How to scrap your car, and how to get the best price

The sad day dawns when the cost of fixing a car turns out to be more than it is actually worth, at which point the pragmatic motorists will take a deep breath and say ‘goodbye old friend’ to their pride and joy.

There are exceptions to the rule of course. For example, if your car is a rare or appreciating classic, you’d be nuts to send it to the scrapyard – or vehicle recycler as they’re more commonly known these days. You might easily have sentimental attachments to a trusty companion too, but ultimately money talks and the majority of cars on the road are destined for the crusher.

Fortunately, you don’t have to watch the deed being done, and the procedure for owners is relatively painless. However, there are laws surrounding the process of scrapping your car, and if you don’t complete the reporting process correctly you could find yourself in line for a fine.

• Car valuations: how much is my car worth?

Your first thought on learning your car is only good for the knacker’s yard is likely to be the money you’re losing. Or more importantly, whether you’re likely to be able to claw anything back from the car’s scrap value.

Sadly, there’s no guarantee that you will, as in these globalised times the value of your wreck has more to do with the prices of recycled steel, copper and aluminium than what it might have been worth in working order. When prices are at their lowest, some companies might even attempt to charge you to take your car away, but at the very least you should demand a free collection.

That probably sounds like a raw deal, but with 2 million cars scrapped and crushed annually in the UK, it’s not surprising that falling global demand for recycled metals and plastics can have a significant effect on scrap car prices.

Of course, some cars are broken up for parts before being crushed, but unless your car is rare or expensive to maintain that’s unlikely to affect the price you are offered if the market for recycling has slumped. Conversely, in an economic boom when materials are in short supply, then scrap recyclers will pay more to process your car and you’ll be quids in.

How to SORN your car

If you are handy with the spanners, you might think low scrap prices are a reason to break up your own car and sell the parts. It’s probably the option that will raise the most money if you have the time and the space to store a wreck, but do keep in mind the fact that scrap dealers may charge to collect a half-stripped bodyshell when you’ve finished with it, as there’s less value in what remains.

If you’re wondering how on earth you’re meant to know what global commodity prices are doing when it comes to scrapping your car, there’s a simple way to find out. Don’t sell (or give your car away) to the first scrapper who answers the phone. Call three or four vehicle recyclers, and aim to pick the best offer that’s made – you’ll soon get a feel for anyone trying to take you for a ride.

As ever, the internet throws up a range of options for owners looking to dispose of scrap cars, so read on for our hints and tips on how to do it…

1. Check online for ways to scrap your car

Car insurance comparison sites

These days there’s a wealth of information to be found online. Some sites offer you the option to donate your car to charity but if you want the financial gain without the hassle, some offer to simplify the process by acting as your agent. Car manufacturers, which are mandated by the EU to ensure their vehicles are properly recycled, have partnered with some of these agents.

2. Recycle in the right place

Most components of your car can be reused in some way – after all, EU legislation requires that 95 per cent of scrap cars are recycled – but not all recycling facilities have the right licence for scrapping cars.

V5C logbook rules: our full guide to buyers and sellers

Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs) are the only centres legally permitted to dispose of scrap cars, as they can deal with hazardous parts, like oil and batteries. Only drop your car at a recycling centre with an ATF licence, as these are the only places authorised to issue the Certificate of Destruction (CoD). Recycling your car anywhere else is a criminal offence.

Car recycling - Step 2: shredder

3. Notify the DVLA

If you don’t want to be liable for any road tax once you’ve passed the vehicle on, you need to make sure the DVLA knows you’re no longer responsible for the vehicle. Make sure you complete the relevant paperwork.

The V5C document has a section that needs to be completed and exchanged for a Certification of Destruction (CoD), which needs to be sent to the DVLA. As a bonus, the DVLA will automatically refund any unused road tax. Your insurers may also give you a financial return, so don’t forget to call them too.

How to sell your car privately for the best price

4. It’s illegal to accept cash for scrapping a car

Car recycling - Finnerty and Carus

Since the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act October 2013, it’s against the law to pay cash for scrap cars in England and Wales, so be sceptical of anyone offering to do so. The same piece of legislation also requires you to show ID and proof of address if taking your car to the scrap merchants.

By law, they have to make a copy, which they store for three years, so if you’re concerned about the safety of your data, it may be worth going through an agent. Some recycling centres store electronic copies of customers’ identification anonymously using the same type of encryption that’s used by banks.

5. Be wary of unscrupulous traders

The nature of the internet means crooks can make their websites look legitimate, but there are dead giveaways. CoDs can be misrepresented as ‘Destruction Certificates’ or ‘Certificates of Collection’; some links on the website may not work and offers of cash are generously higher than other legal companies. Some work to gain your trust by ‘offering advice’ but these are often scams to get you to give your car up for free. Take care.

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6. Dismantling is not for the faint of heart

While some may argue that the sum of the parts of your scrap banger is worth more than the whole, certain scrapyards won’t take partially dismantled cars. If you embark on this journey, you need to be prepared to go the whole way. In which case, it’s a strategy best left to experienced amateurs or professional mechanics.

7. How much will I get for my car?

As the price of scrap metal fluctuates, so too do the prices scrapyards are willing to offer for your vehicle. To gauge how much your car is worth, you can get an online quotation. Some online tools – such as – will give you an instant quote when you provide your car registration, postcode and email address.

Now head to our Driver Power 2018 page to see the best cars to own – so you can choose your new motor.


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