soon as you’ve retired it from the road.

How to Get the Most for Your Vehicle

To sell your scrap metal or vehicle to a business, you first should establish ownership of it.

You’ll need to have proof of ownership in order to sell the car. You should bring the title of your vehicle with you when you go to the scrapyard.

Next, you’ll want to assess the value of your vehicle. When trading junk cars for cash, you should start with the market price of the vehicle and work from there.

You may be asked a lot of questions about your vehicle to assess its value. A few frequently questions asked are:

  • What kind of damage does it have?
  • Does it run?
  • What’s wrong with it?

You should answer all these questions truthfully. If you don’t like the price you get, you should call around to other local junkyards.

It can also be helpful to call some yards in other cities nearby. Prices can range substantially and a longer drive may be worth the money in the end.

Once you’ve chosen a location to trade your junk cars for cash, you should deliver your car yourself to get the most money for it. Again, don’t forget to bring the title, or you may be sent home to get it.

How Lemon Laws May Affect Your Trade

When you’re trying to sell a junk car, there are some laws you must abide by. The United States has a set of “Lemon Laws” that protect consumers from unfair treatment by car salespeople.

Most of these laws don’t apply here, but some can come back to haunt you.

Before you sell your junk cars for cash, you should do some research. Find out what the lemon laws are for the stat you plan to sell the vehicle in.

“As Is” Condition

You need to find out if your state allows you to sell your vehicle in “as is” condition.

The other option is to pursue a salvaged car title to legally receive money for your car. Sales involving cars with a salvaged title often operate under different laws.

Mileage Tampering

The next lemon law is the mileage tampering law.

Rolling back mileage is one of the most common ways for a seller to fool a buyer into buying a car that’s in poor working order.

Changing the odometer is punishable by law. So never try to roll back the mileage on your car in an attempt to get more money for it.

Status at Time of Sale

One more thing you should look into is how your state will regard your sale.

In many states, private owners operate under one set of laws while dealerships will operate under another.

You may assume that you’re a private seller. But if you’ve been selling junk cars for cash consistently, you may have reached dealer status in your community.

For example, in Massachusetts, anyone that has sold more than four vehicles within a year’s time frame is considered a dealer. They’ll be held to the same laws as car dealers.

Staying Under the Maximum

Don’t want to have to worry about abiding by state lemon laws when you sell your junk cars for cash? It’s helpful to find out if there’s a price at which the requirement is unnecessary.

For example, many states will only enforce refunds under lemon laws when a vehicle sells for more than seven hundred dollars.

Using Kelly Blue Book as a Starting Point

Looking up the resale value of your vehicle is free and easy if it’s still running.

If it isn’t, you can’t expect a junkyard to give you money for your vehicle that’s even remotely near this price. The Blue Book value assumes that your car is in good working condition. If that were the case, though, you wouldn’t be scrapping it.

The Kelly Blue Book value is still helpful as a rule of thumb. You can use it to estimate whether the offer you get from the scrap yard is high enough.

One way to calculate this value is to start with the Blue Book value. Then subtract how much it will cost for any repairs that are necessary for the car to be in sellable shape.

In this way, you’ll have a rough guide you can use to estimate what the car would be worth in different situations. This might include if it was sold at an auction or repaired and flipped at the scrap yard.

Where to Trade Junk Cars for Cash

When you have a vehicle to scrap, you want to get the best price for it.

But it can be difficult to know where to turn. Figuring out what factors are involved in the price of your vehicle is a great place to start, but where do you go from there?

Cars that have the most value are those that run. It’s also best when they’re rust-free and have been cleaned out beforehand.

The more work that a scrapyard has to do, the less they will give you for your car.

Be sure to look into lemon laws in your area before you go to sell your car. You want to ensure that you’re doing everything legally. By being aware of all the laws in your area, you’ll be able to command a price with confidence.

If you’re selling your junk car and are looking for a trustworthy company to recycle it with, contact us to see how much you can get to scrap you car.

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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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