Pile of junked cars

When Should You Junk Your Car?

So you own a somewhat aging car, you don’t like it as much as you used to and you are wondering if selling it to a scrapyard would be your best option? In this article, we will try to answer most questions car owners may have when it’s time to sell an old, badly-maintained or damaged vehicle and when you can safely say that it’s the right time to junk your car.

When Should You Start Thinking About Scrapping Your Car?

No matter how good care you take of your vehicle, at one point, it may start to rust or major problems may occur ultimately leading you to think about changing your old car for a newer one. If you are like me, you probably try to suck every mile you can out of your vehicle before finally deciding it’s time for a change. When it happens, it’s usually too late to try to sell it or even consider exchanging it for money when buying a new car at a car dealer.

Car ready to be sent to the junkyard

Once rust has damaged your car beyond the point of no return or if a major component fails or needs to be replaced, that’s usually the moment when you realize you need to either fix it or buy a new one. Once the engine blows or the transmission fails, the extensive cost required to put the car back on the road often exceeds what it’s actually worth. In that case, fixing it might not be a good idea. However, once your car reaches that stage, it’s mostly hopeless to try to sell it as most car buyers aren’t looking for a vehicle needing extensive body repair or in need of a new transmission.

And even if they are, they most likely only want to buy your vehicle for the parts, which will often greatly reduced the cash offer from the potential client.

What Are Your Options?

If your car is too old or damaged to expect it to sell at a great price to a car dealer or an individual, these are the options available to you:

Give the car to a charity

Most big cities in North America, and probably all around the world for that matter, have a car donation program for various charities. Even better, most of these programs include some kind of incentives like a free yearly bus pass and tax deductions. Not bad!

Sell it for the parts

If you have basic auto mechanic skills, you can always dismantle your car and salvage some of the parts still in good working conditions. If your transmission is blown, for example, the engine might still be worth a couple of hundred bucks if you can find the right customer. Nonetheless, depending on the type of car you own, some parts may be in high demand.

For example, it’s well-known in the automotive world that alternators for Honda vehicles are quite expensive. In that case, selling the alternator and a couple of external parts separately may very well be worth more than the car itself.

Time to junk your car

Another good example is if you own a car looked after by car enthusiasts. Old Honda engines are still good for swaps. Subaru fans also pay a lot of money for original Impreza GC steering wheels and rear wings. OEM mag wheels are also worth their weight in gold for pretty much all car makes and models. This is especially true if your car is limited edition or especially sought after by petrolheads.

It might be worth it trying to advertise the separate parts on online message boards and see if there’s a demand for them before scrapping the car altogether. At this point, it really comes down to whether you can afford to leave the car sitting in your backyard for some time or not.

Sell it to a junkyard

Junkyards will buy your car no matter the year, model or condition. The only drawback is that they will often give you a fixed amount based on the weight of your car and the cost of metal on the day you contact them. Selling your junk car for cash might be a good idea if you need money fast in order to buy a new vehicle right away.

Why Junk Your Car?

If your car can’t run or drive anymore, potential buyers will probably not come running as soon as you put your car on sale. You can always install a “for sale” sign in the windshield of your car and park it on your front lawn and wait. Unfortunately, your car might stay parked for some time and you won’t be able to remove the license plate and cancel the insurance until it’s sold. Most cities require all cars to have a valid license and insurances at all times, even if it doesn’t move at all.

Car being sent to the junkyard

In that case, it’s definitely easier to simply call the nearest junkyard and have your car towed right away. Most junkyards even offer a pick-up service if your car doesn’t start anymore or if you want to keep your new winter tires set to put on your new car and the car is sitting on cement blocks.

Steps to Take Before Sending Your Car to the Junkyard

Compare

No matter if you choose to sell your car to a junkyard or a “Cash for Car” online service, the first thing to do is to compare the different services available in your area and their price offering. Not all junkyards will give you the same amount of money and some will even try to lowball you a little. Being correctly informed is your best bet to get the most bang for your bucks.

Some services even advertise that they guarantee the best price possible and will match any price offering from any other junkyard. A neat trick then is to compare the price offered by all the junkyard near you and even those a little farther away. Call them one after the other and write down the price they offer, then call a junkyard matching any competitor’s price and deal with this one.

Make sure all the paperwork is in order

Once the junkyard tow truck comes to pick up your car, make sure to sell and transfer the ownership of the vehicle following all the laws and regulations in your area. As a mechanic, I’ve heard tons of horror stories of people who just took the money and let them leave with their car without even checking if the proper paperwork had been filled. If the junkyard omits to transfer the vehicle, you still stay the car’s owner and you’ll stay responsible if the car gets in a car crash at an ulterior date.

In most cases, calling the department of transportation of your state or country and declaring your car as “junked” might be enough but make sure to get all the information you need beforehand. Nothing is worse than figuring out that you are still the owner of an uninsured vehicle who just got into a car crash while you weren’t even behind the wheel.

Cars being crushed into cubes

How Much Is a Junk Car Worth?

The price you’ll get for your car from the junkyard will vary depending on the value of scrap metal at the time. As any other material valued on the global exchange market, the price of steel and aluminum varies according to supply and demand, as well the time of the year. Some metals are simply more or less in demand during specific months of the year.

Model year as a determining factor

Scrapyard will obviously pay more for recent vehicles than older models. You’ll also get a better quote if your car is fully equipped with GPS and large screens, power windows and power door locks, good tires, A/C, etc. All these parts can be resold by the junkyard and they will take that into account when paying for your junk car.

The model year of the vehicle is not always the main determining factor, though. For example, in January 2020, the average price paid by junk services for a 2005 Toyota Corolla was around $800 while a 2005 Volvo S-60 was worth as little as $80. The main reason being that it’s a lot easier to resell part for a Corolla than it is for an S-60.

Weirdly enough, a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan was worth around $800, even though they aren’t as common as Corollas. In that case, the fact that the Tiguan comes with a lot more on-board equipment might be a factor taken into account here.

Mechanic looking at junked automotive parts

Weight is king

Bigger vehicles like pickup trucks are also worth more money because of the large pile of scrap metal they make once crushed. The bigger and heavier the vehicle is, the better deal it is for junkyards. Not to mention recent pickups completely made out of aluminum. You can bet these must be going for quite a nice scrap price!

You’ll also receive a better quote if your car can still run. While junkers will typically buy any car no matter the condition it’s in, a running car means that it won’t need to be towed to get to the junkyard. You could even receive more money for your junk car if it’s exempt from rust and physical damage. And even more if it’s in good enough condition to be resold at an auction instead of simply being crushed into a cube. However, if it’s your case, you might be better just selling it instead of scrapping it.

Last Words

Selling your car to a junkyard or a “Cash for Car” service is often the fastest and most profitable way to junk your car without any hassle. And in the internet era we now live in, nothing is easier than finding a reliable service near where you live and get rid of your old car in a jiffy.

About Jean-Claude Landry

Jean-Claude Landry
Jean-Claude is the editor at eManualOnline.com and webmaster of TheMechanicDoctor.com. He has been a certified auto mechanic for the last 15 years, working for various car dealers and specialized repair shops. He turned towards blogging about cars and EVs in the hope of helping and inspiring the next generation of automotive technicians. He also loves cats, Johnny Cash and Subarus.

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