Car Junk
Buying and Selling Cars

Is My Car Junk? How to Decide

Thinking of junking your car? You’re not alone: every year, 27 million cars around the world end up getting junked and recycled.

The real question is, how do you know your car is junk? Totaling a car would be a big hint, but many junk vehicles are still in working condition. Some car owners aren’t even aware that their ride qualifies as junk!

Well, we’re here to set the record straight. Here are five telltale signs that you have a junk vehicle that belongs on a scrap heap.

Your Car Is Too Old for Comfort

In the United States, 25% of all cars are at least 16 years old. Despite that, the average age of vehicles in circulation is 11.9 years.

What does this tell us? For starters, too many cars on the road have already reached the end of their useful service life. If your car belongs in this group, you’re better off selling it before it deteriorates further.

The deterioration factor is particularly important for cars you no longer use. The more time a car spends in your garage, the more likely it is to fail when you need it. At that point, it only takes up precious space.

Even if you still drive your car, consider its safety rating. Most compact vehicles from the 80s and 90s fall well below modern safety standards. The lack of side airbags alone makes them dangerous to drive.

Finally, you may just want a new vehicle. That’s perfectly understandable, even if there’s nothing wrong with your current car at the moment. Junking a decent vehicle will get you a better cash offer as well.

Your Ride Is Legally Junk

Still not sure whether your car counts as a junk car? Good news: the 49 US Code § 30501 gives the legal definition of a junk vehicle.

According to this code, a junk car is an inoperable automobile. That means it’s no longer capable of running on roads and highways. A junk car also carries “no value” except as a source of parts or scrap.

A totaled vehicle, for example, is the perfect example of a junk car. A totaled car will require repairs that exceed its actual value. Some states also set specific thresholds to define totaled automobiles.

A car with a dead engine doesn’t automatically become junk. That said, unless you fix it to a safe working condition, the law may consider it junk. If they do, they’ll deem it unsafe and prevent you from using it.

If you want to be sure, check the NHTSA for a list of laws on motor vehicle safety. If you don’t meet all these regulations, consider junking or selling your vehicle.

Repair Costs Are Adding Up

Have you been seeing your repair mechanic a lot lately? If so, it may be time to start thinking about cutting your losses.

As a general rule, older cars cost more to repair than newer models. Studies show that a five-year-old car will cost you $205 to maintain in a year. A ten-year-old car, by comparison, will set you back a whopping $430.

Now, you can do some vehicle repairs on your own. For instance, fixing a flat tire is something most car owners can do in their sleep. Unless you’re a licensed mechanic, though, some issues will go over your head.

The age of the car plays a key part here as well. Newer cars tend to be more complex, especially their computers. Fixing them often requires extensive knowledge and specialized equipment.

Does your car have several parts that need replacing? Here’s what you can do: have a professional inspect it and give you a quote. Then, figure out which tasks you can DIY and calculate your final bill.

Are the costs of repairs too high even after taking out the DIY tasks? It may be time to consider contacting a junk company.

Your Vehicle Got Hit by a Flood

In most cases, six inches of water can make you lose control over a car. Two feet of floodwater is enough to float it, even if it weighs 3,000 pounds.

These should be good enough reasons to avoid driving in bad weather. Flood damage can wreak havoc on your car’s interiors and electronics. If it gets submerged, it may suffer enough damage to qualify as a total loss.

If your car does end up flooded, there’s a silver lining: selling for cash is still an option. Of course, you’ll need to inform the buyer about the damage. You’ll also need to get a flood or salvage title for the sale to be legal.

Getting one of these titles can be a time-consuming process. If you don’t have the patience for it, some salvage yards will buy the car as-is. The law allows for it, as they’re the ones to repair or restore the vehicle.

Of course, the same applies to other car titles as well. If you google “sell my car“, you’ll find that many junkyards will buy cars without titles.

You Keep Postponing Repairs

Restoring or repairing an old car can be a fun short-term project. If you delay it for too long, though, the car may become a hazard.

First, there’s the issue of rust. The more your car sits unused in the garage, the more it will corrode away. If it starts breaking down the undercarriage or other key parts of your car, your best bet will be to junk it.

Deteriorated vehicles can leach out petroleum hydrocarbons. These chemicals come from motor oil, gas, diesel, and petroleum. Exposure to these chemicals may lead to all kinds of adverse health effects.

An unused car can also leach sulfuric acids or heavy metals. The former is highly corrosive and can cause diseases or injuries. Heavy metals are infamous for contaminating soil—or water if mixed with storm runoff.

If you notice these hazards, the car is likely beyond repairs. Your best bet is to sell it to the nearest junkyard as soon as possible.

Sell Your Junk Vehicle to the Right Buyer

As you can see, there are plenty of situations where junking a vehicle is the right move. That said, make sure your junkyard of choice gives you a fair offer. For best results, get several quotes and opt for the best one.

Want to know more about what qualifies as a junk vehicle? Keep reading our DIY Auto Repair section!