How to Sell Your Car for Parts

Jack R. Nerad | Oct 26, 2020

We never know precisely when it will happen, but eventually, every vehicle will come to the end of the road. And when that happens, you need to decide if you're going to sell your car for parts, donate the car, or park it in the woods and let it molder for decades to come.

how to sell your car for parts

The end of the road might come suddenly. An accident could turn what was seconds before a sound, highly capable vehicle into a pile of scrap. Your insurance company will determine whether the car is worth fixing or not. If the repairs cost more than the vehicle is worth, the insurance company will almost certainly label the car a total loss. You'll get paid by your insurance company, and your car will wind up in a junkyard somewhere.

Or the end of the road might come slowly, little by little. A series of breakdowns and failures will make it seem like the car is "nickel-and-diming you to death." Except in this day and age, there isn't a car repair on Earth that costs just a nickel or a dime. A car that is having recurring problems is often sending you a message that the end is near. Selling your car for parts might the best way to bring its existence to an end, so let's discuss what that looks like. 

Two Choices for Disposing of a Dead Car

If you decide your car has come to the end of the road, you can make one of two choices. Even if it is not currently in running condition, you can sell the car. Or you can decide that you will keep the vehicle and sell it piece by piece, peddling its parts one by one. Either of those choices is a rational one. Which is the better choice depends on you, your skillset, and your circumstances.

We can say this without equivocation — the quick-and-easy solution is to sell the car. You can sell it to an individual, a mom-and-pop car dealer, a salvage yard, or you can even donate it to a charitable cause. In each of these cases, the car will quickly disappear, and you will get some kind of compensation. In most instances, the payment will be cash, but it will be a potential deduction from your income taxes in the case of the donation. All of these sell-it scenarios are a "one and done" situation. The car goes away; you get something for it.

If you decide to make a deal, know your vehicle's approximate value in its current condition. Look up the used vehicle value and then deduct the estimated cost of the repairs required to make it salable. With that information in hand, you can shop the car around a bit to dealers and salvage yards, and very often, they will give you a bona fide offer right on the spot. They'll probably tow it away for free as well.

How to Sell Your Car For Parts

The other choice you can make is selling the car's individual parts. You have probably heard the phrase that something is "worth more than the sum of its parts." In the case of an automobile, the opposite might be true. The sum of the value of your car's parts might well be more than the total you'd get for it if you sold it as is. However, the potential difficulty is the amount of time and effort involved in "harvesting" used car parts from an older vehicle and selling them individually.

The first step is to see what the vehicle has in terms of individual parts of value. This is the assessment phase, and if you lack mechanical skills, you should perform this task with the help of a seasoned mechanic. The mechanic can help determine which parts are fit for sale, assess their condition, and even be able to "price" some of the more important parts and systems.

After you've taken inventory of the salvageable parts in your car and noted their condition, the next step is to determine the value of each component. Unfortunately, there is no single source for this information, so it will typically involve spending a great deal of time on eBay, Craigslist, and perhaps on the websites of some local or national-chain salvage yards. 

As you do this, keep a detailed list of the values and the source of each value because to sell the items individually, you will have to price them. When doing that, you are well-advised to be conservative because you have to give potential buyers a reason to purchase a part from you, an unknown individual, rather than an established retailer or salvage yard.

With a sound knowledge of each part's worth, the next step is to remove the part from the vehicle, clean it, and photograph it for use in your sales efforts. If you plan to sell the parts on eBay, Craigslist, or other e-commerce websites, you will need photos that depict the part well and a good description of the part in addition to the price. 

You also need to figure in the cost of shipping, fees due to the e-commerce website, and payment method. If, for example, you use a service like PayPal to collect funds from the buyers of the parts, it will typically charge a percentage of the transaction for handling the money. Of course, you will have to do this for every part you plan to sell.

After posting each of the parts to the sites on which you are marketing them — eBay, Craigslist, local sites, car club forums — you then have to wait for orders to come in. You must be ready to communicate with potential buyers because many will want to get a better idea of the part's condition before they buy it. 

Once they have purchased the item, you need to figure out a way to get the part to them. That is relatively easy with some small parts like interior trim, but with other parts — seats, steering wheels, engines — getting that done is a tough and challenging task.

The Bottom Line

Given the effort involved in selling a car for parts, we believe the typical consumer will be much better off selling their vehicle to a salvage yard or junkyard or even donating it to a charity than attempting to sell its individual parts. 

If, on the other hand, you are skilled at auto mechanics and/or you'd like to start a new hobby that might make you some money rather than costing it, selling parts from your dying car might be a worthwhile endeavor for you.

We have two hints if you do decide to sell your car for parts. First, if you intend to "part-out" your vehicle, let your auto insurance provider know what you are doing. Additionally, check with the laws in your state and local area about salvaging parts from cars, and make sure you understand any legal exposure you might face by selling parts to private buyers.

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