What Happens To Junk Cars Once You Sell Them For Cash?

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When your car has reached the end of its useful life, it makes sense to turn it over to a salvage yard that offers money for junk cars. They'll take the car off your hands and leave you with some cash in your hands so you can even get a head start on a new car if that was your plan. 

However, it's also interesting to find out a little about what happens to cars when they've been turned over to the salvage yard. How much of it ends up in a landfill and how much is recycled?

Fluids in the Car

Cars being disposed of may have several gallons of fluids left inside them. These fluids may include:

These fluids can't simply be dumped since they can cause serious environmental pollution. However, most of these fluids can still be put to good use in one way or another. Motor oil, for instance, can be cleaned and used to lubricate other systems while freon can still be reused in refrigeration systems. Even antifreeze can be cleaned and reconditioned so it can be reused for the same old purpose.

Used Parts

Just because your car as a whole is a mess doesn't mean that the individual parts are all useless. There are many parts of junk cars that can be pulled and resold to other drivers and car repair shops who need the same parts.

Many of the used car parts you've bought, or will buy, actually come from such cars, and many can still serve you reliably as long as they're properly cleaned, reconditioned, and tested. Parts that are usually pulled include engines, starters, alternators, mirrors, bumpers, batteries, etc. depending on their condition.


A large portion of the total weight of your car is from metals such as iron and steel. For some cars, aluminum is used instead of these since it's lighter. However, aluminum can still be found in some parts of standard vehicles e.g., the wheels.

Once the fluids have been removed, and the useful parts have been pulled, the next step is separating the metals from the other materials, e.g., plastics. In the case of steel and iron, large magnets can be used for this purpose. Most of this metal is recycled and used to make new cars or other things that require the metal.

Most of the other metals are also recycled. At the end of the day, around 85% of a car can be recycled.