What to Do With an Inoperable Car

If you’re wondering what to do with a car that doesn’t run, you should know that you have a few options on the table. We’ll cover the basics and then tell you how to sell your car when you’re ready.

Here's What to Do With an Inoperable Car

If your car can’t help but sputter instead of start:

Inoperable car options

  • Donate it: Instead of selling it, you might be able to make more if you donate it to a registered charity for the tax break. If you’re on the edge of an income bracket, check to see whether the tax deduction would be enough to make a difference.
  • Salvage the parts: If you feel up to it and you have the spare time, feel free to strip the car down and sell anything that works. You might even be able to sell stuff that doesn’t work. For instance, a busted catalytic converter still has precious metals inside, which can net you a pretty penny.
  • Junk it: Junking a car is essentially handing the problem off to someone else. Usually, this works by finding a junk car buyer or scrapyard owner who agrees to take the car as-is, so they can recycle it for scrap.
  • Sell it to a private buyer: A private buyer will usually pay more than a junk car buyer, though keep in mind that few private buyers are dying for a non-running car. If you have a popular make and model, though, you might just get lucky. There's always someone looking for their next project.
  • Be creative: If you can’t bear to get rid of your car or can't bear to part for such a paltry offer feel free to turn it into a masterpiece. Drain all the fluids out of it, paint it in bright colors, and then fill it with as many species of plants as it can handle.

Keep in mind that if you donate your car to a charity, you’ll need to do so with a charity that’s registered with the IRS. You also might want to check with an accountant to see if the strategy is worth it when compared to selling it. If you want to part it out, you probably should have some background of working on cars. Trying to do so on your own can lead to a far more expensive and time-consuming project than you ever meant for it to be.

Tips for Selling Your Car

If you’re still interested in selling your car, whether to a private buyer or not, you’ll want to be honest about the car’s condition. Suggesting that the problem could just be a simple fix (e.g., a crossed wire) when the car is clearly on death’s door might mean better offers in the short-term, but it will only anger buyers in the long term. If you’ve been constantly taking it to the mechanic for repairs, the car is likely only worth its weight in scrap.

A non-running or inoperable car may have been severely damaged in an accident or it may have just succumbed to the march of time. In either case, scrappers find that it’s not as easy as it might seem to sell parts that are still in good shape. (FYI, a part from a 2007 Ford Taurus is likely to sit on the shelves for years collecting dust.) Unless you’re just up for the practice, some people will end up investing all their energy into stripping a car before selling it for scrap, only to find that their ads on Craigslist or eBay go largely ignored.

Find a Reputable Buyer

No matter how old your car is or what damage it’s sustained, you should be able to get something for it. At the very least, the steel and iron can be recycled, so new batches don’t have to be manufactured. In that case, it comes down to finding someone who gives you a fair price for it. We recommend getting multiple offers, checking reviews, and getting all the details from the buyer. For instance, do you want to arrange the deal so you’re towing the car on your own? If not, you’ll need to work with someone who can pick it up in your area.

Before you sell your car, make sure that you grab all of your stuff out beforehand and try to have the paperwork and keys in hand at the time of the exchange. In some cases, you might be able to sell the car without a title, though it must be done only for the price of the scrap and it can only be done in certain states. Either way, CarScrappers definitely recommends tracking down the title or getting a duplicate made. (It’s a cleaner sale this way due to the transfer of ownership and you’ll probably make more money for it.)

Regardless of what you're looking for from a non-running car, you should probably explore at least a couple of avenues. Even if you're desperate to be rid of it, even an extra step or two can save you a lot of time while putting an extra few bucks in your pocket.