• Buying Guides

How to Junk a Car

By Michael O'Connor | November 17, 2022

If you have an old car that has been sitting in your driveway for a long time, you know how irritating it can be. On top of it being an eyesore and a major annoyance, an old junk car sitting for an extended period can also be a serious environmental hazard that can leak fluids into your yard and attract pests.

Even if the vehicle is well beyond the point when it could be sold to a private buyer, you can still get it out of your driveway and even get some money for it if you sell it to a junkyard.

Whether the vehicle has been severely damaged in an accident or it has fallen into irredeemable disrepair, junking a car is a great way to get rid of it responsibly and easily. A qualified junkyard will know how to deal with your damaged vehicle and will be able to put it to good use.

By understanding how you can get your vehicle ready to go to a junkyard and how you can get the most money for it, you can clear space in your driveway and make a few dollars in the process.

1. Contact Salvage Yards

Before you start getting your junk car ready, you should contact as many salvage yards in your area as you can. Find out how many junkyards are near your home within a reasonable radius.

Many local junkyards will be happy to travel to pick up the vehicle but some will not, so it is best to keep your options as close to where the vehicle is as possible. You should also consider contacting any metal recycling centers as well. While some recycling centers will not deal with junk cars, many will take them, so this can help expand your options.

When you contact a salvage yard, you will have to have all the information about the car handy. You should know things like the make and model, the model year, and the status of the title. You may also want to have the vehicle identification number, or VIN, and the odometer ready available.

Scrap yards will also usually want to know things like what kind of damage the vehicle may have sustained and if it is very far beyond repair. This will help them give you an accurate quote and decide whether it will be worth picking up.

One of the qualifiers you should look for in a junkyard is whether or not they will bring a tow truck and pick up the vehicle. Most scrap metal yards offer this service but some will require you to get the vehicle to them in order for them to buy it.

If the vehicle is still operational, this may not be such a problem. However, if the car is not running, the cost of towing it to the junkyard could severely eat into the money you make from scrapping it and even end up costing you more. Only working with junkyards that will come pick the vehicle up will help you narrow down your search.

2. Verify Junkyard Licenses

Any junk car removal service that you work with when scrapping your vehicle should be licensed and certified in your state. Making sure that the junkyard has all its proper certifications will ensure that your vehicle is stored or recycled responsibly. Junkyards are held to incredibly high environmental standards and their impact on the ecosystem is closely monitored.

If the junkyard you choose isn’t licensed and held to the right standards, your vehicle could end up damaging the environment around the yard. If the scrap yard you go with is up to code, you can rest easy knowing that it will be properly stored and disposed of.

When calling around to different junk car buyers, you should also ask about the scale they use to weigh vehicles. Most junk yards will make you an offer based on the weight of the car and if they are not certified and licensed, they will be more likely to tamper with their scale and give you an inaccurate estimate.

A licensed and regularly inspected junkyard will give you an accurate weight measurement, which will translate into a proper amount of money for your junk car.

3. Check Junkyard Reviews Online

When you are searching for junkyards to scrap your car, one of the best ways to find one is to check online reviews. People who have had a good or bad experience with a scrap yard will be more than happy to share their opinions and online reviews are a great way to gauge how helpful one will be.

If a particular junkyard offers exceptionally good or bad customer service, the reviews will reflect that and you can make the right choice.

Checking a junkyard’s reviews will also tell you about its online presence in general. If a scrap yard is well-maintained and up-to-date on its certifications and licenses, it will be more likely to have a decent online presence and a well-designed website.

While these features may not seem important at first, they are a good indicator that the junkyard cares about its image and wants to provide good service and responsible disposal to its customers.

4. Compare Junkyard Offers

If you are looking to maximize the amount of money you get for your junk car, the best way to do this is to get many different offers. Junkyards will have different amounts of overhead and different ways that they calculate the value of a scrap vehicle.

Call around to all the junkyards in your area and find out what they pay for junk vehicles per ton. This will give you a good idea of which one will get you the most for your car.

You will also have to consider some of the costs associated with getting the car to the junkyard in the first place. This is especially important if the vehicle is not running and can’t be moved under its own power. If a yard does not offer free towing, you will have to eat the cost of transporting it to the junkyard.

If one yard pays a little bit less for old vehicles but they offer free towing, they could be the better option. That being said, some junkyards that offer free towing will work that service into their quotes. Because of this, they may offer you much less. Getting as many quotes as possible will help you weigh your options and get the most out of the transaction.

5. Prep Your Car To Be Junked

After you have found the right junkyard for your clunker, the next step is to get it ready to be junked. Perhaps the most important part of this process is making sure you get all of your belongings out of it.

Once you have signed the paperwork to sell the car to the scrap yard, they will own everything in it, so doing a thorough sweep of the whole vehicle is a good idea. It is very easy to leave items in the car that you have forgotten about until you need them and it is too late.

There are all kinds of places in a car where you could leave forgotten personal belongings, so checking them all is essential.

  • Glove Box: The glove box is one of the most common places to leave items in a vehicle and it is very easy to forget or lose things there. Make sure you empty the glove box and retain all the paperwork and manuals that you have stored in it.

  • Trunk: Many times, people will throw things in their trunks such as emergency kits, tools, and jumper cables, and forget they are even there since they are not being used. Pull everything out of the trunk including anything that may be hidden underneath the carpet flap.

  • Center Console: Your vehicle’s center console is a large, open storage space that is easy to forget about. Clean it out completely and make sure you haven’t left any important cables or chargers in there.

  • Under the Seats: Throughout your ownership of the vehicle, the odds are good that items have rolled under the seats and been forgotten about. Since it is difficult to see under the seats, use a flashlight to check and make sure that you don’t leave anything important in this area.

  • Door and Seat Pockets: Most of the time, the door and seat pockets get used for trash or other discarded items that are promptly forgotten about. Do a thorough check of these hidden spaces to make sure you haven’t accidentally discarded any paperwork or manuals that you may need later on.

6. Consider Selling Your Car's Parts Individually (Parting Out)

One of the things you should consider when you have to get rid of a junk car is the fact that the vehicle may be worth more if you take it apart and sell the valuable parts individually.

For example, if the tires are still in good condition, you could probably get much more for them if you sell them on the used market to a private buyer. For other components, such as the catalytic converter, you will make top dollar selling that individually on a marketplace like Craigslist than you would if you were to sell the whole car based on the weight.

The downside of selling the parts of the car individually is that it will require some mechanical know-how and time to get everything taken apart and listed for sale.

When you sell your junk car to an auto salvage yard, the whole process is much easier and you can get everything done in one place without all the hassle. Depending on how mechanically inclined you are and how intent you are on getting the most money possible, one of these options will be better for you than the other.

7. Grab All Your Paperwork

Before you can sell your car to a junkyard, you will need some form of proof of ownership. This usually means that you need the title to the car, whether it is registered as operational or not.

In some cases, you will still be able to sell your scrap car to a junkyard if you don’t have the title, but you will be offered significantly less since the junkyard will have to pay to have the car title transferred to their name.

If you don’t have the title for the car anymore, you can usually go to your local department of motor vehicles and get a duplicate title. However, you will most likely have to surrender the license plates and pay a fairly hefty fee for the duplicate at the DMV, which may or may not be worth the extra money you will be getting for scrapping the car with the title.

Just like with free towing, you will have to do the math and figure out whether or not it will be worth it to go through the process.

8. Finalize the Junkyard Sale

Once you have prepared the vehicle and gotten an offer that you are happy with, you can then finalize the sale and complete the transaction. If the junkyard is picking up your vehicle, they will schedule a time with you. If you are transporting it yourself, make sure you let them know when you will be stopping by so they can get everything ready.

Once you get the car to the scrap yard, they will put it on the scale and weigh it. Make sure you let them know if the vehicle still has any of its most valuable components such as the alternator, catalytic converter, or other valuable emissions equipment.

This may increase the final quote that they give you. Once a price has been agreed on, you will fill out the paperwork to transfer ownership and walk away with a check or cash for the car’s value.

9. Your Other Options

If the car is still in fairly decent working order, you have a variety of other options for getting rid of it. Many charities will take your used car and fix it up so it can be given to needy families.

If you choose to go this route, you could potentially deduct the donation from your taxes and end up saving more money with the tax deduction than you would get by donating it. Plus, it will be going to a worthy cause and helping people in your community.

You also may have the option to do a “push, pull, or drag” trade-in at a dealership if you are in the market for a new vehicle. These trade-ins offer the minimum value for a junker regardless of the condition the car is in.

Depending on how much a dealership is willing to give you towards the trade-in and how much the car would be worth to a salvage yard, this could be a better deal for you in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Getting rid of an old junk car can be a major weight off your shoulders, especially if it has been taking up space for a long time. Even if you just want it gone, knowing how to get the best price for it and how to get rid of it responsibly is important.

By understanding the process and knowing how to maximize the amount you get, you can make room in your driveway and rest easy knowing that your old junk vehicle has been properly disposed of.