No Title Needed: How, Where, and Why to Scrap a Car

You have probably seen those ads offering to buy any car for $100 regardless of the condition. These are usually scrappers, specialists who make a living off taking junk cars and scrap metal to the junkyard and selling it by the pound. It doesn't matter how much rust there is, how many parts are missing, or the condition of the car’s title, a scrapper will get paid just the same.

Whether you are a professional scrapper or someone who's simply tired of looking at a junk car in their yard, the number one questions are, “How do I junk a car? and “Do you need a title to junk a car?”

While it’s always preferable to have a title to scrap a car, you don’t always need one. Keep reading to learn more.

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Scrapping a Car: How, Where, and When to Do It

Do You Need a Title to Junk a Car?

While you don’t technically need a title, you need to prove ownership of the car you want to scrap. If you can’t provide a title, registration, or other legal paperwork, a reputable junkyard will not agree to junk your car. Since a bill of sale can be forged, such a document usually won’t suffice to prove ownership of a car you want to scrap. Proof of insurance coverage won’t cut it, either.

Why? The scrap yard is required to notify the state when they destroy a vehicle. They must report the source of the vehicle and, often, any information on the person who brought it to them. A scrap yard can't simply find a car on the side of the road and decide to make a couple bucks by scrapping it. That’s why when you see a TV character threaten to sell someone’s car to the scrap yard, it’s an idle threat that doesn’t hold water.

With that said, there are junkyards all over the country that will look the other way if you can’t prove you own the vehicle you're trying to scrap. Those places are more illegal than a piñata full of cocaine at a child’s birthday party, and you could be in serious trouble if the state ever finds out you sold a junk car to one of these illegal recyclers.

How to Scrap a Vehicle

Before starting the process, it's a good idea to get your paperwork in order. If you have a car title, ensure it is filled out in full. If you're buying a junk car and your end goal is to scrap it, it is not necessary to fill out the title or get it transferred to your name – only the seller’s signature is required.

Unlike buying or selling a car, in most cases the title doesn't have to be filled out to scrap a car. While some junkyards may require you to have the title in your name, most only require that it be open. As long as the current owner has signed off on the title, you don’t need to pay the fees to transfer it into your name if you’re just going to turn around and scrap the car. This is one of the few times an open car title is acceptable; it’s usually the source of major problems.

The junkyard will want to see the seller’s signature and other information filled out on the title, but as far as they're concerned it can remain open – that is, not assigned to a specific buyer.

The scrap yard will then pay you for the vehicle based on its weight… but first you have to get it there.

How to Get Your Car to the Junkyard

If the car you’re trying to scrap doesn’t run, it makes no sense to spend money on getting it to the junk yard. Those scrappers we talked about earlier – the ones who offer to scrap any vehicle – they often have their own flat bed or wrecker for this very purpose. You might not have that luxury, so your choices are more limited. What can you do?

You can:

  • Call a tow truck

  • Call a friend with a truck and trailer

  • Call a scrapping specialist

Scrappers make such a killing because most people don't have the resources to take their junk car to a junkyard. Unfortunately, only one of those options will put any cash in your hand. The others might even lose you money in the long run, and that’s because it doesn’t pay as much as you might think.

How Much Does Scrapping a Car Pay?

Not much. A scrap yard will buy your junk car for the value of its weight in metal, but scrapping a car today isn’t as profitable as it once was.

Scrap metal values were much higher 20 years ago, around the time when the internet was coming into its own. People were scrapping all sorts of rare, obscure, and downright crappy cars that had broken down throughout the years. That’s one reason why you rarely see old Audis, Volkswagens, and BMWs in the United States: most of them broke down, were difficult to repair, and were eventually sold for scrap when metal prices were high.

These days, scrap values hover right around $200 per ton. With the average late-model passenger vehicle weighing less than 2 tons, you shouldn't expect to make a large profit unless the car you’re scrapping is exceptionally heavy. The specific rate varies by state and sometimes by county, so check your local scrap values before making any plans to junk your car.

Why Would I Scrap a Car?

If a car is so damaged that it’s nearly useless to anyone, scrapping it may be your best option. A car that has burned, drowned, or crushed in its lifetime will still be worth its weight in scrap metal.

Scrapping is a healthy alternative to letting nature reclaim a car. It's also a nice alternative to staring at a rusty car in your backyard for the next 20 years, watching raccoons and possums making homes in it, and watching trees grow through the hood. If you have a car that’s destined to never be roadworthy again, and its parts aren't worth anything to a collector or enthusiast, perhaps it's worth scrapping it.

Is There Another Option?

Yes! Red-blooded car enthusiasts dislike the notion of scrapping a car unless doing so is the only option. These days almost every old car has a following of enthusiasts. Try to sell the car before scrapping it. Who knows, someone might buy it for more than its scrap value – and chances are they’ll haul it away themselves.

There's bound to be someone looking for parts off the car that you have, and if you're willing to put in the time you could stand to make extra money on top of scrap value if you try to part it out. Don’t want to bother taking parts off? Post a “pick your own parts” ad on Craigslist, kick back, and relax.

If you have any questions about car titles, junk cars, or scrapping cars, feel free to give us a call.