When your trusty and much-loved car comes to the end its useful life, the sad day arrives when you have to get rid of it, and if you can’t sell it, you might decide to try to make a few bucks by scrapping it.
However, the process is not quite as simple as you might imagine, so here’s our step by step guide to how to scrap a car.
This is a big topic, and if you want a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about – as well as a few extra handy tips – you can also check out this video before reading on.
1. Decide if scrapping is the right choice
You could be in two minds over scrapping an old car – can you squeeze another year or two out of it or is it time to get rid now?
Although you might feel a sense of attachment to your faithful old ride that causes you to hesitate, this is a decision that should be based on a cold calculation rather than any sentimental reasons.
Look at how much your average repair bill is and ask yourself whether you can afford to keep paying it. The bottom line is, if you are paying more to keep it running than the monthly payments would cost on a new vehicle, it’s time to send it to the scrapyard.
Also, think about future repair bills. A mechanic may be able to give you a good idea about what might need fixing over the coming months and years. Is this something you are willing to stump up the cash for?
2. Evaluate your car’s value
Once you decide to scrap your car, you need to evaluate how much it’s worth.
Cars consist of literally thousands of different parts, and many buyers will be interested in purchasing yours to strip it down and sell the parts off individually.
On the other hand, if there’s nothing worth salvaging, its value will be based solely on the weight of the scrap metal it contains.
Items you will probably want to remove yourself include the GPS system and stereo system. These are easy to sell and can be worth a lot of money – or perhaps you simply want to keep them for your new car.
Other reusable parts include the exhaust system, catalytic converters, bumpers, doors, windows, battery, airbags, tires, rims and more, and each individual item may be worth some – or even a lot – of money.
If your car is a common model, any of these items may be valuable in the spare parts market, so make sure you take them into account when working out your car’s value and don’t undersell yourself.
3. Decide how to sell it
After working out your car’s worth, you can decide what to do with it. Do you want to sell it “as is”, meaning it will go to the buyer the way they find it with all the parts included, or will you strip it of parts first and try to sell them individually yourself?
You might stand to make more money by stripping it, but you need to ask yourself if it’s worth all the hassle for a few extra dollars.
The decision you have to make is this: are you willing to put in the time and effort to strip the car of the valuable parts and then spend time finding buyers for each part yourself? Or would you be happier for someone just to take the old rust-bucket off your hands?
This will probably largely depend on the value of the parts your car contains – as well as your skill level as a mechanic – but this is something to consider before you start looking for someone to take your car away.
4. Find a buyer
You’ve worked out how much you think your car is worth and you know how you want to sell it – so now you need to find someone who’s willing to give you the money you want for it.
There are many channels you can try. Advertise on sites like eBay and Craigslist – but don’t forget about the more traditional options, either. You can email local scrapyards – or you can call them or even pay them a visit.
When posting online, make sure you give as much detail as possible. If you are selling purely for the value of the scrap metal, this is not so important, but buyers looking to harvest parts will want to know as much about what they are buying as they can.
This means you should include details like the make, the model, the year, the mileage, the number of previous owners and so on.
If the car has been in an accident or otherwise been damaged, you should be upfront about it from the start.
It will also help if you include as many photos as possible when posting online. If you are emailing potential buyers, you can also include photos as attachments or in a Zip file.
Make sure you shop around. The more people that are interested in your car, the better your position for negotiating a good deal – and the more chance you stand of earning more money from it.
5. Negotiate a price
When you have found one or more potential buyers, you can begin negotiating a price. If you have done your homework, you will know the value of your car. Of course, they will start low and you will start high, but that’s all part of the art of negotiating.
Make sure all the details of the deal are explicitly stated. Will they come and tow it away or do you need to drop it off? How does this affect how much they are willing to pay for it?
Often, scrapyards will charge you for the collection service, and dropping off yourself means you will get slightly more.
6. Avoid common scams
The scrap car business has more than its fair share of unscrupulous operators, so you need to make sure you are dealing with a reputable buyer.
In some states, anyone buying a car for scrap needs to be licensed, so you should make sure first of all that the transaction isn’t going to be illegal.
Being evasive when you ask for their credentials should set alarm bells ringing, as it should if they say they can take it without transferring the title.
One trick to avoid is the “bait and switch” scam – this is where they quote you one price and then offer you much less when they come to collect it. This may pressurize you into accepting less than the amount you expected.
Do your homework and make sure the buyer is reputable – otherwise, cancel the sale and find someone else.
7. Do the admin
When you have found a trustworthy buyer for your car, there is some admin to take care of. Even when selling a car for scrap, in many states, you still need to transfer the title just like when selling a car for road use, so check local laws and make sure this part gets done.
If you still owe money on the car, you need to make sure this is settled first. You may need to pay off the loan before you can scrap it.
The next step is to cancel the insurance. Have the insurance stopped from the end of the day the car is due to be scrapped – this way, you are covered for any mishaps that may occur in transit to the scrapyard.
Finally, since laws concerning the plates vary from state to state, check the local requirements in your area and make sure you comply – you may need to return the plates to the DMV to cancel its registration or you may be able to keep them.
8. Remove everything from inside
Before the car is taken away or before you drop it off, make sure everything has been removed from inside.
Check all the places that are easy to miss, including the glove box, trunk, sun visors, seat pockets, under the seats and so on.
You don’t want to leave any of your personal belongings in the car when it’s taken away, but perhaps more importantly, you don’t want to leave important documentation in the vehicle.
At best, losing vital documents can cause you a headache later when you need them – or at worst, they may be used for fraud if they fall into the wrong hands.
9. Get rid of it
The deal is now done, and your car is ready for scrapping. Either someone will come and take it away or you will drop it off at the scrapyard, as agreed.
Hopefully, you will avoid any scams, and someone will now hand over a wad of cash for your bust-up old wheels. Congratulations. Job done.
Like selling a used car – with a few differences
As we have seen, in many ways, selling a car for scrap is much like selling any used car – with one or two differences. Once you’ve made the decision to scrap, you need to work out its value, find a reputable buyer and negotiate a deal.
As long as you understand the process, by following the steps in our guide, you should be able to squeeze a last few bucks out of your dead car before you finally say goodbye.