What is a Scrap Car?

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

What is a Scrap Car?
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What is The Definition of a Scrap Car?

    The general definition of a scrap car is a motor vehicle that has no value other than as scrap. Scrap cars can be in any condition, but most scrap cars are wrecked, damaged, or require extensive repairs that are not worth the investment. Scrap cars with working parts are valued as scrap rather than salvage when there is low or no demand for the vehicle. Some vehicle owners part out scrap cars themselves before having them hauled off for recycling to get more cash out of disposing of the vehicle.

    Scrap cars can be of any model year, but most scrap cars are from the 1990s and early 2000s. This is because there is no demand for these scrap cars. Many people mistakenly believe that vehicles over 20 years old are classics and therefore collectible. The reality is that even though the 90s were 30 years ago, no one wants those vehicles. People buying used cars typically don’t buy a vehicle more than 15 years old, partly because vehicles from the 90s and 2000s have some of the lowest safety ratings of all vehicles on the road today. In addition, even though Motor Trend reports that some of the models mentioned above are popular, popularity does not necessarily equal demand.

    Most scrap cars are derelict cars that have been driven without maintenance to the point of utter failure of multiple mechanical systems. The increased ease of qualification for auto loans for consumers with bad credit has made it more likely that these individuals will drive the vehicle until it is a scrap car then go buy another used vehicle and do the same.

    A scrap car could still be a functioning vehicle. Many junk cars are still able to run even when they have significant mechanical failures requiring expensive repairs. Most states require safety inspections, and sometimes emissions inspections, for a vehicle’s registration to be renewed. When vehicle problems, damaged, or wrecked vehicles are too expensive to repair and the vehicle cannot be made legal to drive on the roads it becomes a scrap vehicle.

    Synonyms of Scrap Cars

    There are many other names for scrap cars depending on their condition and type of junk car. Other names for scrap cars include salvage cars, end-of-life vehicles, beater cars, old cars, derelict cars, decrepit cars, inoperable cars, damaged cars, incomplete cars, totaled cars, wrecked cars, and unwanted cars. Scrap cars can also be called parts cars, junkers, bangers, and clunkers.

    An In-Depth Look at Scrap Cars

    A scrap car is a junk car that has no value other than as scrap. Scrap cars are vehicles that have reached the end of their usefulness as motor vehicle or parts and need to be recycled. Scrap vehicles are also called damaged cars, clunkers, beater cars, derelict cars, decrepit cars, wrecked cars, and end-of-life vehicles. A scrap car is different from other types of junk cars in that there is no value in salvaging it for parts before it is recycled.

    Scrap cars are not safe to be driven on the roads. Scrap vehicles can come in many different conditions including damaged, wrecked, totaled, or driven to the point that it is not economical to repair. A vehicle that has working used car parts could still be a scrap car if those parts are not in demand.

    This does not mean that there is not a demand for scrap car recycling. According to imarc, the scrap car industry is worth $67 billion as of 2021. This is a significant increase from the $25 billion the scrap car industry earned in 2019, and the industry will only continue to grow. In fact, the market report from imarc shows that the scrap car industry is expected to grow by 14% per year for the next 5 years.


    How does a car become a Scrap Car?

    There are 5 main ways that a car becomes a scrap car.

    1. Scrap cars driven into the ground. A study completed by AAA found that a third of Americans cannot afford recommended vehicle maintenance, nor can they afford repairs of as little as $500 to $600. In addition, many vehicles will continue to run long after they are unsafe. Scrap cars are often the result of delayed or skipped maintenance and repairs leading to the vehicle not passing emissions or safety inspections thereby preventing them from being registered and legally driven.
    2. Scrap cars wrecked without insurance. According to Money Geek, 12.6% of drivers involved in a car accident are not insured, even though almost every state has minimum car insurance coverage requirements for legal registration and operation of a motor vehicle within that state. Wrecked cars without insurance to fix them are usually driven as long as possible before becoming scrap cars.
    3. Scrap cars replaced with newer car. Unwanted cars with high mileage are often considered scrap cars. According to the February/March issue of Car and Driver, about 2.6 million Americans went to buy here pay here used car dealerships in 2019. The ability to get a used car loan with any credit score makes consumers more likely spend the $1500 needed for repairs on a down payment for a newer vehicle. The resulting unwanted car is a scrap car when the parts are not in demand or the car is so close to the end of its life that it is too difficult to sell as a used car.
    4. Used and discarded parts cars. Hobby mechanics, car restorationists, and father-son bonding teams often purchase old cars to harvest for parts. According to Body Shop Business, 80% of classic car owners are comfortable doing the repairs themselves using parts cars. The resulting scrap car shell that is without any reusable parts is a scrap car that must be hauled away and recycled. Scrap cars are also cars that were purchased as a home mechanic project that was neglected then abandoned. These cars are often in pieces and do not have salvage value.
    5. Scrap cars from natural disasters. Per Car Fax, there were about 350,000 vehicles damaged by floods in Florida and the Carolinas as a result of Hurricane Ian in 2022. Many vehicle owners without an auto loan do not have full coverage car insurance that covers damage from natural disasters. These flood damaged cars cannot be salvaged and become scrap cars.

    The age of a vehicle and whether or not its remaining parts are both working and in demand are important factors in determining whether junk cars are scrap vehicles. There is no demand for vehicles with model years between the late 80s and the late 2000s, and these are scrap cars even when they don’t qualify as a scrap car in any other way.

    What are common characteristics of Scrap Cars?

    Scrap cars vary in year, make, model, and condition, but all scrap cars share 4 main characteristics.

    1. Scrap cars with rust. Almost all scrap cars will have at least a spot or two of surface rust. Vehicles naturally rust over time as they are exposed to elements, and cars stored in wet climates or driven on salt-treated roads in winter are more prone to rust than vehicles from other regions of the country. Scrap cars from Maine, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and West Virginia are the most likely to have penetrating rust. Scrap cars from coastal communities are more likely to have scale rust on the exterior of the vehicle.
    2. Unregistered scrap cars. Scrap cars often have expired registrations because they do not meet requirements for registration and legal safe operation on public roadways. Every state has registration requirements for legal vehicle operation, including safety inspections. The exact safety or emissions requirements vary from state to state. Being unable to afford the repairs necessary to pass these inspections is the biggest reason vehicles go unregistered. Lemon cars that were never registered after the most recent purchase due to the inability to pass inspection are also common unregistered scrap cars.
    3. Scrap cars with body damage. Scrap cars almost always have at least a few dings to a few dents. People driving older vehicles are on tight budgets and therefore cannot afford insurance premiums to have every type of damage or loss covered, nor can they afford repairs unnecessary to safe operation. All scrap cars will have a few dings in the doors or dents in the fenders, and some scrap cars have even more significant body damage. The more body damage there is the worse the rust on the scrap car will be.
    4. Scrap cars with mechanical failure. Scrap cars usually have at least one failed mechanical system, regardless of how minor. Scrap cars are old enough and have been driven hard enough that they are bound to have many mechanical problems ranging from small and cheap to large and inexpensive.

    Many scrap cars are missing their engine or transmission, or they require replacement of these very expensive car parts. When an engine or transmission needs to be replaced as a result of not keeping up with routine maintenance and necessary repairs other parts of the vehicle are also likely to have failed. In this case the vehicle only has value as scrap because too many of the parts are nonworking or missing.

    Are scrap cars junk cars?

    Yes, scrap cars are junk cars. Vehicles that only have value as scrap metal are junk cars even if they run. Junk car buyers, junkyards, salvage yards, auto dismantlers, vehicle recyclers, and other junk car facilities process scrap cars.

    What is a Scrap Car worth?

    A scrap car's worth varies depending on four main criteria. The first criteria for scrap car value is the year, make, and model of the vehicle. This information tells the scrap car buyer how much of which types of metals are in the scrap car for an accurate quote.

    The second criteria for scrap car value is the condition of the vehicle. Scrap cars that are missing their most valuable parts like the engine, transmission, catalytic converter, or drive train will bring less than scrap cars with all of their parts, even if those parts are not in working order.

    The third criteria for determining the value of a scrap car is whether or not the vehicle title is available. Scrap cars sold without a title bring less cash than cars with a clear and present title ready for endorsement to the scrap car buyer.

    The fourth and final criteria for scrap car value is current scrap metal prices, because scrap cars are being purchased only for their value in scrap metal and not for auto parts salvage. Scrap metal prices in turn can vary based on 5 main factors. The first factor that affects scrap metal prices is supply and demand for particular metals found in the scrap car on a local, state, national, and global level. The second factor that affects scrap metal prices is season. The automotive and construction industries are most active in spring and summer and have the most demand for recycled metals.

    The third factor in scrap metal prices is location. Vehicle recyclers crush cars but most are transported elsewhere to actually recycle the metal. How far the crushed scrap car must travel to be recycled at its final destination affects how much scrap yards will pay for the scrap car. The fourth factor that affects scrap metal prices are issues that affect international trade with China and India, as these countries import the most recycled scrap metals.

    Finally, the fifth factor that affects scrap metal prices is the price of new metals. When the cost of new metals goes up, the demand for recycled metals rises as well, which in turn increases the prices paid for those scrap metals.

    What are the price ranges of scrap cars?

    The price ranges of scrap cars varies greatly by year, make, model, condition, and location. When purchased for recycled metals only scrap car prices generally range between $50 and $250 depending on the types and amounts of metals used to manufacture the vehicle.

    The vehicle details and ensuring all parts are present even if nonworking are important for getting the best scrap car prices.

    What are the most valuable car parts of scrap cars?

    The most valuable car parts of scrap cars are the engine, transmission, catalytic converter, and drive train. Scrap cars missing these valuable car parts bring less cash than complete scrap cars, even when the parts do not work.

    Here are the most valuable car parts of scrap cars based on the metals that they contain.

    1. Engine scrap prices. The engine is made of iron base alloys including steel and cast iron. Most engines also contain aluminum alloy, which is more valuable than steel in most markets.
    2. Transmission scrap prices. The transmission is mostly made of aluminum, although it might be housed in a cast iron case. It is important to note that scrap car prices can vary dramatically and without warning based on several external factors.
    3. Catalytic converter scrap prices. The catalytic converter is small and contains small amounts of metals, but those metals are considered precious and bring a good price.. However, many states have laws banning the sale of catalytic converters to scrap yards unless they are part of a vehicle due to the spike in catalytic converter thefts that occurred during the pandemic.
    4. Drive train scrap prices. Other than the frame and body panels, the drive train contains about 23% of the steel in the vehicle. In addition to the transmission, the drive train includes the differential, driveshaft, axles, CV joints, and wheels.

    When selling a car for scrap only it doesn’t matter whether or not the engine and other valuable parts are in demand. If the parts were in demand and worked the vehicle would be sent to an auto salvage yard instead of being a scrap car. However, the value of scrap cars are greatly decreased when these valuable car parts are not part of the vehicle when it is recycled.

    What are the most valuable scrap metals of scarp cars?

    The most valuable scrap metals of scrap cars are steel, cast iron, iron alloys, and aluminum.

    Keep in mind that scrap metal prices vary greatly based on location. The further the scrap metal must be transported in order to reach its final destination for recycling the less the scrap car buyer can pay for those metals.

    How much is a scrap car hulk worth? (Shell)

    A scrap car hulk or scrap car shell that has been stripped of its valuable parts still has some value as a scrap car. About 40% of the steel in a vehicle is found in the frame, body, panels, doors, and trunks for stability and energy absorption in the event of a vehicle crash. This means that even scrap car shells with no parts are still of some value to scrap metal recyclers.

    The value of the scrap car shell depends on the vehicle year, make, and model, which allows the vehicle recycler to quickly identify the weight of the recyclable steel. Scrap metal prices can also affect scrap car hulk values.

    What to do with a Scrap Car?

    There are 3 things that you can do with a scrap car.

    1. Junk the scrap car. Junk car buyers pay cash for scrap cars, then pass those scrap cars on to the vehicle recyclers that crush them and prepare or transport them for scrap metal recycling. Junk car buyers currently pay an average of $X to $X for scrap cars. Scrap car removal is included in the scrap car quote and costs nothing out of pocket when you use a junk car buyer. Alternatively you could get more for the scrap car if you can deliver it to the vehicle recycler yourself. However, many municipalities have laws regarding how, when, where, and by whom vehicles can be towed.
    2. Sell the scrap car. If you have a scrap car that you believe has value other than as scrap, you could try to sell the scrap car to an individual buyer. Even when the parts themselves do not work and therefore have no value to an individual, the scrap car shell could be of value to an individual restoring a similar vehicle. Often those rebuilding or restoring vehicles buy scrap cars to harvest doors and other body components. Finding the right individual buyer for a scrap car can be difficult and take time.
    3. Donate the scrap car. It is possible to donate your scrap car to a charity of your choice. Not all charities accept scrap car donations, so check with your local charity before making solid plans. In most cases the charity will get more money if you sell the scrap car to a junk car buyer and donate the funds you receive to the charity instead. This is because charities sell the scrap cars they receive in bulk, sometimes in unfavorable markets. Because the cash you donate is more than the amount that would be on a tax receipt for the scrap car donation you also get a bigger tax break for the donation.

    The quickest, easiest, most painless, and most rewarding way to get rid of scrap cars is to go through a junk car buyer or junk car dealer. Junk car dealers buy scrap cars and sell them to the recycling centers that prepare and crush them so the metals can be recycled. Junk car buyers are an important part of the scrap car industry.

    Can I sell a scrap car with no title?

    Yes, you can sell a scrap car with no title in most states. Each state has their own laws for what vehicles must be titled and what documentation is required to sell scrap cars to junkyards and junk car buyers. The vehicle title must be in your name to sell a scrap car even if you do not have a copy of that title. Often the registration can serve as proof of ownership when the title is not available because it has been lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed. When a title is required to sell a scrap car, the process for getting a duplicate title in the last state in which the vehicle was registered will be required. Check with your local DMV and the DMV where your vehicle was last registered or purchased for details of what you will need to sell a scrap car with no title.

    Can I sell a scrap car with no registration?

    Yes, you can sell a scrap car with no registration. Vehicle registration is not a requirement for every vehicle in every state. Most states do not require vehicles with a junk title status such as salvage vehicles or nonrepairable vehicles to be registered. Often parts cars are not registered or titled, and are only sold on a bill of sale. The registration is only required to sell a scrap car when the vehicle title is not available and one needs to prove ownership of the vehicle.

    Who buys scrap cars?

    Who buys scrap cars near you could vary depending on state and local guidelines that restrict vehicle recyclers. In general, every location should have these places that buy scrap cars.

    1. Junkyards: Junkyards buy scrap cars from both individuals and junk car dealers. Not all junkyards buy scrap cars because scrap cars do not have valuable parts to salvage. Junkyards and auto dismantlers crush vehicles and prepare them for transport to the scrap metal recyclers. Some junkyards will come remove the scrap car but most expect the scrap car to be delivered by the vehicle owner or a junk car buyer.
    2. Junk car buyers: Junk car buyers will remove scrap cars and pay for the vehicles they remove. Often junk car buyers are one-man operations with just one tow truck. These junk car buyers pay cash for scrap cars that they remove, but they do nothing more with these vehicles than pass them on to the junkyards or scrap yards mentioned above. Many of them do not store the scrap car at all, and transport immediately from your property to the auto dismantler, where they are in turn paid for the vehicle.
    3. Junk Car Medics: Junk Car Medics is a different type of junk car buyer. Junk Car Medics pays the most cash for scrap cars by partnering with scrap yards and vehicle recyclers in your area. Junk Car Medics makes these entities compete for your vehicle so that you get the most cash possible for your scrap car. Junk Car Medics stands out because of our quick, easy, painless, and rewarding process for getting cash for scrap cars.
    4. Artisans and blacksmiths. There has always been a market for scrap cars in the art world. Many a sculpture has been created out of scrap cars. Renewed interest in lost trades has increased the number of hobby blacksmiths, and television shows like History Channel’s Forged in Fire have spurred forging hobbies. For artists sculpting with steel, hobby blacksmiths, or bladesmiths, buying a scrap car is much cheaper than buying new or even recycled steel and other metals.

    The easiest way to get rid of a scrap car is to sell it to a junk car buyer like Junk Car Medics. Junk Car Medics is unlike other junk car buyers because we closely monitor local scrap car prices and make sure you get the best deal possible for your vehicle.

    How to choose a scrap car buyer?

    The scrap car buyer you choose greatly impacts the price you get for your scrap car and the ease of having that car removed. Research the scrap car buyers near you and compare prices paid for scrap cars and overall value. Here are 8 qualities you should look for when choosing a scrap car buyer.

    1. Licensed scrap car buyers. Licensing required to be a scrap car buyer varies by state. There are some federal guidelines that affect where junkyards can be located in reference to interstate highways as well as environmental standards to which scrap car buyers must adhere to. States, counties, and cities may have additional licensing requirements for scrap car buyers. Junk Car Medics is a scrap car buyer with licensed locations in all 50 states. One can check the status of a scrap car buyer and whether or not their adhere to environmental standards by checking with entities like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as state and local resources.
    2. Experience buying scrap cars. The scrap car industry has exploded in the last two years, and as such there are many new players in the junk car buying field. Experienced scrap car buyers will be able to make the process easy and painless, while also being able to pay the most fair prices for scrap cars. Junk Car Medics has been buying scrap cars since 2016, much longer than other junk car dealers. Junk Car Medics has bought over 200,000 scrap cars and paid out over $55 million to scrap car owners.
    3. Good reputation buying scrap cars. Every company you work with should be reputable, regardless of the industry or the service provided. Check the reputation of scrap car buyers by examining online reviews. Look for scrap car buyers with a mix of positive and negative reviews to show that they are genuine and unsolicited, but with a star rating of at least 4.0 on any platform. Google, Yelp, Trust Pilot, and the Better Business Bureau are a few of the places you can find reviews for junk car buyers serving your area. Junk Car Medics has thousands of positive online reviews.
    4. Quick and easy scrap car quotes. Look for junk car buyers that offer quick and easy quotes for scrap cars. Some junk car buyers only offer quotes over the phone, while others have online forms that are followed up on with a phone call. Junk Car Medics has a completely online proprietary system for giving instant cash offers for scrap cars, as well as live assistance for free scrap car quotes over the phone.
    5. Pays fair prices for scrap cars. When reading reviews, look for clues that the scrap car buyer pays fair prices for scrap cars that they remove. Look for any red flags in reviews, such as scrap car owners claiming a bait and switch where the junk car buyer provides one quote and pays a different, lower amount on pick up. Junk Car Medics makes local auto recyclers compete for your scrap car to give the best prices, then guarantees those prices for 7 days from the date of the scrap car quote, as long as all vehicle, location, and title information is reported accurately.
    6. Assistance with paperwork to sell scrap cars. Transferring ownership of the scrap car to the junk car buyer is easy if you have the title in your name. When the title is not available the scrap car sale will require additional paperwork, which varies by state. Getting assistance with identifying and completing the required paperwork to sell scrap cars is important for a painless process. Junk Car Medics is familiar with the laws regarding paperwork to sell scrap cars for all 50 states and will provide forms and instructions for their completion.
    7. Free scrap car removal. Scrap car removal is the biggest hassle for most scrap vehicle owners. Scrap car removal is not actually free, but is instead considered when providing the price for your scrap car. Items that affect the cost of scrap car removal and therefore the price of the scrap car include the location of the vehicle and how easy it is to access, as well as the condition of the scrap car and the equipment required to tow it. Junk Car Medics works with local towing companies to keep the costs of junk car removal low to allow us to pay higher prices for scrap cars.
    8. Pays for scrap cars on pick up. Getting rewarded for having a scrap car hauled away is the best part of selling a scrap car to a junk car buyer. Junk car buyers should pay for the vehicle when they come to pick it up. Some scrap car buyers pay cash, but payment by check is becoming more common. Junk Car Medics pays for scrap cars when they are picked up unless other arrangements were made and agreed to ahead of time.

    The scrap car buyer you choose greatly impacts your scrap car price and the ease of scrap car removal. Junk Car Medics stands out from other junk car buyers with our quick, easy, painless, and rewarding process for selling scrap cars.

    About The Author

    Scroll to Top