How to Sell Your Car if it Doesn’t Run

“​Trade-In Value”​ – What a car dealership claims your car is worth when they are buying it, which seems to usually be around $50.

OK, so maybe I made the definition up and exaggerated a little bit, but you know what I mean.

We all know that a car dealership isn’t going to give you the most bang for your buck when you’re selling your car.​ In fact, it’s probably the worst place to sell your car.

And what if the car your selling doesn’t actually run? They probably won’t even talk to you.

Is it considered junk? Would you be lucky enough for someone to haul it off without having to pay them?

Actually, you can still make some money, even if your car doesn’t run. Here’s how…

1. Sell Your Car “As-Is”

selling a car that doesn't run

Yes, you can run an add on CraigsList or a local Facebook swap shop page, but be completely honest about the condition of the car.

Want some motivation? Here’s my CraigsList success story…

I owned a 2003 Ford Focus. I bought it new (don’t judge me, it was a long time ago).

But I owned it for over 10 years. Which means that I put thousands of dollars into it in repairs…because it’s a Ford Focus.

Eventually, I came to a point where I knew it didn’t make sense to pour anymore money into it.

What was wrong with? Let me just name a few things…

  • The driver-side window didn’t roll down
  • The air conditioner compressor was broken
  • The engine “threw a rod” (which is really expensive to fix)

sell your car that doesn't runThe car wouldn’t start on its own and when we were finally able to get it going, it sounded like someone was being murdered under the hood.

Sounds like a pile of junk right? Well almost, but not completely.

I took really great care of the car, so it still looked brand new on the surface.

Everyone who saw it told me that it looked too good to “part it out”. (We’ll talk about that in a moment)

It would have been worth about $1,500 in good condition…obviously it wasn’t even close to good condition. Ya know, since it didn’t run.

I ran an ad for $700 firm. I didn’t need the money right away so I was willing to wait for my price.

In less than a week I sold it for $700.

No A/C. No driver window. Broken engine. $700. No bad, right?

If you go this route, do some research and talk to your mechanical-savvy friends to get an idea of what price to put on your car, but I highly suggest trying this way first. Especially if you don’t absolutely need the money right now.

Now, onto “parting it out”…

2. Parting Out Your Car

part out your car
“Parting out” your vehicle is a great way to make money if there is a serious mechanical condition and you know how to use a screwdriver.

There is someone in the world who needs a specific piece off your car for their car. And buying those “dealer specific” parts new can be outrageous.

So you have the option to sell each piece of your car. eBay is a great place for this, which, by the way, is a great place to find specific used piece for your car when you need them.

What kinds of pieces can the average mechanically-illiterate individual pull off and sell?

Here are some ideas…

  • The mirrors
  • The steering wheel
  • The Instrument cluster
  • The cd player/radio
  • The center console
  • The wheels/tires
  • The caps to engine fluids
  • The Headlights/Tail Llights

Just think of all the little things that are extremely expensive to buy from a dealership. Especially the vehicle-specific parts. That can usually generate quite a bit of money.

Every car is different, but those are some things that are often easy to remove.

Be sure to mention any flaw with the pieces you’re selling, but that’s the case with anything you sell online.

If you’re a little more adventurous, you can move onto things like the alternator, fluid containers, automatic window motors, heat/air cluster and anything else you can think of that would be expensive to buy new. Many people go to eBay or other websites to find used parts when the new parts are dealer-specific and crazy expensive.

After you have sold what you can, move onto to #3 or #4…but know that some junkyards and scrapyards won’t take a “stripped” car, so you’ll want to find that out before you start dissecting your car like a science project.

3. Sell Your Car to a Junkyard

sell your car to a junkyard
Most junkyards will come haul off your old vehicles and actually pay you a couple hundred dollars. Many used car dealerships will do this as well.

I suggest parting out as much as you can first. (Always check to make sure they will still take a car without many of the parts you sell)

Usually, they just pull up, put it on the tow truck and give you some cash, but some are more picky than others.

This is also an option if you don’t want to fool with trying to sell it on your own or part it out. Just call a junkyard and have it gone.

sell your carImportant: Many places will offer you more money if the original catalytic converter is still on the car. The problem is that they are the ones who check for it and I have had them tell me that it wasn’t the original when I knew it was. Have a mechanic or a mechanically inclined friend check for you first. If you tell them you know it’s the original, you are more likely to get the money for it, especially if you sound like you know what you’re talking about. If they assume you have no idea, they will usually tell you it’s not the original and give you the lower amount.

4. Scrap Your Car

sell your car to a scrapyard
​A scrapyard is your last option once your car is officially a goner.

At this point, you’re selling your car for the resources by weight.

It usually works out great for heavier vehicles, especially older trucks.

Make sure you part out as much as you can since the scrapyard will not care what’s left in the car.

All they will do is weigh it and pay you by the weight.

The only problem with this method is that most scrapyards won’t have your car towed for you (at least, none that I’ve seen). You are responsible for that.​

Now we are back to doing the math and subtracting the cost of the tow truck from the amount they will give you. This is why it usually makes more sense to call a service that tows it for you.

5. Sell Your Car Online

sell your car online
A few websites are popping up now that will buy your “junk” car.

Of course, you will have to make sure it is offered in your location and not all of these sites pay for the towing.

Here are a couple to get you started:

​Final Words

​Be realistic about what you can get for your car, but don’t settle for less than it’s worth.

Like most auto sales, it’s best to keep this a “private-party” affair, meaning to deal with individuals rather than dealerships and businesses.

You will definitely get more money from an individual who is looking for what you have, as opposed to a business who buys anytime someone calls.

Also, think about the regulations and laws in your state. Many states now require a certification (ex: smog certifications), so you have to check your state’s laws first.

You can usually transfer the status of your car to a “non-op” and you won’t have to worry about it. While we’re talking about non-op, don’t forget to change your insurance to reflect your vehicle not being used.

Now go forth and sell your pile of junk broken down car!

Check out my latest article: 20 Foundational Finance Principles You Can Live By

Photo Credit: Zombieite / JJ the Jester / Badjonni / Teena Collins / Webhamster / Marc Ben Fatma

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