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When an owner gives up on a car, what happens to it?

Say a hybrid’s battery is shot, and it’s gonna cost $4000 to fix it. The owner’s not gonna pay that much so calls up the junkyard and has it towed a way, right? But what usually happens after that? Does the junkyard sell it to a diy’er who fixes it up for their own drive? Or does the junkyard fix it up and sell it? Or does the junkyard take it apart and sell the parts w/value individually?

Usually my experience has been that the scrapyard keeps the car and sells off the parts.

If they got the space and inventory control system to keep the parts sorted, so they can find them when somebody wants a part, I can see how that’s probably the best way to make money for the recycler.

It depends on how much room the junkyard has and the price of scrap. If scrap prices are low, the junkyard keeps as many cars as they can, waiting for the price of scrap to go up, if they run short of room they may crush and store them by stacking. When the price of scrap is up, most cars are crushed and sent for recycling. Othe most desirable are kept for parts.

Junkyards live by the price of metal, the parts sales are just the gravy. At least that is the way it is around here, we junk cars with good engines and transmissions because of rust.

Did you mean “only the most desirable are kept for parts”? Does that mean that most cars taken to the junkyard are crushed before any parts are removed?

The better yards strip then crush. The sketchy ones leave them sit until enough parts are removed and steel prices go up

Around here, if the price of scrap is good, yes, but parts may be removed by the junkyard. In the rear drive days they kept stocks of rear axle shafts and driveshafts for popular cars. alternators, carbs, fuel pumps starters and brake shoes went in seperate barrels all to go to rebuilders. In the last 25 years, I have not had much to do with junkyards because I have been buying newer cars.

I’ve got some experience here :grin:. Salvage yards part out the cars and sell parts. Scrap yards generally do not. We buy a lot of cars from salvage yards after they’ve stripped them of the parts they want to keep and sell. Ultimately, all scrapped cars wind up going through a shredder eventually.

If it comes in to where I work, we drain the fluids and freon, remove the catalytic converter (it’s sold separately from the car at a greater value), remove the battery (sell it separately), remove the aluminum wheels (sold separately), then it’s flattened and sent to a larger yard (same parent company) with a shredder. It’s then fed into the shredder. The shredder breaks the car up into pieces about the size of a baseball. Magnets send the steel out one conveyor. The shredded steel scrap is then trucked to a steel mill and melted down to make a new steel product. “Fluff” (cloth, foam, non metallics) and nonferrous metals go over a second conveyor. Air currents seperate the nonferrous metals (alum, copper, brass) from the fluff. The nonferrous metals go down a picking line where guys manually pick the cu and brass out of the shredded aluminum. The shredded nonferrous metals are usually sold export.


My local pick-a-part salvage yard has about 20 acres of cars for used parts sales, they used to have 5 to 10 cars parked near the office for sale but I don’t know if they still sell cars. I would say used car sales is less than 1% of their business.

Do you see more cars in front of the salvage yard for sale than in the yards for parts? I have been to at least 25 salvage yards and I have never seen one with more than 10 cars for sale. Also they can’t sell the cars in the yard because they all have salvage titles.

Our local place strips the mechanical parts and warehouses them, then laves the bodies in the yard for future. Yes they have a lot of parts in storage, kind of nice to know they are protected. Had to get a new radiator fan assembly for daughters 02 saturn, took the old one in and there in a cubby hole were a few different styles, matched it up and out o there!

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Here’s how it works at the local pick a part

Cars come in

The junkyard cuts out the catalytic converter and removes the batteries

Then a forklift places the cars in the yard

They do NOT drain the fluids

They do NOT reclaim the refrigerant

Maybe they’re supposed to, but I know for a fact they don’t

Because every time a customer removes an engine oil pan or transmission oil pan, all of the fluid seeps into the concrete

Every time time a customer removes an ac component, all of the remaining refrigerant gets released into the atmosphere

The pick a part here also sells cars, but as you said, it’s a small part of their business

And all cars they sell have a salvage title, so that doesn’t make it particularly attractive, in my opinion.

I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to reclaim the refrigerant at least. Federal law, and all that. The fluids, assuming they spill onto concrete, that might be ok if the fluids drain to an oil water separator or something. I dunno.

All 3 scrap yards I’ve worked for were pretty big companies. Two were publicly traded. Had to follow all the environmental rules. We even suck the freon out of the scrap refrigerators. The smaller, family owned places can probably get by ignoring some of the environmental stuff.

None that I’ve worked at sold any parts. The current company wants everything destroyed and not reused. Liability concerns.

We can get the fluids out pretty quick. We put the car up on a rack, drill into the oil pan, trans pan, and fuel tank with a step bit on an air drill. There’s a funnel above the drill, hose attached to funnel. The fluids go through the hose to a tank, pulled by vacuum. You can imagine what most of the oil looks like! Not too fresh.

Just to be clear, once a car is scrapped, it cannot be re-titled again. The car is done for use on the road. Then depending on the yard, parted out for inventory of what will sell, and the rest for scrap metal. Of course the first thing is draining all the liquids.

You make one of the most important distinctions- the difference between a salvage operation and a scrap operation. At least once a week I see flattened cars headed to their final destination at the shredder. Many of the newer models are missing various components like doors, hoods or decklids. I assume those were salvaged by an earlier operation prior to flattening…In all my years visiting places to buy and sell cars and parts, those were essentially salvage operations. I’ve been to scrap yards to buy metal- pipes and sheet stock. Everything sold by the pound there. I felt like a flea in that operation, hoping they didn’t mistake my truck for a wreck and grab it with the magnet… :smile:


Around here we have a couple salvage yards that tear the vehicles apart and warehouse the parts. What is too junky to sell they sell the metal to metal yards by the pound. If the car is too far gone and not a desirable car the whole car will get crushed.

Vehicles that are desirable (like most hybrids) and in decent shape, many scrap yards put aside to sell.

Bing, that is not true of all states. Many allow salvage titles back on the road with an inspection after repair. I know for sure Ohio and Florida do.

There are a few avenues one might pursue when divesting yourself of a car that will cost YOU too much to fix. You could choose to sell it directly to someone that is capable of fixing it. For sale by side of the road, advertise in newspapers or on craigslist for example. The place that gave you the bad news might also want to buy it but this always gets my radar up as they have a conflict of interest. This is likely the best way to net the most amount of money but requires you to do the work and take some risk. Another option is to call a salvage place. They will haul it off and give you a fraction of the salvage value. Done and over with. Less money but also fewer hassles. You could donate it. You can part it out yourself and then scrap the remainder.

In your example, you mention a hybrid battery pack costing $4k. Those packs are comprised of multiple cells and those can be individually replaced by someone knowledgeable and skilled. So someone could spend a fraction of that $4k and have a working car again. Granted, more cells could start failing but like any older used car, it’s a gamble many are willing to take.

Let’s say you decide to call the salvage yard. They will haul it off after you sign away the title. At this point, they have simply bought a used car. They can sell it to an employee or a customer (another title change) or the business could fix and use the car. If they start parting it out, it’s still a used car until the chassis with the primary VIN goes to the scrapyard for recycling. At that point, it is scrapped and can’t be brought back…

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@Mustangman is correct. Each state has their own rules.

The following is similar to NH. You get a rebuilt title. But the vehicle has to be thoroughly inspected an deemed road-worthy by the DMV or an agent of the DMV.

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“In some cases, the car or truck gets sold to a repair facility and the vehicle is fixed or rebuilt. The new title that gets issued on the vehicle is called a salvage title .”

OK, semantics. I was not talking about selling the car to a “repair” facility or as a repairable, but rather to a junkyard or recycler. Big difference. You can’t have titles floating around for cars that all that is left is the frame, then use that to wash the title on a stolen car. Once a car is junked as in sold to a recycler, that’s the end of it.

Agreed. And I’m sure someone tried it.