The 5 Most Valuable Parts on a Car to Scrap

most valuable parts on a car to scrap

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 come 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 leech 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.

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

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Wheels and Tires

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.

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.

Other Valuable Car Parts to Scrap

Vehicles consist of 90% recoverable, recyclable, and reusable components. That means that the five parts discussed above aren’t the only things you can scrap and turn into cash.

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit is another valuable car part. Dismantle this properly, and you can sell it in the used market.

You can also scrap all the other parts of your brake and suspension systems. Most of these consist of steel and other metals that you can sell for scrap.

Even the exterior components, like fenders, bumpers, and lights are sellable or recyclable! If you have extra lights though (such as overhead LED lights), you may want to sell that to an individual buyer.

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.

If you rather not get your hands greasy though, 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 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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