After countless repairs, your old car has finally called it quits for good. Or perhaps you were in an accident that resulted in your car getting totaled. Regardless of the unfortunate events that got you here, you're now forced to buy a replacement vehicle and you're hoping to offset some of the costs. Even though your old junker isn't functional anymore, it can still bring some value to the table. We define what a junk car means and give you some tips for getting the most cash when you sell. 

What is a "Junk Car"  

man with junker car

A junk car is defined as any vehicle that is too old or damaged to operate. It's the tipping point where selling the car for parts is more economical than repairing it. A vehicle can be classified as a junk car due to age, low value, inoperability from an accident, and other damage such as severe deterioration or missing tires, transmission, or motor. Missing paperwork such as the title and registration is often a telltale sign of a junker.

Local municipalities further specify the definition of a junk car in their municipal code. For example, in our village, an "inoperable motor vehicle" is defined as: 

  • A motor vehicle from which, for a period of at least 48 hours the engine, wheels or other parts have been altered, damaged or otherwise so treated that the vehicle is incapable of being driven under its own motor power.
  •  A vehicle, other than a vehicle awaiting timely repair at an automotive repair shop, gasoline station or new or used car dealer, and which is stored in compliance with all applicable zoning requirements, that is incapable of being driven or used for the purpose or use for which it was designed.
  •  The lack of a current state or village vehicle license or a current state emissions test sticker shall create a rebuttable presumption that the vehicle is unlicensed.

Where to Sell a Junk Car

car junk yard

If the name didn't already give it away, the biggest buyer of junk cars is the junkyard. Because most junk cars are inoperable, the vehicle will typically need to get picked up and towed to its final resting place. Oftentimes, there's a middleman involved who will purchase your vehicle in cash, pick it up, and tow it to the junkyard. The best place to look for a junk car service that will buy your car and pick it up is online.

There are many services that buy vehicles for parts or scrap metal and most will be able to give you an online quote before you agree to sell. Make sure to do your research on the company you're considering to ensure they are reputable. You may find some towing services also purchase junk cars for cash and are able to pick up the vehicle. 

Finally, if you find your car isn't worth much, or you're feeling philanthropic, donating your junk car to charity is a great alternative. Nationwide charities like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Kars4Kids accept vehicles even if they are inoperable. In addition to a hassle-free pick up and tax deduction, there are some additional perks like the Kars4Kids vacation voucher.

How Much is My Junk Car Worth?

employee at junk yard

A quick online search for "selling a junk car" yields results that claim you can get anywhere from $500 to $10,000 cash for your junk car. The reality is that most junk car services will pay anywhere between $100 to $500 for your vehicle depending on its condition. Many of these services will have an online questionnaire that asks you to describe the condition of your vehicle in order to get a quote. 

Although there's a chance your car may get repaired and resold, most junk vehicles are sold for parts. This means the make, model, year, and even the weight of your car will impact the amount you'll receive. If your vehicle is a popular model like a Ford F-150, there will be a higher demand for the parts, and the junkyard will be able to sell them easily. Newer models yield better prices for the same reason. If the vehicle is sold for scrap metal, the weight will determine the amount you'll be able to get for it. A heavier truck or SUV will yield more than a small sedan. 

Tips for Selling a Junk Car

money for selling a junk car

To get the most cash for your junk car, make sure that you do some research to know its value. Carfax offers a History-Based Value tool that lets you estimate any car's value, even a junker. You can also get multiple quotes from online junk car buying services and go with the most profitable option. Before selling the vehicle, you'll want to prepare the paperwork including the title which will need to be transferred in order to sell the vehicle. 

Although you may be anxious to get the money from your junk car to put towards your new or used car, it's important that you don't rush into selling the vehicle. We recommend waiting until you have the agreed-upon payment in hand before giving up the keys. If the junkyard or towing service offers less than the agreed-upon amount or charges extra fees that were not discussed, you should walk away and find another buyer.