What is a Wrecked Car?

This guide explains what a wrecked car is, all the synonyms of a wrecked car, and takes an in-depth look at what is a wrecked car, its prices, buyers, and more.

What is a Wrecked Car?
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    What is The Definition of a Wrecked Car?

    The definition of a wrecked car is a vehicle that has hit another vehicle or other object that results in damage to the vehicle. Wrecked cars are not necessarily inoperable cars, because car wrecks happen with varying severity. Many wrecked cars sold for recycling have been in more than one car accident or fender-bender. It is important to note that wrecked cars and totaled cars are not synonyms. If the repair costs are reasonable or the damage wasn’t covered by an active car insurance policy, the wrecked car is not a totaled car.

    Wrecked cars can be any year, make, model, or condition, although all will have some type of damage. Most wrecked cars are 2015 or older, but a wrecked car can have any number of miles on it. However, Recycling Today claims that the average age of a vehicle on the roads today is 11.9 years as of 2021. None of the driver assist features discussed here were mainstream even as optional features until about 2016, even though the technology existed in the 90s. Late model vehicles manufactured in the last 5 years are the most likely to have these safety features, and therefore the least likely to become wrecked cars.

    Many wrecked cars are still in running condition. However, this does not mean that these wrecked cars are operable. A wrecked car can still be completely inoperable when the frame has been bent or body damage significantly impairs the integrity of the vehicle. Wrecked cars with significant damage that still run are unsafe and should not be driven.

    Synonyms of Wrecked Cars

    The only other name that applies to all wrecked cars is damaged car. Depending on condition, the circumstances in which they were wrecked, and insurance coverage, other names for wrecked cars include:

    • Clunker
    • Scrap car
    • Salvage car
    • Beater car
    • Unregistered car
    • Derelict car
    • Decrepit car
    • Inoperable car
    • Totaled car

    Remember that totaled cars refers to wrecked cars processed by insurance and is not a true synonym of wrecked cars.

    An In-Depth Look at Wrecked Cars

    A wrecked car is one that has been in a collision. Wrecked cars have sustained damage as a result of colliding with another object. Not all wrecked cars have been in car accidents with another vehicle. Wrecked cars can be damaged in multi-vehicle car wrecks or one car accidents with nonmoving objects like guard rails or light poles. Wrecked cars are also called damaged cars, beater cars, and decrepit cars. Wrecked cars that are still being driven are also called clunkers, derelict cars, or junkers. Wrecked cars that are processed on an insurance claim are also totaled cars, but many wrecked cars are not totaled by insurance.

    Wrecked cars come in a variety of conditions, but all have sustained body damage. Many wrecked cars also have mechanical damage at the point of impact. Often the mechanical damage is not immediately evident, leading to the car being driven unsafely. Wrecked cars can have significant exterior damage without effect on their mechanical parts, and late model wrecked cars are worth more than other types of junk cars for this reason.

    There are a few car brands that are wrecked more often than others due to the availability of crash avoidance features. Chevy is arguably the worst car brand when it comes to safety features. They have the least number of crash assistance features available, and none of them are standard. Other brands that are common wrecked cars include Ford, Dodge, and Buick.

    With more than 15 million collisions per year, wrecked cars are a major driver for the junk car industry the auto collision repair market, and the used auto parts industry. Wrecked cars provide most of the used auto parts sold by the $6.5 billion industry, as reported by International Business Information Systems (IBIS). Wrecked cars are often repaired by the owner, with about $35 billion being spent on automotive collision repair per year as reported by Grandview Research, another market research firm. In addition, it is common for cars to be driven after they have been wrecked when the damage was not significant enough to immobilize the vehicle. For this reason most of the cars processed by the $67 billion automotive recycling industry are wrecked cars.


    How does a car become a Wrecked Car?

    There are 4 main ways that a car becomes a wrecked car.

    1. Single car accidents: There are actually more cars wrecked in single car accidents with inanimate objects or parked cars than there are car accidents with other drivers. Single car accidents account for about 55% of traffic deaths. The typical assumption is that this percentage could apply to all car accidents. Damage from single car accidents is often not covered by insurance, or would cause insurance rates to rise. This leads to wrecked cars being unsafely driven until they need to be disposed of.
    2. Two-car accidents: The exact number of car accidents per year in America is unknown, but these accidents lead to millions of wrecked cars per year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are about 5 million passenger vehicle crashes reported per year, and an estimated 10 million crashes go unreported. In addition, an estimated 20% of car accidents happen in parking lots, most of which go uncounted. The 5 states with the most traffic accidents are South Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio, Nebraska, and Georgia.
    3. Multi-car accidents: Of the 5 million reported passenger vehicle accidents per year, almost 2 million are multi-car accidents. Multi-car accidents can wrack up hundreds of thousands of property damage within minutes. In total, about $196.82 billion was paid out by car insurance companies in 2021, with most of that being property damage. This does not include the money spent on repairing wrecked cars by individuals not filing an insurance claim.
    4. Cars wrecked by nature: Yes, cars can be wrecked with no driver involved. One of the more common ways that can happen is cars wrecked by nature during natural weather events. For example, Value Penguin reports that tornados cause more than $2.5 million in property damage per storm, a big portion of which is wrecked vehicles pushed into buildings and other objects.

    All wrecked cars have collided with an object. While there are other rare instances in which cars can become wrecked, car accidents make up the vast majority of wrecked cars in the US annually. However, the exact numbers of car accidents and wrecked cars is difficult to determine because the data is not consistently tracked across all 50 states.

    What are common characteristics of Wrecked Cars?

    Here are some common characteristics of wrecked cars.

    1. All wrecked cars have visible body damage. Some damage is less noticeable than others. Today’s cars often have plastic grills and other exterior parts that are easily cracked without the cracks being obvious. A wrecked car may have minor body damage like scratches or minor dents but still have significant mechanical damage depending on how and where the vehicle was hit.
    2. Wrecked cars with significant damage cannot be reregistered. Every state has safety inspections required for registration, although these requirements vary by state. Many wrecked cars with significant damage to the frame, suspension, or certain mechanical systems will not pass these inspections and therefore their registration cannot be renewed without repairing the vehicle.
    3. Many cars have been wrecked more than once. According to Money Geek, about 1 in 8 drivers are uninsured, with another 26% having no collision coverage. These uninsured drivers are also more likely to be involved in car accidents. Wrecked cars in these circumstances are often driven until they give up the ghost or the owner becomes afraid to drive it due to its unsafe condition. This means that wrecked cars could have damage from more than one car accident or other collision.
    4. Wrecked cars have valuable reusable car parts. Wrecked cars are a great source of used car parts because they often have little to no mechanical damage. If the vehicle is one whose used car parts are in demand, these wrecked cars are worth more than vehicles that are only good for scrap metal recycling.

    Wrecked cars that have been driven or have been stored exposed to the elements will also have significant rust damage. Once the paint and zinc coating have been removed from the steel as happens in an accident, the metal is exposed to water and air, allowing it to oxidize and create rust.

    Are wrecked cars junk cars?

    Yes, wrecked cars are junk cars. Junk cars are motor vehicles that should be replaced with a more reliable vehicle and recycled properly. Wrecked cars are junk cars even when they are still drivable because they are not considered safe and will soon reach the end of their lives.

    What is a Wrecked Car worth?

    How much a wrecked car is worth depends mostly on how many of its mechanical parts can be salvaged and whether or not the vehicle is in demand. Wrecked cars of popular makes and models with most or all of their most valuable car parts can be worth more on average.  Wrecked cars that are older models but still have value as used car parts are worth less on average. Wrecked cars are worth less when they have no value other than as scrap metal.

    What are the price ranges of wrecked cars?

    The price ranges of wrecked cars can vary based on vehicle year, make, model, location, demand, and scrap metal prices, as well as other factors. Price ranges of wrecked cars are most influenced by the demand for the vehicle and how much of its parts can be reasonably salvaged for profit. Vehicle year and popularity are the biggest influencers of the demand for particular wrecked cars.

    Here are the 5 most popular late model wrecked cars.

    1. Year, make, model, price range
    2. Year, make, model, price range
    3. Year, make, model, price range
    4. Year, make, model, price range
    5. Year, make, model, price range

    These 5 additional wrecked cars are most in demand.

    1. Year, make, model, price range
    2. Year, make model, price range
    3. Year, make model, price range
    4. Year, make model, price range
    5. Year, make model, price range

    Finally, the following makes and models typically have value only as scrap.

    1. Year, make, model, price range
    2. Year, make, model, price range
    3. Year, make, model, price range
    4. Year, make, model, price range
    5. Year, make, model, price range

    Keep in mind that the price ranges of wrecked cars is also dependent on the local market and demand, and how far the vehicle will need to be transported to go to the right buyer.

    What are the most valuable car parts on wrecked cars?

    The most valuable car parts on wrecked cars are the transmission and engine. These important and expensive car parts are usually intact and in working order on wrecked cars. Most brand-new engines cost over $1,000 but used engines go for $400 to $700 depending on year, make, model, and local demand. A new transmission is even more expensive, and retails at about $800 to $1400 used. These parts could be pulled and sold to individual buyers for a bigger profit than selling to a junk car buyer, but requires that you have the time and skill necessary to remove the parts and find the right buyers. The best junk car buyer will give you a fair price for your wrecked car when these valuable parts are included. Even when the engine or transmission are not working, these car parts are valuable as scrap metal recycling.

    What are the most valuable scrap metals in wrecked cars?

    The most valuable scrap metals in wrecked cars are steel and aluminum. About 65% of a vehicle is made of steel and other iron alloys. Steel is in high demand, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it takes 36 to 40 percent less energy to recycle steel than to produce new steel. Wrecked cars are almost always complete with all of their parts. This means that wrecked cars always have value even if they are damaged to the extent that they must be recycled and have no other use.  However, it is important to note that there are many things that can affect scrap metal prices on a local, county, state, national, and global level.

    What to do with a Wrecked Car?

    There are a few things you can do with a wrecked car.

    1. Sell the wrecked car to an individual for use in repair of another vehicle. Individuals that work on their own cars may be willing to buy your wrecked car if it has all of the parts they need for their project car.
    2. Sell the wrecked car to an individual for its steel for use in a hobby. Blacksmithing and forging steel were once deemed to be lost arts, but there is new interest in both of these as hobbies. Forging steel has grown in popularity in particular thanks to the Forged in Fire series on the History Channel, making this a more common way to get rid of wrecked cars.
    3. Sell the wrecked car to a junkyard or salvage yard. Junkyards and salvage yards buy wrecked cars with in-demand used car parts and store them on their lot. However, not all wrecked cars have salvageable parts, even if they are working.
    4. Sell the wrecked car to an auto dismantler. Most junkyards and auto salvage yards allow customers to pull the parts themselves to save money, but some are full-service only. An auto dismantler buys wrecked cars, tears them apart, sells the salvaged parts to used auto parts stores that do not dismantle vehicles themselves, then recycles the remaining wrecked car shell.
    5. Sell the wrecked car to a mechanic. Some mechanics buy wrecked cars that they believe they can easily return to driving condition and sell as a used vehicle. This option is easiest and brings the most profit when you can sell the wrecked car to a local mechanic you already know or have been referred to.
    6. Donate the wrecked car to a charity. Some charities accept used car donations, including wrecked cars. However, charities usually get less than wholesale value for wrecked cars. It is usually best to sell the wrecked car and give the resulting cash to the charity.
    7. Sell the wrecked car to a junk car buyer. A junk car buyer works with the facilities that process wrecked cars and acts as a middle man. Junk car buyers are the easiest way to get rid of an unwanted wrecked car because they will pass the vehicle on to the right step in the recycling process rather than the owner needing to do this research for themselves.

    It is important to note that not all junk car buyers are the same. Some junk car dealers will pay lowball prices for wrecked cars so that they can turn a large profit, luring customers with the convenience of fast and free removal of the wrecked car. It is necessary to research junk car buyers before selling your wrecked car to make sure you are getting the best deal.

    Can I sell a wrecked car with no title?

    Yes, you can sell a wrecked car with no title in most states. To sell a wrecked car with no title you must be able to prove ownership. In most cases the vehicle must have previously been titled or registered in the seller’s name to sell a wrecked car with no title. Although every state requires vehicles to be titled, there are some exceptions to the rules depending on the language of codified laws. However, there is almost always additional paperwork that must be completed to sell a wrecked car with no title.

    Can I sell a wrecked car with no registration?

    Yes, you can sell a wrecked car with no registration in every state. Registration is only required when a vehicle will be driven on public roads. Many wrecked vehicles are inoperable or unsafe to drive. This means they cannot pass the inspections necessary to be registered and legally driven on public roads and highways. For this reason, registration is not required to sell wrecked cars. However, past registration can be used to prove ownership when selling a wrecked car with no title.

    Who buys wrecked cars?

    There are 10 entities that buy wrecked cars.

    1. Individuals
    2. Junkyards
    3. Auto salvage yards
    4. Auto scrap yards
    5. Metal recycling scrap yards
    6. Auto dismantlers
    7. Vehicle recyclers
    8. Used auto parts stores
    9. Mechanics
    10. Junk car buyers

    Refer to the above to understand how each of these people who buy wrecked cars make use of the vehicles that they purchase.

    How to choose a junk car buyer for a wrecked car?

    As mentioned above, choosing a junk car buyer is an important decision. Here are a few ways you can compare junk car buyers to have the best experience selling wrecked cars.

    1. Experience: Experience is important when you want a junk car buyer that will get the best deal for your vehicle with a seamless process. The junk car industry has grown by about $42 billion between 2019 and 2023, which has brought many new players to the field. The most experienced junk car buyers have been in business since before the boom. You can somewhat gauge experience by how many reviews the company has, while some junk car buyers list their years in business on their Google profile. Junk Car Medics has been buying wrecked cars since 2016.
    2. Licensing: Most states have special licensing requirements for junk car buyers, and some municipalities may have additional guidelines, regulations, or restrictions for junk car dealers. Some states lump junk car buyers in with all other junk car facilities, some group it together with used car dealerships, some regulate the junk car buyers as an independent market segment, and a few states do not require additional licensing at all. You can check to make sure the junk car buyer is legally licensed and operating legitimately in your state by contacting the BBB or local consumer resources. Junk Car Medics has licensed locations to buy wrecked cars in all 50 states.
    3. Reputation: Reputation is easy enough to gauge with some perusal of online reviews. Those same reviews will give you indicators that allow you to evaluate junk car buyers on the points that follow. Look for a mix of positive and negative reviews with at least a 4.1 rating. No company is perfect, so at least one wholly negative review is to be expected. When only positive or negative reviews are present it is an indication that the reviews were solicited by either the junk car buyer or their competitors, and therefore untrustworthy. A mix of reviews shows that they are genuine. Junk Car Medics has thousands of positive online reviews on Google, Trust Pilot, and other consumer sites.
    4. Fair prices honored at pick up: Some junk car buyers give prices arbitrarily, meaning that they do not take into account all of the factors that affect prices of wrecked cars. Other junk car buyers give one price as a quote then lower it dramatically when they arrive to pick up the wrecked car. As long as the details of the wrecked car are reported accurately the offer from the junk car buyer should not change. Junk Car Medics offers instant cash offers for wrecked cars via our proprietary system that can be accessed online or by phone with agent assistance. These free junk car quotes are valid for 7 days.
    5. Junk car removal services: Junk car removal should never cost money up front when you sell wrecked cars, and it should be prompt and convenient. Wrecked cars are valuable enough that the cost of the towing is negligible. Some junk car buyers will factor the cost of junk car removal into the quote for your wrecked car. Junk Car Medics will never ask for payment to remove wrecked cars, and we provide easy and painless junk car removal services throughout the US.
    6. Assistance with the process: The process to sell wrecked cars is simple in most states when the title is available and in the seller’s name. However, there are many situations in which this is not the case. The process for selling wrecked cars in these situations are set by the state. It is important that the junk car buyer you choose is familiar with your state’s laws and can guide you on how to sell the wrecked car. Junk Car Medics provides all forms and instructions for their completion, submission, and any follow-up required to make selling wrecked cars painless regardless of the situation.

    Overall, Junk Car Medics stands out with our quick, easy, painless, and rewarding process for selling wrecked cars at the best prices.

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