How To Sell A Car To A Junkyard

Dustin Hawley | Mar 09, 2021

From throwing a rod that’s not worth fixing to a replacement catalytic converter that costs half of your car’s current Blue Book value, there are many reasons you may need to sell your car to a junkyard.

how to sell a car to a junkyard

Regardless of your car’s journey to get to this point, selling your vehicle to a junkyard can be a stressful experience if you are not adequately informed, especially for first-time sellers.

Here’s a guide to help walk you through the process of how to sell your car to a junkyard.

Make Sure You Have A Copy Of The Title

To sell a car to any buyer, including a junkyard, you’ll first need the title of the vehicle. If you have lost or misplaced your title, you can obtain a replacement by contacting your state’s DMV or BMV to have it issued to you by mail. The exact protocol may vary considerably from state to state, but you can expect to provide identification and pay a small fee to process this request.

If your car carries a lien, it cannot be sold to a junkyard or anyone other than a state-licensed dealership. Chances are, if yours is a junk car, no dealership will be interested. With that in mind, you have a few options.

First, if your car has been damaged in an accident, it may be written off as a total loss — or “totaled” — on your auto insurance. In this case, your insurance company should cover the cost of the vehicle. In some cases, however, you may still owe a small amount of money. But for drivers who have taken out gap insurance, it should cover any remaining balance.

The good news is that a clean title is all you need for a junkyard sale. Since the vehicle is no longer registered for road use, it will not require a safety inspection, emissions inspection, or any other state-mandated procedure for sales to private buyers. A clean title that indicates you are the vehicle’s legal owner should be all the documentation you need to make a sale.

Call Several Junkyards

If you are looking to sell your car to a junkyard, don’t limit your search to one or two locations. Look for junkyards online or in local phone directories, and if you’re searching online, pay attention to reviews on Google and other search platforms. One or two bad reviews are inevitable for any business. But if their bad reviews outnumber the good, this is cause for concern.

Create a list of five or six locations and get in contact with them. Let them know you want to sell your vehicle, and give them all the relevant information. Junkyards will typically want to know the make, model, and year of your car and what type of damage it has incurred. Based on the answers to these questions, they will then make you an offer if they are interested.

Regardless of which junkyard you choose to do business with, you should never pay to have your car towed. Any reputable company will come to your location to secure the vehicle. If a junkyard insists on charging you for a tow — or deducting it from your payment — it’s best to find someone else to do business with.

Compare Your Offers

Try and wait until you have several offers before deciding on where you want to sell your car. See which offer is best, and once you have decided on one, call the junkyard and tell them you’re ready to complete the sale. Once both parties agree, the junkyard will schedule a time for pickup.

One thing to keep in mind is that if the car is still driveable, they’ll expect you to deliver it. It’s a reasonable request and common practice, so do not be deterred by this in the way you would if they requested you to tow the vehicle (as mentioned above). Junkyards will typically only tow your car if it’s no longer safe or legal to drive.

Prepare The Car For Pickup

In preparation for pickup, make sure to remove any personal belongings from the car. This is not the same situation as a private or dealership sale where the new owner will find and (hopefully) return anything they find. Anything left inside will be gone forever.

Take particular care to remove GPS units and backup cameras. In all the headache of selling your car, it can be easy to forget.

Complete The Sale

When your vehicle arrives at the junkyard, it will typically need to be inspected. If the junkyard is the party towing it, they will generally inspect the car on-site before making the tow.

As long as there are no last-minute issues, the junkyard will hand over the cash, and you and the mechanic will both sign the title. The seller will then turn the title over to the junkyard.

Though the vehicle is now officially changing hands, you’ll need to retain your license plates. These are yours to keep and do not transfer ownership with the car. In most states, they can be re-registered to a new vehicle. If they’re not going to be re-registered, the plates will need to be returned to your state’s motor vehicle agency.

Follow Up With Your State DMV Or BMV

Depending on where you live, you may be required to report the sale of your vehicle to the state. In many states, there is a deadline to do this, so you will need to research the specific criteria of your state’s guidelines to ensure you are in adherence. You should try and get this process completed within a day or two, just to be safe.

Reporting a sale doesn’t just help you meet a legal requirement; it also protects you from liability. If the car is salvaged and resold, you won’t be held liable for any accidents or damage caused by the vehicle.

Consider A Private Sale

In many instances, junkyard sales are quick and painless transactions. But they come at a price.

A severe downside to selling your car to a junkyard is that you receive minimal payment for your vehicle. In most cases, you’re only getting the value of the raw materials, which in many cases only amounts to a few hundred dollars.

Though the process is a bit more involved, private sales can often be more fruitful. Depending on your state, this may require you to transfer the registration and handle inspections and other compliance costs. But if you can potentially find a willing buyer, it may very well be worth the investment.

Junk car buyers are usually gearheads and auto enthusiasts who are looking for specific parts from specific cars. Their expertise and refined taste often result in very specific needs. Expect them to have a lot of questions, some of which may seem unrelated. For example, don’t be surprised if you are selling a car with a burnt-out transmission, but all the buyer wants to know is whether the motor and A/C compressor still work. Again, these buyers have particular needs that may exceed the practical approach to car buying, so don’t be caught off guard by these inquiries.

For the same reason, bear in mind that it can take some time to find a buyer. Depending on the make, model, and year, there may not be much of a parts market for your car, making it a tough sell on the private market. You’ll need to be patient and wait for the right buyer to come along if you hope to maximize the payout you receive for your car.

Summary

Car owners interested in selling their vehicles are advised to explore various options before deciding to sell their car to a junkyard. Truth be told, selling your car this way should be considered a last resort.

Doing business with a junkyard is inarguably the least rewarding and least profitable way to sell a car and should be reserved for a vehicle with little to no hope. For sellers who are merely looking to get rid of an old beater or offload a car that no longer runs and is just taking up space, selling it to a junkyard may be a viable option.

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