How Current Scrap Metal Prices Impact The Value of a Junk Car

Scrap metal prices can sometimes resemble a roller coaster ride, with many ups and downs and twists and turns. There is rarely a consistent valuation of scrap metal across weeks or even days. Buyers and sellers have to constantly stay up to date on the economic factors that contribute to changes in metal prices, both locally and abroad. Scrap metal prices are also dependent on location, as some facilities have to pay increased costs for transport when compared to other locations for the same metal.

Junk car owners should take the time to educate themselves on the scrap metal market, as this allows them to go into a deal informed. Many, if not all, junk car buyers are well versed in the market and the constant fluctuations that alter how offers are made and how much cash can be paid for various makes and models of vehicles.

When looking to capitalize on scrap metal prices, junk car owners should wait until there is high demand and a dip in supply. If timed correctly, this provides the maximum return on the sale of a junk car. Online buyers can work across states and pit offers from multiple junk yards against each other at once — providing the seller with the highest possible offer for their old car.

Fluctuations in Scrap Metal Prices

Some of the most common reasons for fluctuation in scrap metal prices include:

  • Changes in domestic and global economies
  • Demand for scrap metal in relation to the current supply
  • Location of the facility and proximity to overseas shipping avenues
  • Means and costs of transportation
  • National interest rates

When it comes to interest rates set by the Federal Reserve, higher rates often equate to lower metal prices. During times of high rates, the dollar is strengthened and therefore, metal prices are expected to be lower.

Scrap metal dealers have to keep tabs on not only local and national economic factors but also on that of other economies in overseas countries. China is one of the largest consumers of steel scrap, with India processing hundreds of thousands of tons annually. Turkey is also one of the largest importers of steel in the world as of 2021. When demand falls in these countries, reverberations are felt in the scrap metal prices in the states.

Scrap Value Outlook for 2023

Steel prices are expected to come down in the first quarter of 2023, though the remainder of the year is a bit murkier. As supply continues to increase, this drives prices down. Access to shipping plays a key part in getting the scrap metal to where the demand is. Facilities that aren't able to transport efficiently are in a more difficult position than those with direct waterway access.

Heightened interest rates are expected to reduce demand from key industries, such as automotive and construction. These are the two largest consumers of steel, which will have an impact on the overall market going forward as the Fed continues to fight back against inflation and prevent a potential recession.

How Are Scrap Metal Prices Calculated?

Metal prices aren't set by individual junk yards. Employees of these yards simply work off of the prices set by the industry. Scrap metal prices are based on similar factors that drive the stock market, supply, and demand. Interest rates can also affect these prices. When scrap metal prices are soaring, it's due to the demand being high for recyclable scrap metal. During periods of the economy slowing down, people have less desire to go out and buy a new car.

When drivers hang onto their vehicles for longer, this can affect the supply of scrap metal that's readily available on the market. This lack of supply forces the market to pay more for metal, which can also contribute to high prices.

On the other hand, low scrap metal prices are low when demand decreases. When mining production is high, metal values plummet. Junk yards end up hanging onto cars for a longer period. Selling at a high is the best way to get the biggest buck for a junk car, whereas selling in a dip can lose you hundreds of dollars.

How Much Scrap Metal is Found on a Junk Car?

The average car has over 2,000 pounds of steel, closer to the 2,400-pound mark. Larger trucks may contain upwards of 3,000 pounds of steel. That's approximately 1.5 tons of metal. Steel accounts for over half of a vehicle's weight, with another 200-300 pounds of aluminum.

The vast majority of metal found within a car is steel. If steel prices are on the rise, you'll have a fairly solid bet of getting a nice chunk of change for your junk car. Alternatively, if steel values are at an all-time low, this will have a significant effect on how much you can expect to get for your vehicle at the junkyard.

Aluminum is also found in many areas of a vehicle, such as an engine, doors, rims, and even the hood. It doesn't have as large an impact as steel, though it's still a determining factor for scrap metal calculations. Other metals found within a car include copper, lead, and iron. Iron is mostly found on older vehicles, and copper and lead are only found in small amounts. Much of the wiring under the hood is made with copper wires and batteries have lead in them. Instead of being junked by weight, usable batteries are often salvaged before they make it to a scrap yard.

How Do You Get the Most Money for Your Junk Car?

Naturally, the question most sellers want to know is how to make the most of their old car. Leaving the deal with the maximum amount of cash in hand is key to feeling satisfied that you didn't get taken for a ride by the buyer. The best way to increase the money from the sale of a junk car is to part it out before scrapping the body for metal. High-value components such as aluminum wheels, GPS systems, and transmissions can make the seller hundreds of extra dollars.

Sellers who understand what scrap metal prices are doing and have the key information on their junk car, such as weight, types of metal, and comparable sold vehicles in the area will maximize their car's value by leaps and bounds.

Heavier cars are going to be worth more than lighter vehicles, as they contain more metal. The more weight in desirable scrap metal, the more buyers are willing to pay — as they will see a return on this investment once parts are salvaged and the car is crushed and recycled. At the end of the day, there is no way to get Ford F-150 prices for a smart car. Every junk car has value, though prices fluctuate depending on a myriad of factors such as weight, make and model, condition, and the current market for junk cars.

How to Capitalize on Scrap Metal Prices

Sellers looking for the best return on their old beater should keep a few things in mind. Understanding scrap metal prices and their fluctuations are half the battle. Most sellers don't go into a sale armed with this knowledge, leaving them at the mercy of the junk car buyer. Unprofessional buyers may seek to take advantage or lowball the seller.

  • Build Knowledge: Before you go into a junk car sale, arm yourself with information. This information about current scrap metal prices and comparable vehicles in your area can boost your vehicle's value.
  • Vehicle Weight > Accessories: Knowing the tonnage of your junk car is more important than what accessories it has. The weight of the vehicle minus the interior accessories provides the most accurate scrap value. The accessories can be sold separately to boost the cash made from the sale.
  • Understand Metal Types: Steel and aluminum, as well as copper, are all key metals that scrap buyers look for. These metals can be recycled and reused in other vehicles, buildings, and accessories for years to come. Research the current prices of these specific metals for the most up-to-date scrap metal prices.
  • Consider Location: Scrap metal prices can go up or down depending on location. Metal recycling facilities closer to major waterways or the coast have easier access to barges that can transport the scrap overseas. Compared to facilities in rural America, they're able to offer better value based on the current market prices.
  • Time of Year: During the warmer season, scrap metal recycling facilities are more active. During the winter months, icy roads can force roadblocks for steel transport. This slows the overall process, as fewer trucks will be able to face the inclement weather and transportation becomes more difficult.

Scrap metal prices vary daily. The price you can sell your vehicle for today will likely be different than it was a week ago. Even a small change in scrap car prices can add up to a significant difference in a heavy car, such as a truck, SUV, or van. If the economy is expected to shift within the coming months, it may be beneficial to wait it out and scrap your car then. Of course, this can also have the opposite effect and money may be left on the table. Capitalizing on when demand is high and supply is low is the best way to get the top dollar for your junk car.

Calculating the Scrap Metal Value of Your Junk Car Greatly Depends on The Vehicle's Weight

The first step in determining the scrap value of a junk car is to find an accurate weight. This weight can be found on a sticker on the driver's side door. Curb weight is the most accurate number, as gross weight includes the weight of passengers and additional cargo. Sellers should keep in mind that the curb weight includes the equipment standard in the vehicle, which many scrap metal recyclers disregard. Curb weight also determines which classification a vehicle fits under, such as small to midsize and light or heavy duty.

Once you have an idea of how much your junk car weighs, calculate this weight against the current price per pound of metal. The simple equation is the price of the metal per ton (or pound) times the weight of the vehicle. The product is the offer estimate. Currently, steel prices are sitting between $0.03-$0.05/pound. If your vehicle frame weighs 3000 pounds, this equates to $150 in steel alone. Rough estimates for junk cars are $200 per ton. For a 1.5-ton vehicle, this is $300 without any other factors (such as salvageable parts) that would boost the value.

The quality of the scrap metal affects the value it holds. Metal that has been corroded is worth less than metal that's free of corrosion, rust, and residue. Scrap yards will have to invest time in cleaning the metal before it can be processed for recycling. Metals that have been mixed also decrease their value, as the yard has to then sort them out.

Read more on all the factors that impact the value of a junk car.

Where Should You Sell Your Old Junk Car: Junkyards Versus Scrap Yards

Though this article discusses scrap metal prices and how they attribute to the overall value of a junk car, many consumers will find that the best place to sell a car is at a junkyard. Junk yards can offer more cash in their offer as they salvage and resell parts before recycling the body of the car. Scrap yards are only interested in metal. The life cycle of a junk car generally begins at a junkyard before making its way to the scrap yard where its value is determined by weight instead of valuable parts and components.

Scrap yards specialize in purchasing metal in bulk. There tends to be a disregard for other parts of the vehicle, as it requires time, manpower, and space to pull parts off and store them for potential buyers. Junk yards have facilities and organizational systems in place to keep loose parts. Those looking to avoid salvaging parts and selling them should sell to a junkyard or salvage dealer, as this is the next best option that saves you time and provides you with a fair price for their efforts.

How Does Vehicle's Weight Affect It's Scrap Metal Value?

The vehicle's weight in scrap metal is one of the main factors that determines the value of the vehicle when selling a junk car. Junk car buyers typically factor in the weight of the vehicle when valuing junk cars. In general, larger and heavier vehicles will fetch a higher price per pound of scrap metal compared to smaller vehicles. However, the overall value depends on other factors such as vehicle's condition, location, and reusable parts.

How Does Vehicle's Location Affect Scrap Metal Value?

The price of scrap metal can vary depending on the vehicle's location. A junk car that is located in a region where there is a high demand for scrap metal will fetch a higher price than the same junk car that is located in a region with lower demand. In some areas there may be local regulations or requirements for the disposal of junk vehicles, which can impact the value of the scrap metal.

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