Many car parts can be recycled, including batteries, tires, and scrap metal.
Your car recycling options include parting out the vehicle, selling it to a junkyard, or both.
You can sell your junk car to Peddle, but if your car still runs, you might be able to sell it on a site such as Carvana or Cars.com.
Your vehicle’s usable life will come to an end at some point, but most of its materials can live on through car recycling. Auto recycling companies separate vehicles into their constituent parts, sell usable components, and then prepare scrap material for manufacturing new items.
If you have mechanical experience, you can recycle or sell many components yourself. If not, sell your car to a junkyard and let it break down the vehicle for you. Before beginning the car recycling process, make sure to check whether you can sell your car online, even if it isn’t running. You’ll usually make the most money that way.
How Car Recycling Works
Today, few people just dump an old car off at the landfill. There are always a variety of parts to recycle on each vehicle. According to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), about 86% of a vehicle’s material is recyclable, and over 12 million vehicles are recycled each year in the U.S. So, who actually recycles cars? Junkyards, scrap yards, auto wrecking services, and car recycling centers are all part of the auto recycling industry.
First, the junkyard will remove all fluids from the vehicle and then take out the engine. Many of these fluids can be reused or recycled. Next, the car will be completely torn down as workers look for reusable parts. Once any reusable components have been separated, the remains of the car will be crushed and then shredded.
At this point, the junkyard separates usable metal from what can’t be recycled, which is called auto shredder residue. This residue accounts for up to 24% of the shredded car, according to Green Vehicle Disposal, and it ends up in a landfill. The rest is sorted into ferrous and nonferrous metals and gets sent to manufacturers for use in making new parts.
Along the way, car parts can be:
Many parts on your car can simply be reused in their current state. This is the simplest form of car recycling, since it doesn’t require any energy or time to transform components. For example, you can reuse body panels and glass panels that are in good shape.
If the transmission still has life left, someone could use it. The same goes for the tailpipe or even your fog lights. These parts are called recycled original equipment and they save energy and generally cost less for the consumer.
Remanufacturing involves returning a component to its original state by combining used, repaired, and new parts. Some components of a car can be given new life in this way. For example, a used alternator can be sent to a remanufacturer that strips the part down, examines each component, and replaces anything that is worn out. The end result is an alternator in like-new condition.
The remanufacturer can be the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) itself or a separate remanufacturing company that follows OEM guidelines. Remanufactured parts are sold by auto supply stores and repair shops across the country.
If a car part can’t be reused or remanufactured, it can often be recycled into something new. Steel, aluminum, and iron can all be shredded, separated, and resmelted in factories.
Plastics in the dashboard and interior can often be recycled and used to create new car parts. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which makes up between 12 and 17% of the plastics used in vehicles, can’t be recycled using typical techniques.
Where To Recycle Car Parts
If you want to recycle your car, you have a few options. You can either sell your car to a junkyard, sell certain parts yourself, or donate the vehicle.
Sell the Car to a Junkyard
Selling your car to a junkyard is not the same thing as dumping it in a landfill. Junkyards resell usable parts and then break down the car into materials that can be recycled. From used motor oil to the steel frame, junkyards recycle the vast majority of the car’s components. This is usually the simplest car recycling method for your whole vehicle. You’ll get between $100 and $500 for your scrap car depending on its size and condition.
Sell or Recycle Parts Yourself
Another option is to sell or recycle individual components yourself. This has the potential to get you the most value for your vehicle. However, you’ll need to have some mechanical experience and should spend time researching what you can get for different parts. Instead of parting out the whole vehicle, it may make more sense to sell a few things, like the entertainment system and catalytic converter, before sending the rest to a junkyard.
Donate Your Vehicle
You can also donate your vehicle whether or not it’s drivable. The receiving organization may use the car or part it out and sell it for scrap. If it’s sold for scrap, the junkyard will recycle the majority of its parts.
Car Parts That Can Be Recycled
Let’s take a look at a few automotive parts that can usually be recycled. Most end-of-life vehicles will still have these parts, making them a great way to get cash.
Car tires don’t biodegrade, but they can be recycled into different things. Old tires can be processed and used in rubber applications like school tracks and playground surfaces. Junkyards send large truck tires to retread facilities to give them a second life. Tires can also be burned for energy in what is known as thermal recycling.
If your tires have some life left, you can try selling them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or a specialty site like SellMyTires.com. You can also recycle tires at one of the following locations:
Retread facilities for truck tires
Tire recycling centers near you
Tire shops and some auto repair shops
Catalytic converters contain metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium, which make them useful even if they no longer work. This is also why catalytic converter theft is a major problem. Manufacturers can use the materials in a catalytic converter to make new electrical components or even jewelry.
You can sell catalytic converters on sites like Craigslist. It helps if your car model has a dedicated fan base and a forum to share your post with. You might be able to sell your car’s catalytic converter to a local dealer as well.
Car batteries are full of hazardous waste products and acids that must be disposed of properly. Luckily, companies and state organizations provide easy car recycling services for batteries. You can bring your battery to an auto parts store like AutoZone or O’Reilly Auto Parts for about $5 to $10 per battery. Your state may also have regulations for battery recycling, so check for further details on getting rid of hazardous materials.
Once a glass pane has been sent in for auto shredding, it can’t be recycled. So, the goal is to recycle whole panes of glass that remain in good condition before that happens. Selling windows or a windshield can fetch you some cash, especially if you have an antique car. Try the following:
Visit local body shops
Take the glass to a junkyard
Post on Craigslist or an auto enthusiast site
Oil and Filters
You can give used engine oil and filters to stores like AutoZone or O’Reilly Auto Parts for them to recycle. You won’t make any money, but you’ll keep the oil from getting into the environment. When you go in for an oil change at a shop, the company will automatically collect and recycle your used oil and filters as a sustainability measure.
Alternators and Starters
You may be able to sell your car’s alternator and starter to a junkyard or even a mechanic on Craigslist for a few dollars. They can often be remanufactured into like-new parts by a factory.
You can often sell aftermarket wheels fairly easily if you live in an area with enough prospective buyers. Just be aware that some junkyards may offer less for your car if it can’t roll on its own.
Audio and Navigation
Your navigation and audio systems retain some value if they’re still in working order. The best place to sell a car radio is probably on Facebook Marketplace, followed by eBay. You can also sell infotainment systems and screens like a Tesla display if they still function properly.
Your car likely has aluminum, iron, and steel in its body and frame. These metals hold value because they can be made into other things. Recycled metal saves energy and reduces emissions compared to when the steel industry mines completely new ore.
If you’ve taken all the parts above off of your car and just want to sell the scrap metal, you can take it to a scrap yard. This type of business specializes in buying and selling scrap metal. If you still have the full car, you’ll want to take it to either a junkyard or an auto salvage yard. Those businesses can disassemble the other parts and recycle or sell them along with the scrap metal.
Car Scrap Recycling: Conclusion
Thankfully, the vast majority of vehicles at the end of their useful life make it to car recycling programs. You can say goodbye to your old vehicle and sell it to a recycling facility to dismantle and form into something new. To do so, decide whether or not you want to sell individual parts yourself, then get a few junk car quotes from different salvage yards.
Best Places To Sell Your Car for Scrap
You can sell your junk car to Peddle for cash with a few clicks on its website. And if your car still runs, you might be able to sell it online rather than giving it over to an auto dismantler. We suggest checking out Carvana and Cars.com because they both buy older vehicles.
Peddle: Best for Older Cars
Peddle is a national car buying company that specializes in scrap cars. It offers an easy-to-use online platform where you can enter information about your car and get an instant cash offer. If you accept the offer, one of Peddle’s carriers will call you in a day or two to schedule the pickup. Then, the hauler will come with cash or a check in exchange for your vehicle. Peddle holds a 4.7-star rating from over 100,000 reviews on Trustpilot.
Carvana: Most Convenient
Using Carvana to sell your car takes the hassle out of the car recycling process because the company’s car removal service will come and offer towing for free. Carvana’s instant offer platform only applies to drivable vehicles that are from 1993 or newer. Cars also need a working odometer to be eligible for purchase.
Cars.com is another choice for selling your car if it still runs. Cars.com directly purchases vehicles from 2000 and later. If you have an older car, you can also list it on the Cars.com private marketplace, where you’ll need to negotiate with a buyer and plan the pickup yourself. You may even be able to sell a nonworking vehicle on the Cars.com marketplace.
Car Parts Recycling: FAQ
Below are a few frequently asked questions about the vehicle recycling process.
How much scrap do you get for a car?
Depending on the weight of your vehicle, you could get between $100 and $500 for a scrap car. SUVs and trucks fetch higher offers, along with cars that are newer and have working engines or transmissions.
How do I get rid of my old car?
To get rid of your old car, either list it on a marketplace like Craigslist or see if an online dealer like Carvana will buy it. If not, you can sell parts like the radio and catalytic converter for cash and then offer the car to a junkyard.
What parts of a car are recyclable?
You can recycle the following parts of your car:
-Battery -Tires -Glass -Scrap metal -Oil and filters -Catalytic converter -Starters and alternators
What do you do with a car that’s not worth fixing?
If your car isn’t worth fixing, you can try selling your car or scrapping it. Depending on the age of your car, you may be able to sell it to a:
-Private buyer -Local dealership -Online dealership -Junkyard or auto wrecking service
In order to help people make informed decisions about where and how to sell their cars, our expert review team is committed to providing precise, accurate, and objective information. For our research, we evaluated each company on the same criteria across the following categories:
Cost: Our team conducted a secret shopper study to assess the offering prices of each provider. We also considered any fees or additional costs charged by companies during transactions.
Platform: We evaluated each provider’s online platform, rating them based on ease of use, speed, and available options.
Transaction support: Because there are many other steps involved in selling a car online beyond simply listing it and accepting an offer, our team evaluated companies based on their support for transactions, such as whether they require a seller to travel for an in-person evaluation, if they manage loan payoffs, and more.
Customer experience: We scoured online reviews on websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot in order to gauge the opinions and experiences of real customers. Our team used proprietary metrics to normalize ratings across the industry in order to assess customer sentiment in context.
Industry reputation: To assess their standing within the auto sales industry, we considered each company’s rating with the BBB along with its years of service. We evaluated these factors using proprietary metrics to get a more accurate representation of specific company reputations compared to industry norms.