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How to Get the Most Money Out of Your Wrecked Vehicle

Tips on selling a Junk Car

By Ben Silver - April 8, 2015

I wanted to post a blog that would be relevant to anyone looking for a quality purchaser of there wrecked car, junk vehicle, or just plain old rust bucket that they want to get rid of.  I hope to provide information on who to sell different types of wrecked vehicles to in order to maximize the amount of money you can make on your vehicle.
As the Owner/CEO of a reputable "Automotive Recycler" (Central Auto Parts in Denver, CO), I have acquired a knowledge base on this subject that I believe will be useful to the general public.  What we'll look at it first is different classifications of vehicles, and define these vehicles so you can understand what your "junk car" is. 
  • Older Model Vehicles - Let's call these vehicles 10 to 20 model years old. So, in 2015, these vehicles would be from 1995-2005.  These vehicles are generally less valuable than "Late Model Vehicles".  When sold, you are mostly capitalizing on the weight of the vehicle if it has been in a serious collision or has defective engine or transmission.
  •  Late Model Vehicles - We'll define these cars as 10 model years old and newer. So, in 2015 these are 2005 and newer model cars.  These vehicles can be very valuable, especially if they're even "Later Model", like 4-6 model years old.  If they have good drive train components (engine and transmission) this increases there value as well.
  • Niche Vehicle - These would include vehicles like older VW Vans or bugs, Vipers, Porsches or other high-end vehicles.
  • Junkers - These vehicle's are older than 1992 and have nothing unique about them to add value.
Now that we've helped you identify what type of salvage vehicle you are trying to sell, let's take a minute to look at your options for buyers.
  • Insurance Companies - If you have been in a collision, and your vehicle has been declared a total loss (or not?), you may be looking sell the vehicle instead of repairing it.  When this occurs, many times, the insurance company will offer you a settlement for the vehicle.  This has proven to be a great source of income for insurance companies because they will then sell the vehicle at a profit at one of the other sources we'll evaluate.
  • Salvage Vehicle Auctions – These buyers serve as an intermediary between the end users (auto recyclers and salvage yards) and insurance companies.  There are few restrictions on who can sell a vehicle at an auction, at least in Denver.  Some states have more restrictions on this process.  The pros are that you get a myriad of potential buyers (recyclers) bidding for your vehicle; this can bring more money than you might get from your insurance adjuster.  The cons are that you will have to arrange towing to the auction, do paperwork to sell your vehicle, and you will have to pay auction fees to sell your vehicle.  Also, “Junk Vehicle Auctions” are a “middleman” between you and the end user or party that will ultimately recycle and dispose of the junk car.  So, they’re going to make money that could end up in your pocket.
  • U-Pull-It Salvage Yards – These guys are end users, so there will be no middleman when the vehicle is sold to them.  They will dismantle, drain fluids, and sell parts off of the vehicle that you sell them.  The U-Pull-It model relies heavily on the weight of the vehicle.  They sell parts to consumers at a discounted rate, but the consumer must remove their own part.  The pros with this option is that you’re selling to an end user and if the metal market is very good you may get more money than you would at auction.  The cons are that these guys won’t give you the highest bid possible if you have a “late model” or high-end vehicle.  They simply can’t spend as much on vehicles that are more valuable because they don’t get nearly as much for the parts.
  • Full Service Salvage Yards – These guys are end users, which is a plus.  There will be nobody else in the supply chain when you sell them your junk car.  This generally leads to more cash for your car.  These recyclers sell many of there parts to body shops, dealerships, and garages for their repairs.  They dismantle the vehicle, drain the fluids, and sell the parts.  The difference from U-Pull-It’s is that these guys provide the service of removing, cleaning, and providing warranty for the parts they sell.  Also, they have more reliable inventory processes to find the specific part a consumer is looking for.  With high-end or “late model” vehicles this difference is critical because the “Full Service Recycler” places much more value on the vehicles parts, which leads to a higher bid for your vehicle. 
  • Tow Companies/Haulers – There are many “junk car buyers” out there and many of them are simply Towing Companies or Haulers.  These guys generally aren’t end users and won’t dismantle the vehicle.  They will most likely sell to a salvage yard or auction.  These guys have a limited understanding of the value of the vehicles and are likely to give you low bid in hopes that you say yes not knowing any better.
  • There are other options like national organizations that buy ad space, get your lead, and then sell to a salvage yard.  These companies never actually take possession of the vehicle and again are just a middleman.  You can identify these guys with a little research online.  You will get more money from a local source in Denver or the surrounding Denver Metro Area, because these companies take a % or fee of the bid for your vehicle.
So, we’ve defined many of the sources that are looking to purchase vehicles and we’ve helped to identify different types of vehicles that you may be selling.  Now let’s discuss how these two groups fit together.
If you’re selling a “Junker”, it is likely that the parts have little value and it won’t be worth it for a salvage yard.  Also, auctions charge fees, so if the vehicle isn’t worth much money, it might not be worth running it through an auto auction.  Honestly, for this type of vehicle, calling the Tow Company or Hauler may be your best bet.  They’ll pick the car up and get it to metals recycling facility.  You’re not going to get rich selling this type of wrecked vehicle, so ease of transaction is a good thing.  Call two or three of these guys for bids and you might make a bit more cash for your “Junker”.
If you have an “Older Model Vehicle”, and you’ve been in a collision or have a mechanical problem that isn’t worth fixing, a “U-Pull-It” Yard will make a good home for your car.  They’re an end user and understand how to professionally dismantle and dispose of your vehicle.  If you can’t find one that will give you a fair bid, then an auction is an all right 2nd option for this vehicle type.
“Niche Vehicles” are unique and selling them is a unique process as well.  There aren’t many “Niche” recyclers in Colorado, but they are out there.  They may not be local but finding a salvage yard that specializes in your particular “Niche” can equate to quite a bit more money for your vehicle, even if the transport cost lowers the recyclers bid.  For instance, there is a Porsche recycler in California that is hands down the authority on these types of vehicles. They have channels to market and sell these parts that most recyclers have not set up.  This makes the parts off that vehicle more valuable to them, which leads to an increased offering for your vehicle.  Do some online research for these sources before you look to a local recycler in Denver or even Colorado.
Selling a “Late Model Vehicle” gives you more options because they generally have more value.  You can sell them through an auction to entice bidders from around the world.  This is a good option, but you really won’t net more money when it’s all said and done.  The auction will make a fee of $250-$600, that you need to pay.  Also, they are selling to recyclers, many of who are local to your specific area.  The purchaser has to pay a fee on the back end to the auction as well, which is considered when recyclers calculate what they will pay for the car as well.  This type of vehicle can bring in the most money by selling to an end user.  “Full Service Salvage Yards” are your best bet if this is the type of vehicle you have.  These guys are happy to arrange and pay for the tow, they’ll pay the most because they are not reselling the vehicle, and they understand the value of the parts. 
I hope I was able to shed some light on your journey to sell a salvage vehicle.  I really want people to maximize the amount of cash they can get for their vehicle when put in this situation.  Many folks don’t understand what options exist and settle with the insurance company.  This is simply costing them money.  In most cases, the insurance company is a “middleman” to a “middleman”, as they then sell most of their wrecked cars or total loss vehicles to auctions.  The auctions in turn sell to recyclers.  As you can see, this is taking money out of consumer’s pockets and padding the profits of these other sources.  Remember what you learned in this blog and you will maximize your dollars on the sale.  Contact the best source for your specific wrecked vehicle and use the extra cash to buy yourself something cool…you earned it.