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Make money from your dead car – secrets of the scrap yard

When your car is no longer roadworthy, you could sell it to a scrap yard or you could strip it and sell the parts yourself to make more money

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We do get attached to our vehicles, which makes it hard when something happens and your beloved family car is no longer roadworthy. You might think about repairing it, but chances are the vehicle is old, the process would be costly and it’s probably time to think about putting it to rest and finding something new. You might consider selling it, but the number of people who want to buy a dead, old car probably isn’t a particularly large figure.  So one popular option is the automotive scrap yard.

Often, the most profitable way to get money back from your old car is to scrap it; you could sell the whole thing to a scrap yard, but you probably won’t get as much money as you actually could by stripping and scrapping it yourself, despite the fact it would be a little easier and less time consuming.

If you do chose to scrap your own car, you need to know what to sell and where to sell the various components. You’ll also need some tools and a little understanding of automotive vehicles if you want to do so without damaging any of the saleable parts or hurting yourself.

Step one: Cause of death

Whatever it was that killed your car, you’re going to need to understand how and why. This will most likely involve having a mechanic take a good look at the vehicle, but if it has already been declared dead and unrepairable then there is a good chance you have already done this.

If the cause of death is damage to a particular component then you will be unable to sell that particular component (you can’t sell broken goods obviously), but the chances are that this won’t be too much of a big deal; there are plenty of other parts that can be sold, and this is exactly what a scrap yard does.

Step two: Sell the power

The same as unplugging a TV before you try to fix it you need to remove the power source of the vehicle. The battery is usually fairly easy to locate and remove, and even easier to sell.

You can easily remove and sell a working car battery
You can easily remove and sell a working car battery

This is the one exception to the cause of death rule, even a dead battery can be sold and car dealers are often more than happy to buy a dead battery from you so that they can recycle it. However if it isn’t dead you can always sell it on eBay, as a dead battery is a common problem and there will be no shortage of car owners trawling the internet to find a replacement battery for their own car.

The fuel in your tank is also a source of power, and is potentially messy and dangerous if you leave it in the vehicle. If you were unfortunate enough to watch your vehicle die with a full tank of petrol or diesel, you’re probably lamenting over a lot of wasted cash – after all, fuel is not cheap.

You will need to drain your tank anyway, but it can be difficult to sell the fuel depending on your situation. Maybe you can make use of it yourself in another of your own vehicles, or you could sell it to a friend or neighbour if you do not own another vehicle (or your other vehicles require a different fuel type). While you probably won’t make back the money you spent on fuel in the first place, you could probably manage to make back something.

Step three: Remove the basic parts

Once you’re free of power and fuel you can start stripping the vehicle down and selling off the parts. This is where a scrap yard really makes its money.

The tyres are easy enough to sell, and so long as they aren’t overly worn down you can probably get a comfortable amount of money for them, particularly if you have an unusual type or size tyre which is difficult to find. Again, eBay is a good place to sell these. If your tyres are particularly worn down you may be able to get a little bit of money selling them to a tyre dealership to be recycled. Some craft shops will may also buy them from you as they will recycle them to produce products. For example, I have a wallet made from recycled car tyre, so have a look around and find someone fairly close to you who is willing to offer a good price.

The radio or stereo system is another easy sale, and it should be very easy to remove. Your sound system is one of the most used and most frequently broken items in your car. It is also one of the most commonly stolen, and there is a reason for that. Generally a decent sound system for a car will sell pretty quickly online, which makes it an easy enough sale.

Your old car stereo could be worth decent money
Your old car stereo could be worth decent money

Additional parts may depend on how easy they are to remove, but items like the seats, seat covers, gearstick, steering wheel and even windshield wipers can all be fairly easy to sell online.

If you’re not sure how much the items are worth, have a look for similar items and do a little research. An auction is always a good option if you’re aiming for a higher price, but the ‘buy it now’ option gives you a more guaranteed sale. There are also classified sites like Gumtree and there may well be Facebook owners’ groups for your type of car.

Step four: Strip it all

Once you’ve sold everything that can be easily sold and removed, strip the car down fully. Be careful to take good care of any undamaged doors and panels; a car door or boot can often sell quite well as these are frequently bumped, banged and scratched and many people look to replace them rather than repair them. This will work particularly well if your vehicle was kept in good condition and has not suffered from rust.

The wiring that links all of the components of your vehicle are often copper; copper wiring is in high demand in a number of industries and tends to sell rather quickly. Strip out as much as possible without damaging the wiring and sell it either to a scrap metal dealer who might offer you a good price, or online. All the metal in your car is valuable; a scrap yard is the easiest way to get rid of the metal carcass of your old vehicle and will usually offer the best price, however you can also try selling it online.

A working engine tends to sell relatively easily but can be costly to ship, so take this into consideration when selling it. Have a look at local automotive classified papers and websites; someone might have already displayed a wanted ad asking for your engine type, in which case they are more likely to come and collect it. This will save you problems with shipping and take a lot of the hassle out of the process of selling. Online sales are also often listed as ‘collection only’, so potential buyers won’t necessarily be put off. Anyway, they would have to drive to a scrap yard to buy it there, so they may as well drive to you instead.

Old car engines in a scrap yard
Old car engines in a scrap yard

Notes from the scrap yard

When selling things online, take the time to take good pictures. Potential buyers will want to see the items clearly so that they know what they’re buying, and are more likely to pay more if they are satisfied that the component is in good condition.

Do a little research or consult a mechanic when advertising the parts you sell online. You need to be sure that what you’re selling is what you say it is or you could have some trouble with a grumpy buyer and false advertising claims.

Measure and weigh the items you’re selling online and take the time to consider the shipping carefully. There is a chance you could be asked to ship internationally, which is a bit more of a hassle. Knowing the weight and size of the item you’re going to have to ship will help you to deal with the cost of shipping more effectively.

You should also read: Selling your car privately? What you need to know about taking cash from a stranger.

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