How to Junk a Car
  • Buying Guides

How to Junk a Car

By Autolist Editorial | September 30, 2019

Selling an old car to a junkyard can be a great way to fund your next vehicle purchase or put some extra cash in your pocket. Whether you have a rusty, old junk car or a totaled vehicle that's damaged beyond repair, sometimes selling your clunker on Craigslist or trading it to a dealer isn't possible. After all, sometimes vehicles pass the point of no return, and they're not worth more than their scrap metal content. At that point, the best approach is usually to take steps to make sure you get top dollar for your junk car. Follow this guide to get the best price.

1. Contact Local Junk Car Buyers

The first step is to get in touch with local junkyards and auto salvage yards to get a quote. You want to see roughly how much money your old vehicle can fetch. Provide them with the make and model of the vehicle, as well as details about the damage. Be honest about the damage, and provide as much highly detailed information as possible. You don't want to show up expecting a certain price only to be disappointed, and you don't want to waste their time either.

If a junkyard requests that you bring the vehicle in for an appraisal, you may want to move along. In most cases, the expense will cut into your profits, and you may not even get a good deal. Also, if the junkyard offers free towing, they might assume that since the vehicle is already there, you're going to be willing to accept a low-ball offer because you don't want to pay to have it towed back home and deal with the hassle of bringing it to a different buyer.

2. Check for Licenses

It's crucial that you only sell your junk vehicle to legitimate, licensed buyers. You can visit the auto salvage yard and ask to see the license in person, or some buyers also offer online verification. While it may be tempting to sell your old vehicle to anyone who offers the highest price, an improper transfer can lead to legal and financial penalties.

While you investigate your options, you should also inquire about each buyers' scale. In most cases, scrap vehicles are sold by the ton. The vehicle is weighed, and then you receive an amount of money based on its weight. While the concept is simple on paper, in practice, it can work against you if you're not careful. Unfortunately, not all scales are the same. If a scale is defective or if it has been tampered with, you may receive less than you deserve. Always check to make sure the buyer is using a certified weight scale.

3. Check Reviews

A quick Google search should reveal plenty of information about the buyer. Naturally, if people aren't happy with the junkyard's services, it's wise to stay away. You can check review sites and social media pages to see what past customers have to say. If the company doesn't have a strong online presence, you may want to avoid it to be safe. These days, the vast majority of reputable businesses can be found online. If not, there's probably a reason.

4. Do the Math

It's not always as easy as choosing the scrap car buyer that's willing to pay the most. You also need to factor in the cost of moving the vehicle from point A to B. Of course, if the vehicle is still roadworthy, that shouldn't be a problem. However, you may need to pay for towing. While some buyers may also use a free car removal service, they may even offer less money to compensate for the money spent to pick up your vehicle. Spend some time comparing each cash offer while also subtracting the cost of towing. Go with the junkyard that gives you the best overall deal after all is said and done.

5. Prepare Your Vehicle

Now that you've selected a buyer, it's time to prepare your junk vehicle for the sale. Remove all of your personal belongings. That may seem like an obvious step, but essential possessions get left behind all the time. A vehicle is often like a second home, and it's easy to overlook items that have remained in your vehicle for years.

In addition to thoroughly cleaning out your vehicle, you may also want to remove any parts that could be potentially valuable. Just because the vehicle isn't fit for regular use doesn't mean that every component is entirely shot. If you do decide to remove parts to sell individually, be aware that the junkyard may end up paying less than the initial quote. It's up to you to determine if you're going to make more money selling the entire vehicle or piecing it out and then selling the shell for its scrap metal value.

6. Get Your Paperwork Together

It's usually possible to sell a junk car to a scrapyard without documentation, but you may have to jump through some hoops, and you may also receive less money. If you have your proof of ownership documents ready to go, you can transfer ownership to the buyer — fast and easy. If your title is missing, don't panic. Call or visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles, and they'll be able to explain the requirements in your area. Depending on where you live and the age of your vehicle, documentation may not be required, or you may be able to obtain new documentation.

When you go to the DMV, you may be required to submit your license plates to cancel your title. At this time, you should also cancel your existing insurance policy (if applicable). Be sure to check to see if you're entitled to a refund if you paid in advance for full coverage.

7. Sell the Vehicle

Assuming you're happy with your offer and you have your paperwork together, now you're ready to proceed with the sale. If the scrap yard offers a junk car removal service, you can schedule a pickup time. If you're having the car towed to the buyer, it's up to you to coordinate a time to drop it off.

When the vehicle is at the junkyard, they're going to want to inspect it. If you left out any details that could earn you a higher price, be sure to let them know about it. For example, maybe the vehicle still has some decent parts that are worth more than the scrap metal value, but you don't have the time or resources to remove them. In that case, you could try to get a higher price by letting them know. Once you've agreed upon a price, you'll transfer the title (if necessary) and then receive cash or a business check.

8. Follow Up

You want to be sure that the title has been transferred. Otherwise, you could end up liable if an issue occurs. For example, say someone steals and crashes your clunker. If the title is still in your name, you could run into some legal hassles. After roughly a following the sale, call your local DMV office to make sure that the title has been transferred to the new owner.

If the title hasn't been transferred yet, the junkyard may just be taking their time. Contact them to request that they transfer the title promptly so you can be finished with the transaction. Once the title is transferred and you have your money, that's it. You're ready to move on with your life, free of your junk car.