Get Cash for Junk Cars

You may be surprised to learn that you can actually make money off your junk car, whether it’s a rickety old thing that can no longer get you from point A to point B or an even older, rusty semblance of a car. The trick is to do a little research, figure out how much it's worth, and see how much people will pay for it. If you understand exactly what you have on your hands, you can make sure you get the maximum amount of cash possible.


Preparing Your Car

  1. Take inventory of the vehicle. Just how “junky” is it? A junked vehicle is one that is so damaged and beyond repair that it makes the most sense to just sell it for parts.[1] Can the car be driven or is it completely immovable? Note any areas of severe damage. Determine if there are any valuable parts to your car, such as a GPS system, tires in good condition, or the alternator.[2]
    • Write down everything you see and observe, so that you can give the junkyards an accurate description of the car you’re selling.
  2. Use the Kelley Blue Book to determine the value of your car in good condition. The Kelley Blue Book is a respected and widely-used resource for vehicle valuation.[3] Of course, the actual amount of money you can expect for your car will be much less than the Blue Book value, as you’ve clearly deemed it “junk” rather than in good condition. This is simply a way to get a general idea about how much the pristine version of the same make and model car is selling for.
    • If you are knowledgeable about car repair, you can take the Kelley Blue Book price and subtract all the costs of potential repairs to get a general idea of how much money you should expect when you sell it.[2]
  3. Locate the title of the car. You need your title to prove that you own the car. Most junkyards will not buy your car unless you can prove that it’s yours to sell. When you transfer it to the junkyard, you will need to sign the title over to them to get it officially off your hands. If you don't sign over the title of the car, you will technically still own it despite having nothing to do with it.[4]
  4. Remove your personal items. It’s easy to forget an old iPod in the glovebox or a notebook stuffed in the seat pocket. Open your trunk, check under your floor mats, and slide your hands under all the seats. Make sure that you’ve removed every personal item from the car before you sell it.[4]
    • This includes your license plates. These are easily forgotten, but it’s important to remove them from your car before you part with it.
  5. Check your states junked vehicle requirements. Just like with all other car-related issues, the DMV of each state handles the process of relinquishing junk cars differently. When you’re ready to get rid of your junk car, make sure to research the regulations of your particular state. A quick Google search for “Salvaged Vehicle Regulations” and the name of your state will get you started![5]

Comparing Offers

  1. Call around to different salvage yards and junkyards in your area. You shouldn’t do this until you have assessed the details of the car you’re selling. You need to describe the vehicle thoroughly so that they can give you an accurate quote of how much they’ll pay you for it.[4] Keep a running list of the different amounts you’re quoted by different junkyards so that you can compare your options.
  2. Ask the junkyard their protocol for taking junk cars. Some junkyards will dismantle the cars themselves. Others will pay you more money if you do it yourself and save them the time. Ask them if they pay more if you are able to drive the car to their lot, versus if they have to come pick it up with a tow truck. Ask them exactly what paperwork they will need to see from you. Make sure you know the ins and outs of each junkyard.[1]
  3. Compare the pros & cons of your options. If you aren’t desperate to get every penny out of your car, you can choose the most convenient option. A junkyard across town may give you a higher offer if you drive it all the way to them, but you may opt for a lesser offer if they’re willing to tow your unreliable junk car. If you aren’t experienced in working with cars hands-on, it’s probably not wise to try to dismantle the car yourself for a few extra bucks. Consider which option works best for you, while still bringing you a reasonable amount of money.

Transferring the Car

  1. Drive or tow the car to the junkyard, if you are able and feel comfortable doing so. Some junkyards will give you more money if you save them the time and labor by delivering the car to them.[6] Additionally, junkyards will pay more for a car that can still be driven and was driven recently, so driving it to the junkyard will up your cars value.
  2. Arrange for the junkyard to pick up your car. This is the most convenient option. They’ll come to wherever you’re located, pick up your car, and pay you on the spot. If your car can’t be driven, this is absolutely your best bet. After you’ve gotten prices from different junk removal companies, you can choose the best one.[7]
    • Sometimes junkyards will quote you a price, and then lower it significantly once they’ve already loaded the car onto the tow truck. This is why it is so important to know your cars value and stick to your guns.
    • Don’t fight the junk car towers over a few dollars, but stick to your guns if they try to offer you something much lower than what you were previously told.
  3. Return the license plates and cancel your registration. The exact protocol differs by state, but typically you need to return the license plates to the DMV in order to cancel your registration. The junkyard should have this information available for you, so ask them what is expected of you when you hand off your vehicle. The Internet is also an excellent resource, and the DMV website for your state should give you an exact procedure for canceling your registration and returning your plates.[1]

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Sources and Citations