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Apr 26

How To Get Cash for a Car that’s Stopped Running

Reading Time: 4 mins

It’s a well-known fact that a car’s value depreciates rapidly the second it’s driven out of the dealership; even a used car that’s in good condition will only get a fraction of what it was worth when new. But what about the vehicles that aren’t even drivable? You may be surprised to learn how easy it is to get cash for cars, even the ones that haven’t started in years. All you have to do is know what your options are, and pick the buyer who’ll give you the best deal.  

Some buyers are pickier than others, so first you should figure out who would be interested in your vehicle. At the very least you should be able to get something from a scrapyard, but unless your car is in truly terrible shape, that isn’t the best place to start. The good news is, cars of any description (even the non-starting kind) are currently in high demand, so this is a great time to make some money from your junk car.  

Step one: determine whether or not your car is actually a junk car

If your car has been in a wreck and you’re trying to figure out what to do with it, consider this before finding a buyer: would it keep running with limited repairs? A bent chassis and a broken windshield might have technically totaled your vehicle, but if the damage to the chassis is minimal, it might still be perfectly safe to drive once you’ve replaced the windshield. On the other hand, a faulty transmission in an older vehicle could cost way more than the car is worth to replace. Make sure you find a reputable mechanic to discuss these questions with if you aren’t sure what to do with your junk car. Aside from that, here are a few more things to consider: 

  • Could the resale value be increased with strategic repairs? Even if it would be prohibitively expensive to get that car running again, it might actually sell for a good bit more with just a little TLC. Remember, even used cars are hard to find, so some people are looking for non-starting vehicles that they could fix up themselves.  
  • Could it have value as a passion project? Sometimes it isn’t about the money – it could be about the nostalgia, or maybe the bragging rights. If you’re looking to get rid of a junk car that also happens to be an old classic, a muscle car, or anything else that would appeal to potential collectors, start advertising online (such as on Facebook, Craigslist, or eBay) to find buyers. Even if the vehicle is barely recognizable, just a few usable parts could make it valuable to the right person.  
  • Have you confirmed with a mechanic what the problem is? A non-starting car isn’t always a junk car; in some cases, the problem could be relatively minor. If you didn’t check before selling it off, you might be getting rid of a vehicle that could run for several more years with just a couple hundred dollars’ worth of repairs.  


Why would anyone buy non-running cars anyway?

If you’re sure that selling your old car is the right decision, the next step is to determine who will give you the best offer. The value of a non-running car isn’t in its potential as a usable vehicle anymore; it’s all about the parts that are still working, which could be worth thousands of dollars. If the vehicle is too old or too badly damaged to be used for parts, it’ll still have some worth as scrap metal. Here are the main ways that people make money from selling used cars: 

  • Junkyards – If nobody else will take your vehicle, a junkyard probably will. They’re interested in the spare parts just like other types of buyers, but you’ll only be paid for the scrap metal value. This obviously works to the advantage of the junkyard in many cases, but it could end up being the best option for anyone with an extremely old or badly damaged vehicle. Before you commit to this option, however, make sure you’re factoring in towing costs or other related fees; they could take a decent chunk out of whatever you’re getting paid. Even so, it’s still probably a better choice than simply watching the car fall to pieces on your own property. 
  • Online buyers – This could potentially be fairly profitable, since individual buyers online aren’t worried about maintaining a certain profit margin. Online buyers could be collectors looking for a special kind of vehicle, or they might be trying to find a used car that could run after some repairs. You benefit because online buyers usually pay more than a junkyard or a dealership, and they benefit because they’re probably still paying way less than the cost of a used or new car – even after repairs.  
  • Used car dealerships – Not all junk cars are 40 years old with rusted-out holes in the floorboard; some of them can be relatively modern, and still valuable even if they’re inoperable. Used car dealerships buy this second type of car because they can either fix the vehicle up and sell it, or use it for parts when they buy other vehicles that need repairs. You may not get a huge amount of money from a dealership, though; they definitely aren’t known for their generosity when buying junk cars. 
  • People who want individual parts – This will be a lot more labor-intensive, but the most profitable option is to take apart the vehicle on your own and sell the spare parts individually. Since you’re bypassing the middle-man, the profits go directly to you. It isn’t a viable option for everyone, but it’s worth considering if you have the time and the skills.  


The takeaway

It isn’t hard at all to earn money from your junk car; the main thing is to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible. If you know what you’re getting into beforehand, you’ll have a much easier time turning your inoperable car into cash. 

Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence. 


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