How to Junk a Car for $500 Cash

There was a time, way back in the medieval days of 2011, when selling a car for $500 or more would not have been a notable occurrence. The price of metals (steel, aluminum, copper) might not have been off-the-charts, but they were high enough to warrant a tidy sum if you were trading in a clunker .

But times have changed since then, and everything from the global economy to local shifts in supply and demand has pushed the prices down. It’s left people turning in their cars for half what they would normally get. The good news is that it’s not entirely possible to get this much out of your trade today. We’ll look at which cars get the most cash.

Cars in 2020 and Beyond

2020 hasn’t been a banner year in terms of global prices, but it’s not as bad as the mid-2010s when things really took a turn. In 2016, prices hit an all-time low from where they were in 2011. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic had a lot to do with where prices landed and we saw some notable fluctuations from one month to the next. For example, the price of aluminum was $1,456 per ton in May of 2020. By November of 2020, it hit $1,931.

How much you get for trading in a car depends on a variety of factors. If you’re located in a rural area, the time and effort it takes to get to you will cut into your trade-in value. If you have a car that’s mostly rusted through, it will cut down on the amount of usable metal.

For the most part, you’ll be able to trade in a car for $500 if you’re both located in a metropolitan area and have a newer car. The other factor is reliability. In a randomized study of cars, one that ignored cars being traded in from rural areas, it was found that Toyotas and Hondas had strong resale values even when they were junked.

So while it does depend on the year of the vehicle, you’ll find that Civics and Corollas are some pretty safe bets. Other notable options include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry or Prius, VW Jetta, BMW 328, and Nissan Altima . If you’re trading in an SUV, you’ll likely get the most out of a Nissan Murano, Honda CR-V, or Mazda CX-7. GMC Yukon and Jeep Grand Cherokee also made the cut.

Between 2002 – 2010, cars were the rage. Trucks and SUVs were still purchased, but they took a backseat back then. Now, the reverse is true, which means that when people junk vehicles in the future, we’re more likely to see SUVs and trucks on the list.

Considering that SUVs and trucks weigh more (and will give more in terms of scrap metal), we’re likely to see the average price of a scrapped car rise.

What Does This Mean for You?

Reusable parts, demand, appearance, condition: there are a lot of things that go into how much money you’re offered for your car. But the single most important factor  is how the metal market is performing. Since 2011, it’s been difficult to get more than $500 just because the  demand hasn’t quite been there.

Taking the Plunge

When you scrap your car, it’s a lot of common-sense calculations. If your car is running, the value will be higher than one that hasn’t even been started for 15 years. In the grand scheme of things, the averages presented here are meant to be used as a general baseline. In reality, each vehicle has its own unique story. If you’ve driven your car 200,000 miles in 5 years and it has major mechanical problems, you’ll see a different value compared to one that’s been well-maintained with low mileage.

A new Honda Civic is going to have a similar value to  the  next new Honda Civic. It’s only when that Civic is sold that we start to see the variations . A 2010 Corolla might net you $1,228.79 in 2020 or it might get you closer to $500 depending on the condition. Getting a quote from a junk car service can be a big step in figuring out where you want to go from there.