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How much is your dead car worth?

How much is your dead car worth?

Your car may have reached the end of the road as an economically repairable motor vehicle, but its component parts may be worth a whole lot more than you think

Of course, it depends on what ended your car’s useful life in the first place. If it was the engine that gave up the ghost then you can cross this off your list of potentially profitable spare parts. And if your car became an uneconomical repair on account of you steering it into a ditch, then you’re not going to get much for the body panels.

But whatever happened to your car, it’s going to have some salvageable components that someone else will be only too happy to buy if it helps keep their own vehicle roadworthy for a little longer.

In fact there’s a booming trade in used car parts from individuals on auction sites right through to industrial-scale car breakers with high-tech warehousing and ecommerce-enabled websites. So we did a little research into the used part prices for a typical family car – a Ford Focus 1.6 – and found that the near-worthless (you thought!) hulk on your driveway could be worth as much as £1,000/$1,400 in parts.

Under the hood

If the engine fails in an older car it usually means the end of the road because a new or professionally reconditioned engine will cost much more than the car is worth. That’s why there’s a ready market for a used-but-working motor, which could fetch as much as £225/$320, with another £60/$85 for a working gearbox.

A front suspension set could be worth another £60/$85, while a used steering rack will typically sell for around £25/$35. Alternator failures are often uneconomical repairs in older cars so there are buyers out there who will happily pay £25/$35 for a used but working part, while a sound second-hand radiator could fetch another £15/$20.

So if your dead car is still a runner but consigned to the scrapheap through general decay or accident damage, there may still be plenty of value lurking under the hood.

Bits of bodywork

Let’s take the opposite scenario. Let’s imagine the motor in your trusty Focus has thrown a ‘rod, dropped a valve or let go in some other equally spectacular fashion. Let’s assume there’s nothing under the hood except a twisted mass of metal and radiator hose. Now’s the time to turn your attention to the body panels.

For example, the bonnet (hood), boot (trunk) lid, and front and rear bumpers (fenders) could be worth £75/$110 each if they’re in good condition. Your Focus has still got doors, right? Good, because those could go for as much as £50/$70 each if complete and working and cosmetically sound.

Alloy wheels with ‘good rubber’ (which we’re told indicates tyres with significant remaining tread depth) could sell for £40/$60 each, while front wings and working door mirrors can each make around £25/$35. 

Inside the car

But maybe you’ve not been so lucky. Maybe it was the engine seizing up that span you off the road and into the ditch. Even now, though, your car may have some residual value in spare parts, so while you’re dangling upside down from the seat belts and waiting for the recovery truck, take a look around the car interior.

You take the seats for granted, right? But a set of seats alone could be worth £100/$140, with another £50/$70 for the fitted carpets and £30/$45 just for a door card. There’s more cash staring you in the face, in the form of a complete instrument panel, which could sell for as much as £50/$70.

And if you finally give up on the tow truck and head off home with nothing but your car’s steering wheel clutched in your hands, well there’s another £25/$35 straight off.

Don’t be a DIY scrapper

We’re not really suggesting you turn your front driveway into a small-scale scrapyard (we imagine your family and your neighbours might have something to say about that). It’s true that a scrap dealer might only offer you a tiny proportion of your car’s potential value in spare parts, but unless you too want to invest in a yard, a crane, cutting gear, tools and a portacabin decorated with slightly iffy calendars, you’re better off leaving it to the experts.

But there are two things we can take from this. It’s interesting to learn just how much your car’s parts are worth, even when its useful life as a vehicle is over – and how little actually goes to waste in an industry which most folk think is about as un-green as you can get.

The other is that if your car does suddenly present you with what looks like an uneconomical repair, you shouldn’t give up until you’ve checked the Internet for a cheap-but-working part to get it back on the road.