Selling Junk Cars

Is your old ride too far gone? Junking it might be a solution. Whether your car has been wrecked or has mechanical problems that cost more to repair than what it’s worth, junking is one of the best ways to cut your losses.

What is a ‘junk car’?

The term “junk car” can refer to a few scenarios that make it difficult (or impossible) to sell or repair a vehicle for personal use. Junk cars may be old, inoperable, claimed as a “total loss,” or lacking proper documentation. The process of “junking” your car means selling it to a company or salvage yard where it will be used for parts or crushed and sold for scrap metal.

How much money can you get for a junk car?

The amount you can get for scrapping your clunker depends on several factors. When determining an offer, scrapyards consider the composition of the vehicle, working-condition of the parts, weight, and size. Junkyards want to know two things: does it have spare parts with resell value and how much metal is in the frame?

The current going-price for scrap metal will also affect the price since the worth of metal fluctuates and has taken a sharp downturn in the last few years.

Salvage rates can range from $50 to over $700, with an average payout of around $270. The offer you’ll receive largely depends on the business and how much they’re willing to fork out.
Selling Junk Cars

Helpful Tips for Selling Junk Cars:

Shop around for offers
Don’t immediately accept the first offer you receive. Call around to your local scrap yards to get the most competitive price. Ask around for referrals—this will help you narrow down your list and increase your odds of finding a trustworthy dealer quickly.
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Ask the dealer if they will collect the vehicle for you.
Not all junk cars are still operable or safe to drive, making getting them to the salvage yard tricky (and sometimes expensive too.) A lot of auto salvage businesses offer towing services to their facility at no cost to the owner. Some shady dealers will hide their towing fee until it’s time to pay out the amount owed. Always ask beforehand if the collection service fee is factored in with the purchase price of the vehicle.

Research your local laws
Every state has different regulations for the transfer of a salvaged vehicle. In South Carolina, for instance, cars over 12 years old can be salvaged without a title, provided the owner has the proper DMV paperwork and that the car has never been stolen. However, junking a vehicle without a title in California isn’t legal, regardless of the vehicle age. Do your research on your state’s laws before heading to the junkyard—this will streamline the process and prevent you from being turned away.

Have your paperwork and vehicle info ready
Get the vehicle’s paperwork together and write down any relevant information before calling around. Keep in mind most junkyards won’t accept a car without a paper title.

Auto salvage businesses will typically request the following information over the phone:
Vehicle Identification Number
Make, model, year, and the vehicle description
Odometer reading
What is wrong with the vehicle? (Does it need a new transmission, motor, etc.?)
Is there any damage to the vehicle body?
Do you have a clean title, in-hand?

Make sure the buyer is legit.
There are just as many sketchy scrap dealers as there are legit ones. You can spot a shady buyer by asking the following questions. Can I see your scrap dealer’s license? How long have you been in business? Is your scale certified? Do you weigh in net tons or metric tons? If they avoid answering these questions, then it’s probably best you take your business elsewhere.

Familiarize yourself with common scams
Often sketchy scrap dealers will be purposely vague about which unit of measure they use to make you think you’ll receive more money than they’re really offering. When questioned about their price per ton, they give the customer an amount based on metric (or long) tons rather than net tons. Metric tons are 240 lbs heavier than net tons.

Another gimmick is to tell owners that their car is worthless and offer to “take it off their hands” as a favor. No matter what condition the car is in, it has a monetary value.

Another variation of this scam is to offer gift cards, coupons, or other incentives to entice a person into selling their junker for less than it’s worth.

Keep your car in one piece.
Intact cars are worth much more than those that have already been picked apart. Unless you know the parts are worth way more than the scrap dealer’s offer, your best bet is to sell it all in one piece.

Have a “clean” title in hand
As with any car sale, most states require a clean title with your name as the legal owner to sell the vehicle to a junkyard. If the car has a lien or is in a relative’s name, you’ll have to get the title transferred into your name before you can legally sell it.

Remove all your stuff before junking.
You know the movies where people leave their wallet in a car, and it gets crushed and melted? Well, that actually happens! Make sure you remove all your belongings and any personal documents from the vehicle before you junk it.

Accept only cash.
Writing bad checks is the oldest con in the book. Keep the transaction simple and safe by sticking to the green stuff. If the dealer has a problem with this payment method, it’s probably best you take your business elsewhere. Most reputable scrap dealers only deal in cash, anyway.

Manage your expectations.
Even if you get a good deal, you probably aren’t going to get the amount you “think” the car is worth. The scrap dealer doesn’t care if your vehicle is a BMW or a Kia, what matters to them is the value of the working parts, and how much is scrapable.

Try to haggle if the price still seems unfair.
Mom and Pop auto salvage businesses may be receptive to renegotiating their initial offer, especially if their salvage yard is lacking a vehicle like yours. Don’t expect the amount to change dramatically, though.

Consider parting it out and selling the scrap yourself.
If you aren’t in a hurry (and you know what you’re doing), you can sell the parts yourself. Selling parts and scrapping the rest can be more lucrative than junking your vehicle, but it takes a lot of time and skill. It’s also important to mention that most states require a scrap dealer’s license to sell more than 10 lbs of scrap metal. Still, determined to DIY? Refer to this list to find the most valuable parts of your old clunker.
Selling Junk Cars
When sold, take off the license plate and notify the DMV.
The last step when selling a junk car is to remove the tag and notify both the DMV and your insurance agent. Failure to do any of these things could cause you to be flagged for driving uninsured, charged for unused services, and be slapped with avoidable fines.

What’s the best way to sell junk cars fast?

There are three main types of auto salvage businesses: privately-owned companies, salvage chains (like Pick-N-Pull), and online-based salvage lots.

Privately-owned or chain-operated salvage businesses are typically the best bet for avoiding scams and getting paid fast. These businesses make their money off junk cars and are almost always looking for new vehicles to scrap. This is not to say that there aren’t bad apples in these sorts of businesses, but that’s why recommendations are key. If all else fails, check the online reviews!

There are some great online salvage companies, but unfortunately, it’s hard to differentiate a real site from a phony one. Search engines are an excellent tool to locate a good salvage yard, but you’ll need to do some internet sleuthing to make sure it’s legit. The Better Business Bureau is an invaluable tool when deciphering scam scrap yards from real ones.

While researching, we stumbled across an authentic-looking auto salvage site, but when we dug deeper, we found several BBB complaints stating the company never actually paid their customers. Unfortunately, this scam is all too common with online salvage yards.
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Let Private Auto help you out.

Finding a trustworthy company to buy your car is tough, especially online, where scams run rampant. PrivateAuto can assist you in locating a reputable buyer so you can get paid fast. Check out our homepage to find out how we can help you buy or sell your car safely and swiftly.