When to Junk a Car

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

Table of Contents

When to Junk a Car – Four Scenarios

When in the course of automotive events it becomes necessary for one person to junk a car, there are four scenarios that may play out. Maybe you’ve found yourself in one of these situations. If not, we all know someone who has.

Crash Course in Car Disposal

Perhaps the most common way folks develop a need to junk a car is by running into someone or something while driving. If the damage from this unhappy accident is pervasive enough, the vehicle might be considered a total loss (this is colloquially known as “totaled”). In many areas across the United States, a car is considered totaled if the cost of the repair plus the revenue gained by selling it for scrap is greater than the cost of an average undamaged vehicle of the same make, model, and year.

Often times the insurance company will handle much of this process. They’ll take the keys, license, and title of the car; and cut the owner a check based on the policy’s coverage. The car will be issued a salvage title, which is a mark on its permanent record flagging it as damaged goods.


Sometimes families are lucky enough to have multiple cars. Sometimes one of those cars misbehaves, and breaks down. Sometimes that car sits on the side of the lawn, waiting to be repaired. “I’ll get to it tomorrow,” they say. “Oh, something came up this weekend,” they say. “It’s not my fault we had back-to-back-to-back weekends of birthday parties, weddings, and funerals that got in the way of fixing the car,” they say. They’ll get to it, eventually.

Months (or years!) later, nature has started to reclaim the vehicle. You can tell because there’s a hornet nest behind the gas flap, the grass has grown three feet tall under and around (because there’s no way to mow any closer, and a weed-whacker would damage the tires), and a family of mice or chipmunks or squirrels or skunks or opossums or chupacabras has taken up residence under the hood.

“Old Reliable” turns into just “Old”

Then there’s that friend who has been driving the same car for the last three decades. It’s kind of one part endearing, one part pathetic, and several parts falling off because they’ve rusted through and a pothole was just driven over.

If this loving owner can cut the cord and get past the sentimental value, it will help everyone move on and perhaps even lower the national emissions rate by a few percentage points. The fact of the matter is this car has become unreliable enough that it wouldn’t be right to sell it off to someone else (besides, they’d never love it the same way). If it helps, think that the parts of her that are still good will live on in other vehicles (like organ donation).

Cruelty to Automobiles

We’ve seen in the news cases of underground dogfighting and cockfighting rings. I feel the need to talk about a more prevalent and no less barbaric activity that has been the disgraceful draw to many a State and County Fair. I’m talking, of course, about demolition derbies.

Each year, thousands of cars are victimized in demolition derbies and monster truck rallies. These cars, which otherwise may have been safely and humanely recycled in a junkyard or scrap operation, are instead brutalized and forced to battle to the death in arenas while frenzied onlookers scarf down corndogs and cotton candy. Vehicles of lesser mobility are lined up and driven over by trucks with unrealistically large tires (which is not only physically harmful to the cars who endure this treatment, but also psychologically harmful to younger cars who may consider their tire size inadequate by comparison). It’s a vicious cycle of abuse.

If you feel the same way I encourage you to consider membership in these two totally legitimate and definitely not fictitious activist groups (which I certainly did not just make up on the spot), who are working towards an end to this heinous sport. Join H.E.A.D.D.L.I.G.H.T.S. (Humans Educating Against Demolition Derby! Let It Go Home To Safety) and/or D.A.S.H.B.O.A.:R.D.D. (Don’t Abuse Scrap Heap Bound Overused Automobiles : Resist Demolition Derbies), because cars have feelings, too!​

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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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