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Best Options for Trading Junk Cars for Cash

A car can be a valuable asset – until it isn’t, of course. Some cars simply get too old to keep running without expensive repairs, while others get totaled after a traffic accident.

If you have an old, wrecked, or otherwise non-functioning vehicle on your hands, you may have already considered your options for selling it. There are several choices available, but some are definitely better than others. 

Getting cash for cars isn’t hard, even if they won’t start; the tricky thing is to get the most cash possible.x For example, just about any car can be sold for scrap, but you won’t get nearly as much as if you sold it to someone online who was looking for a fixer-upper.

Factors like the condition of the vehicle, who pays for towing or transport expenses, and the make and model of the car will all impact how much you get paid for it. The question is, which options will get you the most money, and which ones won’t? Keep reading to find out!

First of All, Establish that Your Vehicle is Really a Lost Cause.

Some vehicles may just need some time at the mechanic shop, while others aren’t worth the expense of repairs. If you aren’t sure which category your car falls into, here are a few questions to ask:

  • Does your car still run? Just because a car won’t start doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road. The problem could actually be pretty minor, so at the very least you should have a mechanic confirm what the issue is, and how much it would cost to resolve. 
  • Is the car worth what potential repairs would cost? This applies to a 1985 pickup truck, and to a 2023 sports car that was crashed 10 minutes after leaving the dealership. Older vehicles that need costly repairs or newer cars that have been totaled (especially those without insurance) may not be worth fixing, especially if the repairs won’t add much to the overall value of the vehicle.
  • Would repairs add to the vehicle’s resale value? It’s likely that used cars will continue to sell at very high prices through the end of 2023, so you might actually be able to make some money by fixing your car and then selling it. Even if it isn’t in perfect condition, there are plenty of buyers out there who just want something with four wheels and a functioning engine – even if they have to fix it first. You’d still be selling your car, but you might be able to make more money by selling it as a usable car compared to selling it for parts. 
  • Would anyone want to buy it as a project car? If your car is the kind of vehicle that enthusiasts would willingly spend money on restoring, that might be a better strategy than asking around at local junkyards. Even if the only usable parts of the car are the chassis and the steering wheel, you might still be able to find someone who’d pay a decent price for it. 

Who Buys Non-Running Cars?

If your car definitely isn’t worth fixing, it’s time to find someone who’ll take it off your hands for the best possible price. Depending on what condition the vehicle is in, you might get the best deal from a used car dealership, an online buyer, or someone who wants it for the scrap metal. Here’s a list of the most common options, plus some additional information that’ll help you decide which one is right for you.

  • Sell the usable parts yourself. Time is money, and if you have the time to take your car apart and sell whatever is still usable, you’ll probably make a lot more money than you would by just selling the vehicle. You’ll also be responsible for finding buyers, arranging for transport and other logistics, and hauling off whatever parts of the car aren’t usable. It’s a lot more work, but this option lets you cut out the middle-man and keep all the profits yourself.
  • Take the car to the junkyard. This is where people take cars that nobody else wants. Junkyards do strip the cars for spare parts, but any potentially valuable parts won’t benefit you that much, since you’ll get paid by the ton for the scrap metal. You’ll also be charged towing and processing fees, which will cut into whatever they’re paying you. This is one of the least profitable ways to sell an inoperable car, but it’s still better than letting the vehicle rust to pieces on your property – and they’ll buy cars in pretty much any condition.
  • See what a car dealership will give you. Just like the junkyards, car dealerships are more concerned about their bottom line than making sure you get a good deal. They don’t tend to make generous offers for non-running vehicles, and you’ll also have to deal with strict requirements and inspections before they’ll agree to take it. Unless you have a vehicle with a high resale value (or you just want to get rid of the car quickly), this isn’t one of the top choices.
  • Look for buyers online. This option is preferred by those who have vehicles that could run for a few more years with the right repairs. People who are looking for a car to fix themselves would probably pay more than a dealership or a junkyard, while still paying considerably less than the cost of a second-hand car. Get the word out through Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace.
  • Donate the car. If the main goal is to get rid of an inoperable vehicle, donation is one way to get the job done while benefiting someone else at the same time. Even though you won’t make any money from it, you can still get a tax exemption.

The Takeaway

You can get cash from just about any non-running car, but with a little research and planning, you’ll be able to maximize the profits from your vehicle no matter what condition it’s in.

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