How to Get Rid of Your Old Car

car in bin

When your vehicle is no longer roadworthy, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth any money. No matter how old or run down you vehicle might be, there’s still a chance to get money for it. There are a lot of different ways to get rid of a car, and you have to determine what option is best for you. Your financial situation and the condition of your car are probably the most important variables.

If you’re running out of cash and you want to get rid of your car, you might be looking at a quicker and easier option to get rid of it. Conversely, if the car is in good condition and you have the time to sell it, you could be looking at a bigger payout. In any case, follow the methods below for great ideas about how to get rid of your car no matter what condition it’s in.

You can still recoup some money even if your vehicle is:

  • Broken down
  • Old and dilapidated
  • If the repairs to fix it are worth more than the vehicle
  • Rusted out

There are a few things to consider when you are getting rid of a junk car.

  • Are you willing to put in some time and effort to get more money from the car?
  • Are you willing to donate the car to a charity for a small yet rewarding tax receipt?
  • Do you have the space to store the car or its components until they sell?
  • Do you just want it gone as quickly as possible?

Knowing your time and space limitations will give you a good idea of which method to explore to get rid of your junk car.

Method 1 of 4: Sell the car yourself, or trade it in

Before you try to sell or trade your car, follow these steps to maximize your chance of getting the price you want. Know that selling it yourself, rather than trading it in or selling it to a used car dealer, will most likely get you the best price.

KBB value
Image: Kelley Blue Book

Step 1: Check the value of your car online. Check the Kelley Blue Book website, and other websites, like craigslist.com, to see what price your car is selling or trading for. Make sure you match the model and condition of your vehicle to that of others as best you can. From here, you can determine a fair price to negotiate from.

  • Tip: Whether you’re selling it privately or looking to trade, people will want to negotiate with you. When deciding what price you think is fair, think about raising your asking price another 10% so you have room to negotiate and a better chance of arriving at your desired selling price.

Step 2: Get all your paperwork in order. You’ve got to have all the required paperwork to sell your car for legal reasons as well as for the satisfaction of the buyer. I

It would be a shame to arrange a sale and then have to postpone it or have it cancelled because of missing paperwork. Because this information varies from state-to-state, check with the DMV in your state to determine what documents you’re required to have when selling your vehicle.

  • Tip: As a general guideline, be prepared with the title, bill of sale, maintenance records, a release of liability, warranty information (if it applies), and as-is documentation (if it applies, or included with bill of sale).

person cleaning car

Step 3: Clean your car. Wash and wax the car to give potential buyers a great first impression.

Thoroughly clean the windows and vacuum the inside, and be sure to get rid of any car smells.

  • Tip: If you have a free weekend, sprinkle baking soda into the car and leave it for a day before vacuuming it up again.

Step 4: Do basic maintenance. You can really improve the chances of selling it by having basic maintenance done.

Change the oil, the transmission fluid, and top off all the other fluids like the washer fluid and radiator fluid. If you are not comfortable changing fluids yourself, contact a professional mechanic to help you.

If it needs an alignment or tire rotation, or if you need to adjust the tire pressure, have that done, too.

  • Tip: Have your vehicle inspected from the perspective of the buyer. A qualified mechanic can locate some small, inexpensive fixes you can do yourself. When it comes time to advertise your car, you can use these upgrades as selling points.

Step 5: Advertise your vehicle. Advertise your car locally, and in as many places as possible, such as online classifieds like Craigslist, Cars.com, or Edmunds, and be sure to include pictures.

car for sale with sign on window

Use newspaper classifieds, or post a for sale sign in the window of the car. Highlight the best qualities of the car in your advertisement, like “new tires,” or “low miles.” Use catch phrases like “OBO” (or best offer), or “must sell.” If you’re the original owner, people like to know that.

Make sure you advertisement is clear, honest, and straightforward. People who are buying privately are probably doing so because they don’t want to deal with sales tactics, so don’t turn them off with persuasion.

  • Warning: If you’re advertising online, it’s always safest to deal locally. Do not respond to people asking you to ship the car anywhere. Likewise, do not respond to people offering to pay via a wire transfer or personal check. If you receive responses by email, pay attention to the spelling and grammar to help determine authenticity. People who offer you the asking price before coming to see the car are probably scammers.

Step 6: Be safe. If someone offers you a phone number in an email, call them. If the conversation is normal, arrange a time and place to meet. Do not give out your address. It’s much safer to meet in a public place.

Step 7: Get the best offer: If you’ve decided to trade your car in, you’ll want to locate different used car dealerships in your area and call them to try to get the best deal.

Depending on the condition of the car, rather than driving it around and showing it to different dealers, try to get a ballpark estimate over the phone first. If the price seems right, schedule a time to go in and show the dealer. Remember to always be honest about the condition of the vehicle over the phone. You won’t be fooling anyone when it comes time to show it.

Method 2 of 4: Donate the junk car to a charity

There are a number of charities that operate programs to which you can donate your vehicle. Some of them employ underprivileged people to repair them and return them to service on the road. Others dismantle them for parts or simply send them to the recycler for cash.

Charities that operate programs where you can donate your junk car are worthy causes you may consider. You will receive a tax receipt for the fair market value of the vehicle you donate to them which you can use on your income tax preparation as a contribution. The charity benefits from your generosity and you receive a small benefit later on.

Step 1: Choose a charity. Pick the charity to which you want to donate your car. Search for different charities in your area that are certified 501(c)(3) organizations, otherwise you might not get your tax write-off.

screenshot of wheels for wishes site
Image: Wheels for Wishes

Narrow your choice to a single charity to which you wish to contribute.

Step 2: Determine value of the vehicle. Just like you did in Method 1, determine the value of your car by getting a base value and then subtracting repair costs.

  • Tip: Do not try to get more than it’s worth - you’ll thank yourself later when you avoid lengthy auditing processes.

Step 3: Determine the amount of the write off. The total deduction you can legally take from your taxes cannot exceed half of your gross income (the money you make before you pay taxes). The greater value of your car determines the amount of paperwork you need to do.

  • Tip: State laws vary regarding car donations. Your charity should have that information on hand to help streamline the donation process.

Step 4: Call the charity. Call the charity’s hotline for their junk car program and make sure they’ll accept your car donation.

vehicle donation form

You will need to complete a form to gift the vehicle to the charity along with a title transfer. These processes vary by state.

car title details

Sign and date your title in the spaces designated for the registered owner.

Step 5: Complete Form 8283: If your car is worth more than $500, complete Section A Form 8283 and attach it to your next tax return.

If your car is worth more than $5,000 and independent appraisal is needed. You must also complete Section B of Form 8283.

  • Tip: Remember, you can find out the value of your car from the Kelley Blue Book.

Step 6: Have your car picked up. The charity will arrange for a tow truck to come pick up your car once the transfer paperwork is complete.

The charity will issue you a donation receipt for the current market value of your vehicle.

  • Note: Include the donation receipt when you prepare your income taxes.

Method 3 of 4: Dismantle your junk car for parts

There is a massive market for used parts in North America. Popular models are always in high demand for:

  • Electronic components like radios, window motors, and power door lock actuators
  • Metal body panels
  • Powertrain components such as engines and transmissions
  • Tires and rims
  • Windshields and side windows

If you are handy with mechanic’s tools, you can disassemble your car and sell it for parts.

Step 1: Remove the powertrain. Remove all powertrain components from your car.

Items like the engine and transmission are most desirable if they are intact and in working condition. Consider recording them while they’re still set up and working on video before removing them from the car.

Leave the rest of the vehicle intact so you can close it up and lock it for security.

Store any removed parts indoors to prevent corrosion or theft.

screenshot of ebay automotive section
Image: Ebay Motors

Step 2: Advertise the vehicle for sale for parts. List the car as a parts car on local online sites like the auto parts section of Craigslist or eBay.

Keep track of the components that have been removed and sold so you can accurately respond to buyers.

Make a price list of the major parts you wish to sell.

  • Tip: If purchasers inquire about the engine or transmission, they likely want the part in short order. If the part is still in the car and will take a few days before you can remove it for the buyer, you are likely to lose the sale.

Step 3: Respond quickly. Don’t let a lot of time go by before you respond to inquiries about your ads. Buyers interested in parts move quickly.

  • Note: Selling your junk car piece by piece can add up. Selling an engine or transmission as well as a few dozen additional parts can recoup you a lot more than if you sell it as a whole to a junkyard.

Step 4: Sell off the remaining metal. Once you’ve sold as many parts as you wish, you can still sell the remaining components to a metal recycler. You can expect to get some cash for the rest of your car as scrap metal.

  • Tip: Search for car scrap recyclers such as 1-800-Got-Scrap in your local area.

Method 4 of 4: Sell to a junk removal service

You can get rid of your junk car quickly and easily for a small amount of cash if you need it gone right away. Contact a junk removal service and they will come tow away your derelict vehicle for cash.

screenshot of junk a car site
Image: Junk a Car

Step 1: Locate a junk car removal service. Check your local phone book or online listings. If you’re searching online, type in “junk car” and your city name. Several listings will pop up that you can select from. Some national junk car removal chains include:

Step 2: Call a few junk removers. Call three to five of the services and ask about their going rate for your vehicle.

Select the service that fits your needs. If you need it gone today, pick the service that can pick it up fastest. It may not be the one that pays the most however.

Step 3: Have your title ready. If you have the title for your car, give it to the person that comes to pick up your junk car.

  • Note: In most cases, it’s not an issue if you don’t have the title. The car will be dismantled for parts or crushed and sold for scrap metal.

car being towed away

The junk removal service will send a tow truck to remove the car so it doesn’t need to be running or drivable.

Step 4: Get payed in cash. The junk removal service will pay you in cash. Don’t expect too much for your old, junk car.

The fee will be much smaller than if you part out the car on your own but you will have cash in hand right away, and you won’t have to spend the required time dismantling your old car. Donating your car and selling it to a junk removal company will bring in less money than selling it for parts but time, expertise, and motivation are all factors that you will have to consider before deciding how to dispose of your junk car.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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