Vehicle Recycling Information
There comes a time for many car owners when your car is no longer good enough, but may also have little to no resale value. What to do then? Our Happy Planet is here to share some great options people can look into who are researching vehicle recycling programs, including car recycling, ways you can get cash for cars (including junk cars), and how you can determine the best car recycling program for your vehicle.
What do you do with old cars?
When it comes time to part with your old car, there are numerous options. And that’s a good thing, because newer cars are better both for the environment and your wallet, as they getter better mileage and have fewer emissions.
Check out the following three options, each of which we’ll examine in more detail:
- Car Recycling. Recycling your car with a car recycling program is a great way to limit waste. In fact, if everyone recycled their cars instead of trashing them, it could keep as much as a half-million tons of waste out of the landfill each year.
- Car Donation. Another green option can be donating your car to a nonprofit charity. These charities either use your vehicles themselves or help pass them to others—either via donation or discounted sale—who need them. Many of these donations are also tax-deductible.
- Car Scrapping. Or if not scrapping, selling the parts from your old car—either option can get you both cash and keep your old car out of the landfill. Auto shops will sometimes buy parts, but better options are often junkyards and scrap metal yards.
How do you recycle a car?
Car recycling is often the most environmentally-friendly option available to you if you have an old junker you need to get off your hands. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to recycle your car.
Auto recycling is big business, too. Check out these 10 car recycling statistics.
Top 10 Car Recycling Statistics
- Nearly 12 million vehicles are retired each year.
- 95% of these vehicles are recycled.
- And nearly every part of the vehicle can be recycled—often 90% or more!
- The auto recycling industry is one of the largest in the country—the 16th largest.
- To give you a sense of how big that is, auto recycling contributes $25 billion to the national gross domestic product (GDP) each year.
- For instance, 220 million tires are retired each year.
- Of those, nearly 80% get recycled—often as pavement base, or as a running track or playground surface.
- Auto glass gets recycled as tile floors, glass beads, countertops, jewelry, and more.
- Auto batteries get recycled to make new batteries.
- And the metal parts of each car—steel and iron such as used in the frame, for instance, are also recycled and upcycled into other products as well.
All of that sounds great. But how does car recycling actually work? In general, there are a few steps involved:
- Research the car recycling programs available to you. We’ll offer some tips in a later section on how to find the best car recycling program for you, but another good source may be your trusted auto mechanic. If you have a shop you trust, it doesn’t hurt to ask them who they recommend. While you can sell your car part-by-part, for most car owners this isn’t worth the hassle.
- Research charity options. Depending on the condition and value of your car, this may or may not be an option, but it doesn’t hurt to see which nonprofit charities in your area may be able to take your donated car and help use it either for their own nonprofit uses or for someone in need of a vehicle. Additionally, this can be a great tax write-off—just be sure to ask plenty of questions and keep all documentation for later tax purposes.
- Consider the services each car recycling program might offer. Each of the following points is worth consideration: availability of quotes; pickup versus dropoff; cash versus check when it comes to payoffs; business hours; paperwork assistance, such as transferring the title and registration; assistance with any eligible tax deductions.
- Check environmental records. Some car recycling businesses have a better track record than others. Fortunately, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) gives a Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) certification to businesses that upheld certain environmental standards. You should check to see if your car recycling program of choice has this certification or any other similar certifications.
- Prepare your car for recycling. This takes a few steps generally, including clearing your stuff out of your car. It’s easy to leave things in the glove box or under a seat or tucked in a corner of the truck, so be thorough in ensuring you aren’t leaving anything in the vehicle before you recycle it. Similarly, some car recycling centers may want you to siphon out any gas left in the tank.
- Cancel your car insurance. Once you hand over your vehicle, there’s no sense in paying insurance on a vehicle that is no longer your responsibility. Often you can work with a recycling agent to schedule cancellation in advance, too, once you know when you will be handing over the title and registration.
- Take your license plates. Different states will have different regulations, but you may be able to use them on a different vehicle or simply keep them as a keepsake.
- Transfer your title and registration. Sometimes you will also need the license plates as part of this process. Good car recycling programs should be able to guide you through the necessary steps of this part of the process.
- Arrange a pickup or dropoff time. Take photos for your records, too, just in case anything goes wrong or you need later additional documentation for tax purposes.
- Request proof of destruction or other similar documentation. This might also be necessary for later tax purposes.
Another thing to consider? The timeliness of your actions. If you no longer use a vehicle, there’s no point in continuing to pay insurance on it. Similarly, some cities may have fines for unusable vehicles, even if stored on your private property. There may also be occasional special programs that can help you get more money for car recycling, too, such as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS; also known as Cash for Clunkers) which helped Americans get cash for recycling nearly three-quarters of a million cars.
How are discarded automobiles typically recycled?
As for how it works at the car recycling facility itself, that’s also a several-step process:
- The car recycling program inspects your vehicle to determine if it may be more valuable to repair (and sell as a whole vehicle), break down (and sell for parts) or simply recycle. If recycling is the most cost-effective option, the facility starts by preparing the vehicle for dismantling.
- Draining fluids and dismantling is the next step. Gas, oil, antifreeze, brake fluid and other fluids are removed and disposed of or filtered and reused. After fluids have been drained, big pieces (such as the engine block and transmission) are removed, as are any other usable pieces. Likewise, the tires are pulled off and the battery removed.
- Pieces or parts that can be recovered for resale or reuse are either stored for use in repairing other or sold to auto shops or auto part re-manufacturers.
- Finally, after all of the recyclable car parts minus the metal frame are sorted out and either sold or stored, the metal body itself is crushed and shredded into a flat metal chunk roughly the size of a small microwave, which can then be sold to metal recycling facilities.
What vehicles are most commonly recycled, though? The answer to that depends on where you look, but in general, car recycling trends seem to correspond to the most popular vehicles of the previous decade or earlier. As a result, we can guess at the 10 most popular cars recycled by looking at the ten most popular vehicles of all time.
Auto Recycling Statistics
10 most popular cars recycled
- Toyota Corrola—with 43 million vehicles sold since 1966
- Ford F-Series—with more than 40 million vehicles sold since the Ford F-150 was first built (then known as the Ford Bonus Built) in 1948
- Volkswagen Golf—also known as the Rabbit, more than 30 milllion have been sold since 1974
- Volkswagen Beetle—first built to Hitler’s design in 1938, 24 million Beetles have since been sold, often as a counterculture symbol
- Lada Riva—also known as the Lada Nova or AutoVAZ VAZ-2101, the Soviet-designed Fiat 124 inspired vehicle has sold more than 20 million since 1980
- Honda Civic—18 million Civics have sold since 1972
- Ford Escort—Originally sold in Europe starting in 1968, 18 million Escorts have sold since
- Honda Accord—Roughly 18 million Accords have sold since 1976
- Ford Model T—Despite not having been produced in more than 80 years, the 16.5 million Model Ts that sold starting in 1908 make it one of the most popular vehicles of all time
- Volkswagon Passat—also known as the Dasher or Quantum, 16 million Passats have sold since 1973
What parts of a car can be recycled for money?
A surprising number of them, actually. Let’s look at some of the best ways to maximize the cash you get from your vehicle:
- GPS devices. If your vehicle has a built-in GPS system or even if you’ve added one since purchasing your vehicle, this can be a great way to get cash for cars.
- Fenders. Because fenders and bumpers are often connected, they can be expensive to replace—meaning used fenders have a great secondary market.
- Doors. In addition to whole doors, individual components also have a great secondary market and a door can be broken down into those individual components to maximize resale value.
- Catalytic Converters. In particular, the precious metals contained in catalytic converters help drive their resale value.
- Bumpers. Similar to fenders, the fact that bumpers and fenders are often connected means there can be a great secondary market, as they can otherwise be expensive to replace after an accident. Additionally, though, the fact that bumpers are a combination of layered parts including plastics, fiberglass composites, aluminum, and steel, helps drive their value.
- Batteries. Recycling your car battery is more about protecting the environment than making much cash, but you can drive the value of your battery higher by refurbishing it with Epsom salt and distilled water in a relatively simple process.
- Air Conditioning Components. In particular, air conditioning compressors can get good returns on the secondary market.
- Airbags. In particular, installing airbags is expensive, and as a result, some people will opt to buy an unused air bag off the secondary market as a way of saving money.
- Wheels, Tires, and Rims. Each piece can have distinct value depending on wear and how readily available otherwise the piece may be.
- Tailgates. This is especially true of custom or specialized tailgates.
Of course, another important question is whether or not you have the time to try and find buyers or to research fair prices. Most people are right to value their time, which is why finding a car recycling program that will give you cash for cars upfront is often a better option, especially if they offer free towing, quick pick-up times, and are willing to pay you on the spot for your junk car.
How much of a car is recyclable?
While this varies from model to model, many estimates are 90% or more, especially once the liquids have been drained. As a result, cars and trucks in North American generally are 20% post-consumer recycled, at least by weight. Given that 95% of all vehicles retired each year in the United States are processed for recycling, automobile recycling has the highest recycling rate in the country. Nearly 12 million cars are recycled each year—roughly 26 cars each minute.
This adds up quickly—with 25 million tons of materials recycled from old vehicles each year. Metal is the most recycled part of the vehicle, but again, as much as 90% of each vehicle may be recycled.
How much do you get for scrapping a car?
Most people think they can’t get much money back for their junk car, but cash for cars can vary pretty widely depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle, as well as your location and condition of the vehicle. Kelley Blue Book says that junk vehicles can count on a value of 20-40 percent of their normal used value, but even that is really only a rough estimate.
A big part of the range of value is really the condition of your vehicle, as well as how the scrapyard will use your vehicle. If your car can be fixed up and resold with minimal work, that might mean the scrapyard is willing to pay a bit more. If your car is complete junk, however, they might only be interested in your vehicle for scrap metal.
In the case of complete junk, cash for cars tends to be pretty low. The main reason for this is that the price of scrap steel has plummeted in the last few years, so while the amount of work that goes into scrapping a car remains the same, the value of that car has not.
So while the various parts of a car can be resold and recycled provided they’re still in good shape, for instance, the biggest value of junk cars is often the frame and related infrastructure. For instance, the average car or truck contains between 2,400 and 3,000 pounds of steel, which accounts for 50-60 percent of the vehicle’s weight. An additional 300 pounds of aluminum (on average) is also part of your car’s scrap vehicle.
But if the price of those scrap metals drop, as they have precipitously in recent years, there’s less money to be made at scrap yards for the work of scrapping your car. Scrap metal is usually sold by the ton—so per 2,000 pounds.
Chinese steel production and other factors have contributed to the dropping price of scrap steel, as has lower demand for steel. As a result, from a high of $480 per ton of car scrap steel in February 2015, the current rate for car scrap steel is hovering around $60. That means that the scrap value of your car—which might have once been $500-1000 a few years ago, may now be only $50-100.
In particular, because there is less demand for steel and steel prices are low, semi-finished steel (known as billet) is sometimes used instead of scrap because the price is comparable. That means there isn’t much of a market for scrap steel right now, and that hurts scrapping prices.
So the short answer? If you’re looking to scrap your car, keep your expectations low and then you might be pleasantly surprised. Keep in mind that any money you get for your scrap car is money you didn’t have before—and helps get your junk car off your hands. Any cash for cars is better than no cash for cars, after all.
What happens to a scrapped car?
As we noted above, scrap metal prices right now are pretty low, so the demand for scrapped cars is similarly low. Many scrap yards are simply stockpiling the cars they have, waiting for prices to go back up; others have gone out of business or stopped accepting scrap cars.
Those cars that are accepted, however, are broken down. Parts that can be sold are, and the metals are separated out before being crushed into sheets that are then sold in bulk.
Car recycling places near me
Numerous car recycling programs and junk car programs can help you find the locations near you that might be a good fit, including sites like Junk My Car, SA Recycling, Junk Car Medics, and Cash Auto Salvage.
How can I get the most money for my junk car?
The best way to ensure you get maximum value for your car in a cash for cars or car recycling program is to do your research. Call each car recycling program or scrapyard in your area to get a quote, and ask relevant questions. Making a list ahead of time may help. Consider questions such as whether or not they charge for towing, if they ever change their prices after giving a quote (many places do, which, depending on the exchange occurs, can leave a sour taste in your mouth), and how they handle paperwork, for instance.
If you do your research, however, you’re more able to negotiate for a better price for your vehicle.
Car Recycling for cash near me
If the cash part of cash for cars or car recycling is what appeals to you, sites like Cash Auto Salvage can help you find a location near you.
Car Recycling Resources: