Junk Title and Salvage Title: What's the Difference?

It’s likely that you’ve encountered many salvage title cars in your hunt for something cheap, but have you ever heard of something with a junk title? They aren’t as common, but you need to know what you are looking at so you don’t get ripped off by a potential seller.

Difference Between a Junk Title vs. Salvage Title

With a salvage title, the insurance company deemed the car unsafe to drive and recommended that it be taken off the road. With that said, they also left the door open to repair the vehicle and have it inspected for a new title and registration. If that happens, a Prior Salvage Title or Rebuilt Title is issued.

That’s not the case with a junk car. In fact, the DMV states that:

“A junk vehicle is not safe to operate on U.S. roads and highways. It should never be titled or registered. The vehicle should only be sold as parts or scraps.”

In other words, this vehicle doesn’t have any value except for what can be recouped through the sale of parts or scrap. It’s supposed to be crushed or sent to the junkyard, not to be sold for road use.

So what’s the difference? Why do some cars receive a salvage title while others get written off as junk?

Junk cars sustained damage that isn’t repairable. It might have received extensive damage to the frame or been involved in a flood. After the loss, the insurance company decided there was no possible way for it to be rebuilt.

What Do You Do With a Junk Title?

There’s really only one option once you have a junk titled car: send it to the scrap yard.

While we can’t give you the specific requirements and steps to do this, because they vary by state, we do have a general course of action for you to follow.

Dismantle the Car

Your first option is to dismantle the vehicle yourself and sell off the parts. If you are mechanically inclined, you’ll probably make more money this way, but it’s going to take up a good chunk of your time.

Some junkyards give you more money if you give them the pieces rather than the entire car. This is something you’ll want to work out with them in advance. Make sure you also figure out what you’ll do with the non-metal components such as the tires.

Either way, you probably don’t want to be stuck with parts of the car when it’s all said and done.

Sell the Whole Car to the Junkyard

If you plan to sell your junk car to a scrap yard, there are a few things you might need. First, they will probably want to see your registration and title - but you don’t always need the title in your name to junk a car. They will also have questions, such as:

  • Is the vehicle operable?

  • What parts are damaged?

  • What is the KBB value?

Before you give up any car to the junkyard, make sure you check with the DMV about your responsibilities. Some states require specific documents from anyone selling their junk car.

You might be required to fill out some paperwork like the Damage Disclosure Statement on the back of your title. They might also require you to relinquish your license plate. Call your local DMV to learn more.

Get a Certificate of Destruction

We’ve touched on this briefly before, but it’s worth repeating. When you sell your car to a salvage yard, make sure you get a Certificate of Destruction.

This releases you from all responsibility with the car and proves that it:

  • Is no longer on the road

  • Is no longer registered

  • Has been destroyed according to the law

Any reputable company is going to offer this to you. It’s the final stage of proving your ownership to the vehicle. You don’t want to find out later that something happened illegally with your car and it is still registered to you.

Cover all bases!

Tips for Selling Your Junk Car

Before you turn your car over to that junkyard, make sure you heed a couple of tips to make the transaction smooth.

1. Remove Your Belongings

Your car is not a trash dumpster; don’t expect the junkyard to dispose of everything for you. Even if you think that the items inside your vehicle aren’t necessary, you’ll want to go through them and make sure you aren’t missing anything.

Otherwise, a week from now you might be looking for that valuable earring you lost and realize it was probably in the car.

Check all the nooks and crannies, because your car probably accumulated many things while you’ve had it. Make sure you also check the CD or DVD player before turning it over.

2. Sell Some Parts First

Before you get a price on your car, you might want to consider taking a few items off. For example, if you have an expensive pair of rims or a high-end stereo system inside, the junkyard isn’t going to offer you more for it. Put it up for sale and make a little extra money.

3. Shop for the Best Price

Just like anything in life, a little extra effort might mean more money in your pocket. If you live in an area with multiple junkyards, don’t be afraid to shop for the best price.

The junker closest to you might not pay you as much as the one across town. Make a few phone calls and see how much you can really get.

4. Have Everything Prepared

When the tow truck driver shows up, he doesn’t want to stand around waiting for you to get everything in order. Have all your paperwork ready and make sure you’ve removed the license plate. This enables a quick and smooth transaction for both of you.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a junk title can be annoying and frustrating. Knowing there’s nothing much you can do other than scrap the car causes many people to feel overwhelmed. At Title Gods, we strive to take the confusion out of all your car title questions.


Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

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