What to Do With a Junk Car

by Mikey Rox on 10 April 2012 4 comments
Photo: mac_filko

As soon as you drive off the lot in your new car, it depreciates in value by about 15%, and continues to depreciate by about 15% every year thereafter. After about 10 years, the vehicle is almost worthless, especially if you bought it used. But almost worthless isn’t completely worthless. While it may seem as though your beat-up old car is on its last leg, rest assured that it still has a little life left — perhaps even a whole new one. To help you decide how to dispose of your beater, here are eight ideas that can make you money, save you money, and give aquatic animals a new place to call home. (See also: Drive the Old Car or Buy a New Car?)

1. Donate It to Charity for a Tax Write-Off

There are a lot of charities that offer car donation programs. The charity will sell the used car for parts and put the cash earned back into the program, or it might use the vehicle for mobile services it offers, fixing up the car to save cash on an otherwise expensive purchase. No matter what the charity’s intended purpose for the donated vehicle, you’ll still receive a receipt to deduct the donation on your taxes. Some will even pick up the car from your home so you don’t have to pay a towing company. Donating your vehicle to charity doesn’t come without its complications, however; there are middlemen, bogus charities, and legal issues that you may have to contend with. But you can make sure you’re not getting swindled with these 10 tips on how to donate car.

2. Sell It Whole or in Parts

Just because you don’t want that clunker anymore doesn’t mean that someone else can’t use it. Even if your car doesn’t run, it’s still full of valuable parts that are worth a pretty penny. Local services like Craigslist can help you unload the lot on someone close to home, or you can head to Junk My Car, where you’ll get an instant quote on your rundown ride and a scheduled appointment of when the vehicle will be removed.

3. Trade It In for a Newer Model

If your car has any kind of resale value at all, you may be able to trade it in at the dealer when buying a new car. You probably won’t get top dollar, but what you do receive can be applied to the purchase price of the new vehicle, ultimately saving you money. Don’t forget to factor in the convenience, too. By trading it in, you don’t have to worry about finding the right buyer or the potential expense of towing.

4. Turn It Into a Work of Art

When I was in high school, our football team was playing a rival team called the Mustangs at homecoming, and it was my job as a class officer to help build a float for the parade. One of our teachers had the brilliant idea to have a Mustang car cut in half and attach a papier-mâché horse’s head to the vehicle with the theme of “Demolish the Mustangs.” While the theme was uninspired, the float was one of the most creative the school had ever seen. Now, I know that we don’t have homecoming parades everyday, but this example proves that there are lots of creative ways to recycle a junk car. Have any other ideas?

5. Recycle Useable Pieces

Before you send the car to the scrap yard, scavenge it for pieces you can use elsewhere. Perhaps the windshield or side glass can serve a purpose down the road, or maybe your kids would like to swing from a tree on the tires. Sit with the car for a few minutes and take inventory of what’s available — then think of ways to squeeze every last bit of use out of it.

6. Provide Fish a New Habitat

OK, this might be pushing it, but you never know…if you have a pond or lake in your back yard or nearby, considering dumping the car there to provide a habitat for underwater creatures. This idea comes from the concept of building an artificial reef to help promote marine life. Make certain, however, that all potentially hazardous debris is removed from the vehicle and that you drain all liquids. You’ll completely defeat the purpose of the exercise if you kill the fish with pollution rather than provide them with a stimulating environment in which to exist.

7. Barter With a Friend

Maybe one of your friends has something you want that he or she is willing to part with in exchange for your car? Lots of people work on old vehicles as a hobby, so this isn’t totally out of the question. Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

8. Give It to a Local Mechanics’ School

I’m not the kind of guy who wants to spend my days under the hood of a car, but instead of Algebra II — which I have absolutely no use for in my adult life — I would have preferred that life skills were mandatory in high school; to this day, I barely know how to change a tire. Meanwhile, the kids who took shop class are saving a lot of money because they know how to do things that the rest of us have to pay for. To keep this tradition alive, give your junk car to a trade program in town. Almost every high school has one. You may still qualify for a tax write-off, and you’ll sleep better knowing that you helped people in your community gain valuable skills.

Have even more ideas on how to get rid of a junk car? Let me know in the comments below.

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Ernest W

With scrap metal at an all time high junk cars can bring $300 to $400. Barter with a tow truck operator to share in the proceeds.

Guest's picture

I have an old beater car that I'll be looking to get rid of soon. The problem I had was that the car was worth more than the tax write-off would be and more than what a junk car buying service was going to offer me. If the difference wasn't too much, I would go this route, but the offers are for about $1,500 less than what it is worth. I'm going to end up selling it on Craigslist. I'm confident I'll find someone looking for a car for parts or for a project.

Guest's picture

There's a lot you can do with a junk car. Donating it to a mechanic's school is a sound piece of advice. This will allow the car owner to dispose his old ride, and future mechanics can learn about cars further through the donation.

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Ariel D.

I definitely agree that donating your junk car to charity is a great idea. I recently donated my old '89 Lexus RX to a non profit organization called Vets Vehicles, which is based in Northern California but processes donations all over the country. They donate all the proceeds from their car donations to highly reputable veterans charities like the Fisher House Foundation and AMVETS. It was really easy - they took care of the towing and all the processing, and I received a tax deduction for the full sales price of the car. I highly recommend them. Visit their website here: http://www.vetsvehicles.org/